Aberdeen had to put in a performance today against Dundee in the Scottish League Cup to put some wrongs from Thursday right for the Red Army.
But it was a far from acceptable display over ninety minutes let alone the extra time after the two sides went into full time all square at 1-1, but only just, thanks to an Andrew Considine equaliser in the 90th minute. It was a torrid watch for the Red Army who turned out in numbers at Dens Park.
There was only one change from our Europa League defeat on Thursday to HNK Rijeka, with Craig Bryson coming in for the suspended Lewis Ferguson.
Dundee were on top for most of the first half, with a couple of chance going close in the early stages of the match. Declan McDaid from the left and Josh Todd sent the ball just side at the back post from close range in the 17th minute and in the 23rd, it was only the woodwork that denied the Dee with Johnson striking the right post.
The Dons went behind just before the break after Andrew Considine pulled Jordon Forster to the ground and Willie Collum pointed to the penalty spot. Johnson took the spot kick and slotted it in to the bottom right corner.
The second half started as the first half left off, a Aberdeen side devoid of any creativity, ideas and confidence. OK, we maybe came out of the blocks with a slightly higher work rate, but it was to no avail. Dundee continued to frustrate the Dons.
Sam Cosgrove came close soon after the break and Jon Gallagher’s effort in the 53rd was targeted straight at Jack Hamilton.
Connor McLennan nearly put in the leveller, cutting a cross from the right to Gallagher who headed the ball towards call only to be denied by Jordon Forster who cleared it off the line.
As the game was coming to an end, it looked as if it was all over for Aberdeen, but from an Ojo free-kick was met powerfully by Greg Leigh who headed it toward goals, Hamilton dived to the right, Gallagher played the ball back across goal for Considine to force home the goal to equalise in the 90th.
It was get out-out-of-jail time for the Dons as we headed into extra time.
The Dons took the lead two minutes before half time in extra time when Greg Leigh’s deep cross found Sam Cosgrove at the back post and he headed down and into the bottom corner of the net to put the Dons ahead.
Dundee tried everything to get an equaliser, as the clock ticked down but without any success. It is tough for Jame McPake’s side who were the better of the two teams.
So, OK Aberdeen go into the Quarter Finals of the Scottish League Cup to face Hearts in September but that display was not good enough, not by a long shot – we have a full season ahead of us, and if this is what we’ve got to look forward too, Aberdeen could be in trouble.
Derek McInnes said: “We came here to take on a good team, a motivated team who have been preparing all week for this game and they certainly looked ready for it. They have got a lot of good players here and I think they can go on to have a good season.
“We made the players aware that this would be a tough game today, when you add the fact that were down to ten men for a long time on Thursday we weren’t as sharp as we need to be mentally, we lacked a bit of confidence in the early part and that was clear to see.
“Today wasn’t about playing well, we had some good performers second half but it was about digging deep and getting the result.
“Two weeks ago we left Pittodrie after beating Hearts 3-2 and everybody was euphoric, saying this was the best team we have had for a while, the best squad and we were so high then. What we have had over the last two or three games is a real low and it threatened to be that again today.
“I have just reminded the players that we can’t go from being as high as that to as low as we feel, there has to be more inner confidence in us.
“Big Andy did well coming up from the back to recover from the penalty, I haven’t seen it back but if he as conceded a penalty he has certainly made up for it. I thought the approach of the players from then, when it was a real dagger in the heart for Dundee, we looked like the team that would get the second goal.
“I felt a second goal coming and once we got it we managed to get over the line without too much fuss, Dundee gave us a tough game as we expected and we made it tougher for ourselves. But the cups are all about getting through and finding a way to win and today my players deserve so much praise for finding a way to win.
“Now we need to give a couple of days rest for the majority of them and get back to having proper training weeks and proper preparation for a game because we are in real need of some training days that we haven’t had the luxury of.
“There has to be a strength, certainly at this club, to dig out results when you are not playing at your best. For long spells it didn’t look as if there was a goal in us but we made a lot of changes to try and force the issue and thankfully we had enough bodies in the box on both goals to get our reward.
“A challenge was hanging over us today, there would have been loads of people taking pleasure out the fact that we were going out the cup and I have great pleasure in seeing my team into the next round and finding a way to win.
“It gives me great confidence, I know that we can improve technically and be slicker, I know we can get fitter and I know there will be more energy in the legs after a few days rest so there are aspects that I know will improve but there are certain games where you need grit and determination and today was an example of that.
“The positive news is that Bryson got an hour under his belt, we have Ferguson back next week as well.
“It was tough for everyone associated with the club today, the fans got put through the mill, I love our fans at Dens Park, they turn up in numbers. They would have come here with high expectations today and it wasn’t playing out that way.
“The players have had to dig deep to win the game, McKenna, Leigh, Logan and Considine all had nothing left, Ojo had nothing left but was still putting everything in and Sam has done for us what he has over the last wee while coming up with the winning goal.
“It was a frustrating day for him and it looked like it wasn’t going to be his day, the booking was harsh on him, and I think that maybe affected him. It was a frustrating afternoon for us all but we got the right outcome.
“We came off the back of the game from Rijeka last week when we didn’t get back until four in the morning, I made a few changes to try and bring a bit of freshness but in doing so a think a couple of the boys looked a bit rusty. We played the game and we were worthy of a point at St Mirren, nobody will tell me any differently, we weren’t good enough to get all three but I thought we deserved something.
“Our focus has been on the European games and we took a sore one on Thursday, I managed a game for 70 minutes where I have never been in those circumstances. It was so unusual for everyone, we were geared up for reversing the score and all of a sudden after 20 minutes I am thinking of Dundee and trying to keep players fit and we went out with a whimper.
“Trying to pick the players up on Friday and Saturday was tough, but we knew if we could get through this one as we have done we would be better going forward.
“I think there has to be an understanding of the physical element for a team like ours when we play a team who are seeded better than us in Europe, we have beaten the teams we should have in Europe and we wanted to do better. Rijeka showed they were a good side and for us to be running about with 10 men for so long, I think that has had an impact.
“Hopefully we can get rest, a proper training week now and prepare properly for Kilmarnock.”