ROBSON’S MEN HIT A NEW LOW
Dismal Dons in complete disarray as Hearts hand out more punishment
By Gary Keown AT TYNECASTLE
dmg media (UK)
BODY language tells you a lot about the direction a club is heading in when the words spoken in public don’t quite add up. Aberdeen manager Barry Robson was keen to emphasise in the wake of this meek surrender at Tynecastle that all these new guys signed by the Pittodrie club over the summer are genuinely good players and that everything will be fine in time. It was hard to look around in the latter stages, though, and see anything positive about where Aberdeen find themselves five games into the league campaign — which is second-bottom of the Premiership and only in that elevated position thanks to having scored more goals than St Johnstone. Robson disappeared straight up the tunnel at time-up. His players had looked beaten, disjointed, lacking in energy and devoid of fight for quite some time by then. In the corner of the Roseburn Stand, the stragglers who had stayed behind out of the 600-strong away support were more animated than any of them. As the team walked towards them to applaud, they were sent packing with a flea in their ear. The anger from a phalanx who leaned over a barrier stretching the length of their section to make their feelings clear was tangible. This wasn’t all-out mutiny. We aren’t at that stage yet. However, you can be sure it is an early sign of how the fans are feeling about what they have witnessed so far. Thursday night’s visit to Eintracht Frankfurt is not a make-or-break night for Robson and Co, although the fear is they will suffer a hammering that will only pile the pressure on. Rather, it’s the Viaplay Cup visit to Ross County a week on Wednesday that jumps out of the diary in flashing neon. Aberdeen need to be in the top four of the table given their wage bill. They also need to be competing for cups. Anything other than victory in Dingwall and the temperature changes dramatically. Sure, a total of 13 new arrivals will take time to settle in, but that is no excuse for a team looking as bitty and unconvincing as this. The defence is shipping stupid goals. The strikers are too isolated. Midfield isn’t functioning. There has already been some confounding talk of players feeling tired. With seven games coming up in the next three weeks or so, they had better shrug off the fatigue sharpish. Jimmy McGarry looked one of Aberdeen’s brighter players before being replaced by Ryan Duncan early in the second period. He stung the hands of Zander Clark in the early stages and always looked willing to cut inside from the left and have a go, forcing another stop from the home goalkeeper midway through the opening 45. It felt like the Dons would need a piece of individual brilliance or a bit of good fortune to make something happen, though, because they just don’t look to be clicking as a collective unit at all. The new-look three at the back have work to do, as evidenced by the fact Robson decided to switch to a flat back four for the second half. The balance and energy in midfield doesn’t feel right either. Certainly, they need to find a way to provide better service for Duk Lopes and Bojan Miovski in attack. Lopes is clearly a fellow out of form, but he was left to feed off scraps in this encounter along with his strike partner. Hearts weren’t hugely better in the opening period. There was a real lack of quality play between two sides clearly struggling for confidence, but Yutaro Oda gave them something to build on following four straight losses just before the quarter-of-an-hour mark. Boyce played a diagonal ball out to the Japanese wide man on the right and his shot took a deflection off McGarry before squeezing its way into the net. Referee Kevin Clancy infuriated the Dons on the half-hour when refusing to give a foul at the very edge of the area after Peter Haring had slid in to deny Graeme Shinnie. The Dons captain blew a gasket at the play being waved on. Had a freekick been awarded, Haring, already in the book, would surely have landed a second yellow and been sent off. As it was, Hearts slowly got a stranglehold on the game. It looked like Alan Forrest, on for the injured Oda, would make it 2-0 shortly before the break when latching onto a deep cross from Stephen Kingsley. Keeper Kelle Roos, though, somehow got his hands on the ball on the line. It was just a matter of time, though. Kenneth Vargas smacked the woodwork with a thunderous effort from 25 yards on the hour and, after Lawrence Shankland had knocked the rebound into his path, Nat Atkinson should have done better than dilly-dally before seeing his effort blocked in front of goal. Not that it mattered in the end. Aberdeen had unravelled completely by then and Liam Boyce got his name on the scoresheet four minutes later. Richard Jensen, having been moved to left-back, lost possession to Hearts sub Calem Nieuwenhof at the edge of the area. The Aussie midfielder crossed into the danger area, it clipped off an Aberdeen shirt before being saved by Roos and Boyce was on hand to knock home the rebound. The most notable element of the latter part of the game for the Dons was Roos and Devlin arguing in their own area after the full-back had conceded a corner. It added to the suspicion that this is a team where the right foot often doesn’t know what the left is doing. And that’s not good. HEARTS (4-2-3-1): Clark; Atkinson (Sibbick 65), Kent, Rowles, Kingsley; Haring (Nieuwenhof 50), Devlin; Oda (Forrest 32), Boyce (Grant 65), Vargas; Shankland. Subs (not used): McGovern, Baningime, Denholm, Tait, Lowry. Booked: Kent, Haring, Boyce, Atkinson. ABERDEEN (3-5-2): Roos; Jensen, Gartenmann, Rubezic; Devlin, Clarkson (Gueye 67), Shinnie, McGrath (Barron 67), McGarry (Duncan 56); Lopes, Miovski (Sokler 67). Subs (not used): Doohan, MacKenzie, Hayes, Polvara, MacDonald. Booked: Clarkson, Rubezic. Referee: Kevin Clancy. Attendance: 18,626.