"A proper battle in recent seasons with rarely any shortage of incident" was how I described Aberdeen vs Hearts games in last week's Fanzone, but I had forgotten how these types of games can quickly degenerate into a farce without a strong referee. The amount of now-familiar cheating from Hearts this engendered probably did not affect the outcome of the match however, as another peculiar set of decisions by Mark McGhee conspired to ensure we were unlikely to win.
It is a measure of the depths of our injury problems that three players returned from the treatment room desperately short of match fitness, but Velicka's comeback meant McGhee forced Scotland Under-21 wondergoal scorer Chris Maguire to play wide in midfield. Maguire has been excellent for club and country recently, earning the young player of the month award, and had been building a decent forward partnership with Scott Vernon, but instead we had a patently-unfit and ineffective Velicka there.
Add to that a groggy Howard starting the second half before being subbed a few minutes later, another defensive reshuffle, the lack of a Plan B when we went a goal down and more touchline indiscipline from our management team, and little wonder Dons fans are left scratching our heads — and judging by Saturday's shocking attendance figure, hoards are now choosing to do that at home.
See the published version of this article plus fans of other SPL clubs' responses to their team's performance at: http://sport.scotsman.com/newsfront.aspx?SectionID=14223, and in the Scotsman newspaper every Wednesday.