The Scottish Mail on Sunday


Furious fans jeer McInnes as dire Dons draw a blank

- By Gary Keown

THERE was a storm brewing by the end of this one at Pittodrie last night, all right. One of fire and fury rather than gale-force winds.

One that must surely have manager Derek McInnes feeling that his grip on the dugout is just that little bit more fragile and weakened.

This turgid stalemate was played out in front of Aberdeen’s lowest home attendance of the season, lower, even, than the 1-0 win over League One Dumbarton in the previous round of the Scottish Cup.

Only 8,821 Dons punters out of a total crowd of 9,430 paid in.

Around a couple of thousand squeezed into the ‘Red Shed’ in the Merkland Stand. This is a new initiative, of course, brought in by chairman Dave Cormack to let fans stand with their mates and improve the general atmosphere.

By the dying stages of this one, though, that mood was threatenin­g to turn toxic. With three minutes to play, chants of ‘We’re f ****** s***’ drifted into the air. Moments later, it was ‘Derek, Derek, get to f***’.

That’s what will happen, of course, when your team has gone 454 minutes and five full games without a goal. A full 639 since one in open play.

What must concern McInnes is that it is becoming a habit among a sizeable section of supporters, their opinions already branded ‘prepostero­us’ and ‘disrespect­ful’ by his assistant Tony Docherty, following another goalless draw at St Mirren two weeks ago.

Yesterday, some punters booed the protesters in response. Others tried to rally the team. By the time referee Nick Walsh blew for time-up, though, the jeers were booming out from pretty much all corners of the ground, with captain Joe Lewis approachin­g the fans in the Merkland End in an apparent plea for greater encouragem­ent before leaving the pitch.

After that win over Dumbarton, earned through a Sam Cosgrove penalty, the management team and players all went to the Red Shed to show their appreciati­on. But not yesterday.

No matter what he may have achieved in his seven years at the helm, McInnes is in a battle to save his job now for sure — particular­ly under a new regime that has made giving customers what they want its cornerston­e.

Lose the replay at Rugby Park a week on Wednesday and he’s on life support.

Aberdeen have the third-biggest wage bill in Scottish football at £9.2million a year. Being out of both cups in February and lying fourth in the table, having finished in that position last term, and the heat will only intensify. And let’s face it. No matter the club, when punters turn and can’t be won back round, it is curtains for any manager.

This match was a tense affair from the start. The fact that neither side managed a shot on target during a dismal first half tells its own story.

Passes went astray. Play was bitty and unsatisfac­tory. Eamonn Brophy pulled a cross-cum-shot miles wide of goal for the visitors early on.

Shortly afterwards, Niall McGinn sent a free-kick just the wrong side of the post at the other end after Niko Hamalainen had brought down Matty Kennedy. There were claims the foul had been committed inside the box, but referee Walsh was never going to change his mind.

And that was that until the home punters loudly booed off their side at the break. There was nothing else to write home about.

Killie manager Alex Dyer, to his credit, has been changing it up a bit of late. The introducti­on of Brophy and Nicke Kabamba as a front two helped end a long losing streak by carving out league wins against Ross County and Hearts.

They remained in situ up top yesterday, but there were further tactical tweaks, with Kirk Broadfoot coming into the rearguard to form a back three with Dario del Fabro and Connor Johnson.

As a ploy to neutralise Aberdeen’s threat, it worked. McInnes’ side lined up in an attacking formation with Kennedy and McGinn either side of Cosgrove. The problem is that the formation doesn’t always translate into open, attractive play.

Add to that the growing influence of the introducto­ry stages of Storm Ciara as the game wore on and you can imagine why this descended ever more into a war of attrition.

Lewis Ferguson did produce some clever play in the initial exchanges of the second 45 when getting in behind Del Fabro on the left-hand side of the box and forcing a decent save from Laurentiu Branescu.

However, the mood around the stadium was becoming more tetchy as the half wore on, an issue barely helped by Brophy deciding to have a crack at goal and forcing a save from Lewis on 64 minutes with his side’s first effort on target.

Branescu had a couple of late saves to make from a McGinn free-kick and a Dean Campbell shot that took a deflection but he would have expected to be under more pressure.

As it is, that is weighing down fairly and squarely on the shoulders of McInnes.

 ??  ?? CRUNCH: Gary Dicker lunges into a tackle on Aberdeen midfielder Funso Ojo
CRUNCH: Gary Dicker lunges into a tackle on Aberdeen midfielder Funso Ojo

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