Neither manager was wholly satisfied after this encounter, but their moods still reflected the outcome.

St Johnstone had to name four young players on their bench, as well as Michael Doughty, a recent loan signing from Queen's Park Rangers, and Steve Lomas was concerned enough about his lack of resources to make a wry joke about taking his "begging bowl" round other Barclay's Premier League clubs for players to borrow. The St Johnstone manager could at least look ahead, but Craig Brown was only able to dwell upon the capitulation of his side.

The game was evenly balanced when Aberdeen conceded two goals in the space of two minutes. Brown was perplexed, since he felt his team played well last weekend, and were at least on a par with their opponents at McDiarmid Park. "The mistakes we made were un-accountable," he said. "It was a very poor performance."

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Lomas was impressed with the contribution from the bench of Doughty, who signed on loan after his manager at QPR, Harry Redknapp, recommended that he work with Lomas. With only 12 senior players to choose from, Lomas is eager to add one more player to his squad before the transfer window closes tonight, but resources are scarce.

"We're down to the bare bones," he said. "There are a lot of players who are out for the rest of the season. Hopefully, there's another manager out there who'll allow us one of their players like QPR did."

The most dogged aspect of the occasion was its grimness. Nobody ought to have expected a measured contest when the wind swirled with a vicious intent and the surface was greasy. The managers were convinced enough to select teams that were tailored towards the conditions and so robust. The pitch was so slippy that Gregory Tade ran to the touchline to change his boots after just 28 minutes, although footwear alone could not account for the occasions when the ball never seemed fully under his control. When Alan Mannus, the St Johnstone goalkeeper, tried to take a goal kick, he had to wait several moments for the ball to stop being blown around by the wind.

Players had to keep their wits about them, and Stephen Hughes was well-placed to head off the line after Frazer Wright met a corner with a firm header of his own. That kind of alertness is expected of the player stationed on the post at a set-piece, particularly since it was only six minutes into the game, but aberrations were inevitable in the circumstances.

There was no surprise, after all, when the breakthrough occurred due to an individual error. Isaac Osbourne struggled to control the ball for long enough to allow Tade to rob him of possession.

The striker drove infield, stepped past Jamie Langfield, then drilled a low, hard shot into the empty net. It was a moment of rare thoroughness, since only moments before Tade had been sent clean through on goal by Rowan Vine only to strike his shot off Langfield's outstretched leg.

There were dreary passages of play, and everybody seemed to lose a grip on their con-centration. When Magennis made good progress down the right flank, he lost his balance as he tried to cross and fell over as he missed the ball completely.

He would have felt mortified, but there was no time to dwell on the mishap since another one presented him with an opportunity to atone moments later. Callum Davidson dwelled on the ball, allowing Magennis to rob him and, from a similar position, he whipped in an excellent cross that Niall McGinn lashed into the roof of the net from close range.

Aberdeen used the interval to regroup, and moved Osbourne into midfield so that they could change their shape to 4-3-3. Magennis dropped into the full-back position, but that could not prevent some familiar failings in defence.

Visting fans would have winced when a corner swung into the six-yard box, and Langfield was unable to clear assertively. The ball bounced off Magennis' head to Vine, who hooked the ball home.

Aberdeen acted as though disorientated by the goal, with the home side able to find the means to strike again within two minutes. A clever pass by Liam Craig sent Davidson round the back of the Aberdeen defence and he touched the ball to Steven MacLean, whose cross was converted from only yards out by Mackay.

Aberdeen were left to regret the slackness of their defending. Brown did, however, confirm that the club hopes to sign the goalkeeper, Dan Twardzik, on loan to challenge for Langfield's position.

"He's a good young goalkeeper," Brown said, "and that's why we want to bring him in."