gen reportAberdeen 1 v 0 Inverness CT

A fine spring night in Aberdeen heralded Caley Thistle’s latest attempt to garner the three points that most anticipate will finally see off Dundee United’s challenge for third spot in the SPFL Premiership. That third place will also see Caley Thistle rewarded with European football, and a sizeable away support turned up at Pittodrie in anticipation.

However, Aberdeen’s strength and Caley Thistle’s recent run of form counselled caution – results between the sides this year have been close and after the Don’s draw with Partick at the weekend, perhaps there was a chink of light indicating hope for the visitors.

Caley Thistle’s only change was the introduction of Danny Williams for Ryan Christie, and the pacy Englishman didn’t take long to demonstrate why he was in there. Directly up against Pawlett, he contained and harried the Aberdonian as Flood and Robson looked to control midfield.

They had some measure of success, as efforts by Logan, Rooney and McGinn created chances. The previously mentioned Rooney’s chance was a particularly heart-stopping affair as he lobbed an advancing Ryan Esson only to see a supremely athletic goal line clearance by Josh Meekings deny him. Caley Thistle were containing, but as a result their creativity was limited to a couple of dangerous looking corners from Tansey and a rasping effort from Williams. As half time beckoned, Inverness could actually have been the happier side, the game plan working away quietly.

Of course all it would take for that game plan to flounder would be the loss of a single goal, and it only took Aberdeen a couple of minutes to find it. A wicked corner from Barry Robson, of the kind that Inverness fans know only too well, hurtled into the box to find the forehead of Taylor. Having beaten Warren to the jump, he was not to be denied.

As John Hughes reflected; "I was disappointed in the way that we conceded," he said. "In the last three or four games, we seem to switch off. I don't know what happens at half-time. We've touched on it and to lose a goal from a set piece right at the start, the first corner in the second half is bitterly disappointing.”

As a result, Inverness then became more offensive, Ofere and Christie replacing Ross and Tansey as a more direct route to Aberdeen’s goal became a necessity. Of course that meant taking chances and Logan really should have tied things up with a thundering effort off the crossbar, the only thing that looked remotely like beating Esson in a half where his shot-stopping was quite brilliant at times.

John Hughes said at the end: "In the last 15 minutes when we really opened up and went expansive and changed our shape, they could've scored another one or two goals. We need to pass the ball quick, we need to pass it better, we need to go and express ourselves a little bit more and our decision-making in the final third, we have to have a little bit of belief that we can make it happen instead of hoping that it happens."

His disappointment was surely tempered by Dundee United’s capitulation in their derby match as they continue to prove unable to mount a coherent challenge for third place, and Hughes knows it. "That European spot's within our grasp, let's go and grasp it," he said. Starting with Celtic at home on Saturday, it’s there to be had and with the backing of a big home support at Tulloch Caledonian Stadium, what could be better?

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