Dundee United: Pernis, Dillon, Douglas, van der Meulen, Watson, Conway (Shala, 54), Robertson, Swanson (Robertson, 70), Buaben, Gomis, Goodwillie (Russell, 88).
A very disappointing defeat and a poor performance to match from an Aberdeen side without defeat in four before last night. Dons boss Craig Brown opted for a versatile 4-3-3/4-5-1 hybrid, with fit again Zander Diamond replacing Rory McArdle and Derek Young coming in for Nick Blackman.
In truth Aberdeen were poor throughout, with their defence never looking settled and often struggling to hold a decent line. A Zander Diamond header was the only real chance during a poor opening 15 minutes, the defender sustaining a head injury in the process. Diamond was replaced by similarly head-injured Rory McArdle after 31 minutes. The first Dundee United goal came just two minutes earlier while Diamond was off the pitch. Craig Conways corner being headed in by Barry Douglas would most likely not be a strange sight to Dons fans used to seeing their side concede from set pieces. While there were suggestions of a foul on Paul Hartley there were still a number of Aberdeen defenders in the box and they really should have done better. David McNamee had a poor game overall and it was his poor headed clearance just four minutes later that gave Craig Conway the opportunity to test Jamie Langfield. Langfield spilled Conways shot into the net, a bad mistake that will come as a blow for a keeper who had been in solid form recently.
After a hugely lackluster first half performance Craig Brown replaced the ineffective Sone Aluko with Josh Magennis, reverting a more traditional 4-4-2 formation with Magennis partnering Scott Vernon. It took the hulking striker just six minutes to make an impression, heading home Scott Vernon's intelligent flick on. Despite a brief resurgence Aberdeen soon faded, severely lacking in shape and conceding a third goal on the hour mark, Danny Swanson's superb half volley eventually proving too much for Aberdeen to come back from.
Overall Aberdeen were very poor, lacking both cohesion in defense and inspiration in midfield. Chris Maguire's work rate and movement up front were sorely missed. Scott Vernon had one of his worst Aberdeen games, largely due to a lack of service. Derek Young was poor, Hartley struggled to get into the game and Robert Milsom looked good on the ball but lacking in the creative spark necessary to invigorate a sluggish looking Dons side. Magennis almost changed the game after coming on - he provided a directness not previously seen by Aberdeen and looked a handful despite limited service. Steven Smith was a rare bright spot in a dreadful defensive performance, working hard and getting up and down the pitch well despite lacking an end product. The rest of the defence were simply not good enough - David McNamee in particular had a shocker - his distribution standing out as being very very shoddy. Aberdeen have a talented midfield on paper but they will not be able to perform if they aren't given decent service from the defence, something that was not happening last night. After looking very assured in Zander Diamond's absence against Hearts and St. Johnstone, Rory McArdle and Andrew Considine really struggled after Diamond's injury, a worrying sign for an Aberdeen side that had recently looked very solid in defence.
Sadly this result most likely ends Aberdeen's top six aspirations, attaching greater importance to Saturday's Scottish Cup Sixth Round tie away at St. Mirren. The Dons will need to find form quickly if anything is to be salvaged from a very underwhelming season.
As always, all comments and criticisms more than welcome.