Neil Warnock rolled up at Aberdeen earlier this week and wowed the assembled media with a performance worthy of his reputation as one of the greatest showmen in football.
While the Pittodrie club have undoubtedly been a circus of late, it would be unfair to stretch out the PT Barnum analogies too far.
After all, the 75-year-old veteran manager made no outlandish promises or predictions. He wanted to have fun, challenge for the Scottish Cup and finish as high up the Premiership as possible.
But he refused to guarantee success — and perhaps with good reason.
For instance, there is little any manager can do when his goalkeeper, in this case the Dons’ No 1 Kelle Roos, palms a tame shot straight out to a grateful striker. Indeed, Rangers forward Rabbi Matondo was delighted to accept such a gift after just seven minutes of Warnock’s reign.
Neil Warnock led Aberdeen for the first time against in-form Rangers on Wednesday night
The 75-year-old boss was fully of energy in the technical area despite Aberdeen’s 2-1 defeat
Rabbi Matondo pounced on Kelle Roos’ error to score in the seventh minute for hosts Rangers
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The Ibrox club are a team in form under Philippe Clement and, recognising this, Warnock had brought the experienced Jonny Hayes into his line-up for part two of Aberdeen’s Old Firm double-header.
The Dons had drawn 1-1 with Celtic on Saturday in a game which they ultimately could have won — but only after surviving a first half in which they were utterly dominated by Brendan Rodgers’ side.
Such has been Aberdeen’s roller-coaster season, with their Jekyll and Hyde performances costing Barry Robson his job.
In prophetic fashion, his successor had warned pre-match about the kind of mistake that afflicted the Dons in the first half, Warnock telling the BBC: ‘You can plan everything in the world but if the whistle goes and your lads aren’t ready for it then it goes out the window.’
Perhaps frustrated by that, the Yorkshireman was soon introducing himself to the fourth official as his side battled to make it to half-time without conceding again. Prowling the technical area, he certainly wasn’t lacking in enthusiasm and while the same could be said about his new charges, most of their energy was being expended just keeping Rangers at bay.
Aberdeen forward Bojan Miovski levelled the scoreboard at half time with a well-taken strike
Keeper Roos will feel he could have done better for Todd Cantwell’s winner in the 72nd minute
Therefore it came as something of a surprise when the visitors grabbed the next goal — although the identity of the man who grabbed it was no shock. Bojan Miovski is the kind of striker a manager loves — one who scores goals — and that he is still at Aberdeen will be of no little comfort to all at Pittodrie after he netted his 20th of the season just before the break.
Warnock spent the aftermath barking orders at his defence and was no doubt doing more of the same in the dressing room, with the scores somehow level at half-time.
The Dons seemed to heed his warnings at the start of the second period but the pressure again started to build after the hour mark.
There was certainly no shortage of effort and the Aberdeen players were giving their new boss everything as they battled to hold on, with Roos coming up with a couple of impressive saves as he sought to redeem himself.
Clement was now the more animated of the two bosses — who saw that coming? — the Belgian desperate for his team not to waste the chance to go level with Celtic at the top of the league.
Warnock is up for the fun, exciting challenge of managing Aberdeen, who sit ninth in the table
But the experienced head coach will know that his side must iron out mistakes to claim results
And as Rangers relentlessly pushed towards his side’s goal, Warnock could probably see what was coming — but it’s not easy to hold back the tide, or hold on to the ball as it happens.
Todd Cantwell was the beneficiary this time as Roos palmed away an admittedly more powerful strike than the one that led to opening goal, yet the outcome was the same and a raucous Ibrox must have felt a lonely place for the goalkeeper.
There was still time for Warnock to experience VAR in all its glory for the first time as a manager, with Rangers full-back Dujon Sterling’s red card sent for an on-field review before referee Don Robertson opted to stick with his initial decision.
With the home side down to 10 men, a fairy-tale finish was on the cards. Alas for Warnock, it was not to be. Not on this occasion anyway. Come May, who knows what awaits for this most intriguing of characters.
Source From: Football | Mail Online
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