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Inverness CT 3 Aberdeen 4: Inverness come close to stealing the show after visitors take centre stage with unscripted drama

The competition for second place in the SPFL Premiership this season has just become more interesting. Victory at the Caledonian Stadium on Saturday evening was perhaps a result of Aberdeen's opportunism in the first half as Inverness Caledonian Thistle allowed their visitors free rein, although the match would also pose more questions than it provided answers for.

Barry Robson celebrates putting Aberdeen in front from the penalty spot
Barry Robson celebrates putting Aberdeen in front from the penalty spot

These would seem to keep time with each of the goals; how could the Highland side, who had not conceded in five previous outings, have crumpled so easily following such a brisk start? What on earth happened to Aberdeen in the second half when, four goals up already, their defence foundered to allow Billy McKay to score twice? And Graeme Shinnie a late third?

These are issues which require to be addressed as a matter of urgency before Boxing Day's fixtures; Inverness face Partick Thistle at Firhill, while Aberdeen host Motherwell. It is too late to prevent such issues contributing to an absorbing match in the Highlands, of course - Aberdeen passing up on three reasonable chances before Barry Robson opened the scoring with a penalty.

The Aberdeen midfielder then put the visitors further ahead with a header while pathetic defending from Inverness enabled first Peter Pawlett and then Niall McGinn to convert two more chances. Since the Highland side had hitherto enjoyed one of the most formidable defensive records in the division, the Caledonian Stadium had become the setting for 45 minutes of unscripted drama.

"The first half won us the game," said Scott Vernon, the Aberdeen striker. "We know what we can do going forward away from home, catching teams on the break. It takes us joint second with them now and the main thing was that we got the win. We are all trying to build something. The manager is trying to build something; a way of playing and for everyone to be resolute in the game and determined.

"Normally you can't fault the lads, but it was a different story in the second half. [However] we will definitely take the positives out of it and work on the negatives."

Given that the first step to overcoming a problem is often admitting that there is one, it would seem pertinent to provide the details of "the negatives". They were glaring and would be burned into the retinas of McInnes, the Aberdeen manager aggrieved at the haphazard defensive work which allowed Inverness to poke holes in his side's lead. By the time the evening had marched into stoppage time, the home side had made up ground impressively and were just one goal behind.

John Hughes had set the pace by stalking the touchline after the break but later denied that there had been any histrionics from him during the break. The Inverness manager was making his home debut and his first impression to supporters might prove to be misleading given that he had been calm as his side came under fire.

"We all know it was not good enough in the first half, plain and simple," said Shinnie, the impressive Inverness full-back. "We just had to rally round and tell each other we had to win the second half. We all knew it was unacceptable in the first half. There was no need for anyone to go crazy during the break.

"We kept level-headed and the second half was good and that is what we are going to take from the game. We let the manager down a wee bit in the first half. He stuck by us at half-time and gave us the talk we needed. It showed in the second half we came out and fought a lot harder for him."

The Highland side cannot rely on Richie Foran to keep that fashion burning on Boxing Day, though, after the Inverness captain was removed from play because of a dislocated shoulder. There was an injury to Mark Reynolds, too, with the Aberdeen defender requiring stitches to a nasty cut to his upper lip. McInnes could now also have to patch up his defence against Motherwell should Reynold be deemed unfit to play as a result of the injury.

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