This was one of the worst performances of John Hughes' tenure in Inverness. The question being asked by the home fans at the final whistle was "is this a sign of a deeper problem?". Only time will tell.
It was a dreadful game even before Dave Mackay's sending off - a rash challenge which probably deserved a red card, but Cuptie has no reputation for malice and deserves some benefit of the doubt - but St. Johnstone batted down the hatches, fought valiantly to protect a point and deserved the stroke of luck that got them all three.
Footage of the last forty minutes will be used on SFA coaching courses as evidence of how not to play against ten men. Most sides in this situation would up the tempo and stretch the play, especially as Tommy Wright marshalled his troops into a narrow 4-3-1-1 system; instead Caley Thistle reverted from their usual 4-2-3-1 to a 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield. It was a ridiculous move in almost every way; Greg Tansey was stuck at the base of the diamond, far too deep to offer anything in attack; at the point of the diamond, Ryan Christie had no space to work in with the Saints midfield sat right in front of their centre-backs; the other two midfielders, Liam Polworth and Danny Williams, seemed stuck in limbo - not central enough to be able to take control over that part of the pitch, and not wide enough to drag the visitors out of their stuffy shape.
Most ludicrously, James Vincent, an industrious midfielder best at making late runs from deep, was shunted up front where he kept trying - and failing - to take the ball to feet with his back to goal. Add in a tempo best described as 'sluggish' and it was no surprise that the home side failed to conjure up a single chance of note.
Yes, it doesn't help that flair players like Aaron Doran, Andrea Mbuyi-Mutombo and Jordan Roberts are unavailable, but Yogi prides himself on being tactically astute. The obvious move would have been to get Williams to hug the left touchline and Christie the right (where he would have space to work in). Instead he stood there and watched attack after attack break down in the same way.
The bottom line is that, after a great September, Caley Thistle have suffered two tame defeats...which were preceded by the links between Hughes and Dundee United. A coincidence? Or has the club become destabilized? Tomorrow night's League Cup derby may well shed some light on whether the club are in crisis. LS
Dons didn't deserve to beat MotherwellNo team has scored more goals from set-pieces in the Premiership so far than Aberdeen, so it was no surprise that the Dons took the lead from such an opportunity whenlast season's top assist gatherer Niall McGinn crossed in for Adam Rooney to flash a header into the net. Normal service resumed, surely?
Aberdeen had several chances in the second half to put this game to bed - Peter Pawlett Baby in particular could have had a hat-trick himself, but sclaffed a couple of chances either side of a spectacular (or should that be speculative?) overhead kick that flew over the crossbar - and, most annoyingly for Dandies, former Steelman Mark Reynolds stabbed home a shot from a Rooney knock down, only for the goal to be chalked off for what looked a dubious offside decision.
The Dons would come to rue their profligacy in front of goal. I perhaps should have also mentioned that before Saturday no team had conceded more goals from set-pieces in the Premiership than Aberdeen either. Motherwell briefly overtook them when conceding the opening goal of the match, but they were not to be outdone... After Reynolds was penalised for barging into the back of Scott McDonald in an aerial challenge, substitute Lionel Ainsworth swung in a delivery for McDonald - perhaps the shortest striker in Scottish football - to head home the equaliser. (Whether you wish to praise Motherwell manager Mack McGhee for making a couple of inspired substitutions, or question why he didn't start with both of them in the first place, I will leave to you to decide.)
After that, it was Motherwell who had several chances to win the game, Danny Ward had to make four outstanding saves in the closing stages - a few great stops off strikes from Ainsworth, Marvin Johnston and Theo Robinson, but the best of the lot was a fantastic reaction save off the bonce of his own skipper, Ryan Jack - just to salvage a point for the Dons.
Over the piece, a draw was a fair result, and although the Dons will manage to ascend to the top of league table again for just one more day, they may well be relieved to just stop their run of consecutive defeats given the battering they took off of Well at the end. MI
Given that Celtic's financial clout, in comparison with the great and good of European football at least, is diminishing fast, they could really do with their academy producing some quality youngsters both to augment the squad and to earn the club some cash. Unfortunately, this hasn't been the case at all for years. In fact, James Forrest, Stephen McManus and Aiden McGeady are the only internal products to make 100 appearances for the club this century. That's a terrible strike rate.
Perhaps Kieran Tierney might prove an exception? The 18 year old left back shone against Dundee United, showing an outstanding instinct for when to get forward, as well as a very adequate set of defensive skills. Yes, it was against a piss poor opponent, but Tierney also played well in starts against Ross County and Fenerbahce this season.
The teenager certainly deserves a run of games; the problem is that Ronny Deila has generally proven unwilling to play kids regularly - Liam Henderson, the other bright young thing in the setup, was given only four starts last season and was punted out to Hibs on loan for the whole of this campaign.
In Tierney's case, Emilio Izaguirre is fit again and presumably ahead of him in the queue. Whilst Celtic are playing two games a week for the next wee while, he might still see some action...but with Izaguirre hardly impressing in recent months, it would be in Celtic's long-term interests if Tierney was on the left touchline every week. LS
Djoum gives Hearts the platform they need
After a pretty rotten September, Hearts appear to have their groove back. With so many attacking options to pick from - Billy King and Danny Swanson were only subs for this one, maybe the improvement is because Robbie Neilson managed to pick the best two flair players for the job - Sam Nicholson and Jamie Walker were outstanding.
Or maybe it's because of the platform they were given to work with. The Jambos aren't short of defensive midfielders either - Morgaro Gomis and Miguel Pallardo were on the bench on Saturday - but Belgian Arnaud Djoum, signed last month, made his first start in the centre of the park and absolutely bossed proceedings alongside Prince Buaben. Given that they were up against the on-form Jackson Irvine in that area of the pitch, this is not mean feat, Hearts will play against far inferior midfields than this one in weeks to come, and if this area of the pitch is where games are won and lost they will do well. Djoum's contract only runs till January; I bet he gets tied up on a longer one very quickly.
Hartley needs to go back to basics
In central midfield, Gary Harkins (an attacking midfielder) and Nick Ross (an attacking midfielder). In the wide areas, Greg Stewart (a striker) and Rhys Healey (a striker). And, of course, two strikers up front. Advocates of the W-M formation would have consider Paul Hartley's selection against Kilmarnock to be reckless. By the time he brought on Nicky Low and Paul McGowan to provide some sort of sanity to the system, Killie were two up and the match was lost.
Whisper it, but Dundee haven't actually been playing well recently. Remarkably, they've now dropped out of the top six and are only one point ahead of Gary Locke's side in the table. So often in trying situations, older managers tend to go back to basics and grind out results; younger ones (like Hartley perhaps) are far more prone to do wacky things with tactics to try and find a spark. Dundee go to Inverness next weekend; if they have any sense, they set up two banks of four and grind out a result to get the confidence flowing again. LS
Imrie's hard work reaps the rewards
Maybe it's because I remember him playing for Inverness as long ago as 2008, but it feels like Dougie Imrie has been around for ever. Thirty-two years old now, and a player whose game has always been based on expending huge amounts of energy, one would expect the legs to be creaking now.
Not so. Imrie spent much of his career looking like a guy who was a standout in the second tier but not quite good enough for the top flight - and so it proved at Inverness, Hamilton (in his first spell) and St. Mirren. When he spent 2013-14 at a struggling Morton, I assumed he'd found his level...but Accies brought him back. And now he's playing the football of his life, and there's no sign of him slowing down. His equalizer here - a lovely, calm dribble round the keeper and side-footed finish - was his fourth goal in five games.
Whilst the winger gives all the impression of being a right ned, fitness like his doesn't come by accident. In his Caley Thistle days, it was normal to see Imrie in the gym on weekday afternoons, seemingly determined that he would be able to cover more ground than everyone else in order to compensate for fairly limited ability. A latecomer to the pros - he was playing junior football until 23 - he's made the most of his career. He's also now a youth coach at New Douglas Park; his charges could do with apeing his attitude. LS
Martin Ingram (MI) is our Aberdeen Correspondent. Legend has it that he is the tallest man in the Red Army. He writes regularly for Aberdeen fanzine The Red Final.
Lawrie Spence (LS) has ranted and spouted his ill-informed opinions on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly.