Taylor itching to get back in the saddle after first league fall
UNBEATEN runs are like good reputations: difficult to maintain and then so easily ruined. Aberdeen know as much to their cost. After eight successive victories, it seemed as if Derek McInnes’ side could do no wrong. And then, in the space of four days, they endured the first bumps in the road.
A League Cup defeat to Hibernian offered the first signs of fallibility and it was soon followed by another loss on Saturday away to Inverness Caledonian Thistle, a first blemish on a hitherto impeccable league record. It spoke volumes for the standards that McInnes has set at Pittodrie in recent times that he labelled his team’s first-half performance as among the worst of his tenure.
The recriminations and self-flagellation will likely go on for a while yet following the 2-1 defeat – Ryan Christie was terrific for the home side, scoring one and setting up the other – but it is what Aberdeen do next that is of greater consequence.
The picture is far from bleak. Nine games in and they retain a four-point advantage over Celtic. Hearts and Hamilton Accies are a further four points back. Their league position is the envy of every other side and one bad result can’t undo that. It is how they perform from here that will determine whether the events of the past week were merely an unfortunate blip or the first signs of a team unravelling.
They return home to Pittodrie on Saturday when the ever-dangerous St Johnstone are in town. After the international break there is a Friday night fixture in Dingwall, a home game against Motherwell and then a potentially-seismic trip to Celtic Park on Halloween.
The Aberdeen picture should crystallise somewhat after that run of games and, if Saturday’s post-match verdict is anything to go by, a steely determination exists among the group not to let their strong start to the campaign simply fizzle out.
“I totally agree with the manager’s assessment and hopefully it doesn’t happen again,” said Ash Taylor, whose header brought Aberdeen back into the game after they had fallen behind through goals from Miles Storey and then a stunning effort from Christie, who was later sent off. “We are hurting because as players we know that wasn’t good enough and we don’t like putting in that sort of performance.
“I don’t know where these last two performances have come from. Maybe there was a bit of lack of desire to win the first ball and then the second ball. But it’s a shock to us because we are used to winning and putting in good performances.
“We expect the best from every player and from ourselves and we demand the best from one another. It just goes to show the type of squad we are that after losing one game we are so disappointed. Our lead has shrunk by one point but we’ve got to put things right starting on Monday.
“Now we’ve got to get back to hard work and get back together as a group. We are strong enough and it’s maybe a case of demanding a bit more from ourselves.”
The mood was rather brighter in the Inverness camp. This was a fifth match in succession without a defeat, with John Hughes’ side gradually starting to pick up momentum after a tough start to the season.
Christie’s performance, in the first half especially, made him the star turn despite his late red card, although others like Ross Draper and Storey, who scored the third goal of his loan spell, also deserve special mention. That Hughes could only name five substitutes highlighted the depth of his injury list, although he hoped several of the walking wounded would be back for what is shaping up to be a compelling derby with in-form Ross County on Saturday.
“Everyone is playing for each other,” revealed Storey, the striker on loan from Swindon Town. “Maybe at the start of the season we were playing well but not getting the points.
“Hopefully the points are starting to come now and we can keep going. I am enjoying going into every Saturday knowing I am going to be involved, either in the starting team or from the bench.
“It’s nice to look forward to the weekends and I think that’s coming out in my play.”
There was praise, too, for Christie whose first-half display further demonstrated what had prompted Celtic to sign him in the summer. On this evidence, they may be recalling him from his loan spell sooner rather than later.
“It’s brilliant having Ryan there,” added Storey. “He even sets up half the goals I score in training. He gets between defenders and midfielders and can thread little balls through.
“That’s why he got his move to a club like Celtic. He’ll be a loss when he goes. He’s a fans’ favourite here and it will be hard to replace that kind of technical player who can find those little gaps.”
DONS’ DISMAY: Shay Logan looks on as Ryan Christie celebrates scoring Inverness’s second goal on Saturday