Aberdeen v Saints preview
By Stuart Gillespie
Updated Tuesday, 15th March 2011
Let's try again, shall we? In recent years a Scottish Cup replay has been a second chance after almost messing up the original tie, but that's not the case when we go to Aberdeen tomorrow night.
We should be through. We were superb on Saturday, particularly in the second half, and should have been out of sight by the time we equalised. However, I'd imagine most Saints fans knew that as chance after chance was passed up, we'd be heading to Pittodrie on Wednesday night. Sadly, that's exactly what happened and we face an uphill task if we are to claim the place at Hampden that was ours until the 93rd minute on Saturday.
At the weekend, we were slight underdogs. We were the home side, but Aberdeen have been flying along under Craig Brown and had already made the semi-finals of the League Cup. Now we are huge underdogs. Our recent record at Pittodrie is shocking and we haven't won there since March 1987 - ironically less than two months before we last won the Scottish Cup. It would be nice if history repeated itself - but I fear the nature of Saturday's draw will have a huge and detrimental mental impact on our players.
Danny Lennon has a lot of thinking to do when it comes to picking his team. The side that started on Saturday was good at frustrating Aberdeen, but not attacking. The side that finished created plenty of chances (let's ignore the numerous ones that were missed) but will probably not be able to play like that away from home. It's a question of getting the balance right.
I'd start with Kenny McLean from the start. Some of his passing play was superb on Saturday and he is one of the best young talents we've had for a years. The question then is the formation. I'd almost be tempted to go at it from the start in a 4-4-2, with Paul McGowan wide right and Craig Dargo and Michael Higdon together up front. That's the system that finished the game on Saturday and should have won it. It may be a bit risky, but I'd rather we lost in normal time than extra-time - it would be less agonising and less tiring ahead of the Hearts game.
There's also a big question as to what to do at the back. If we go with a back three you just play John Potter, Lee Mair and Darren McGregor - but if it's a back four only two of them can play. Potter will almost certainly start - whether or not you agree with the merits of doing that - and I would expect the experience of Mair to get the nod over McGregor. If McLean starts you then have to wonder which midfielder drops out, with Hugh Murray or Jim Goodwin the most likely candidates.
Aberdeen know they are lucky to still be in the cup. They should have been dead and buried on Saturday yet found a last minute goal for the second round in a row. Chances are, they won't make the same mistake again. Brown will have them well and truly fired up from the off and with a home crowd roaring them on - their support was excellent in Paisley - they will be strong favourites. Yet they forced a similar replay against Raith Rovers at this stage last season and screwed that one up - although that was under Mark McGhee. You have to think things will be different tomorrow night.
Brown had quite an attacking side on Saturday and you imagine it'll be the same and again. Scott Vernon and Chris Maguire will lead the attack, with Sone Aluko likely to come in from the start so he can cause problems with his pace. Robert Milsom was a threat from midfield, while Paul Hartley was unusually quiet - a situation unlikely to be repeated. The only good news is it's unlikely a former Saint will score the goal that puts us out as David MacNamee is likely to be out through injury.
We shouldn't have to do this. If all had gone well on Saturday, We'd already have a trip to Hampden to prepare for. Instead, we have to go to Pittodrie on a Wednesday night. The pressure is on Aberdeen - let's hope we can use that to our advantage and get the job done this time.
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