Five things we learned from Aberdeen 4 - 1 Hibs
GMS with the 123
There is only one place to start. Gary Mackay-Steven was electric during his time on the pitch, tearing Hibs to shreds down the left-hand side, netting a hat-trick. He scored more goals in 62 minutes than he had in the previous 624 days.
After the match Derek McInnes was effusive in his praise of the winger - and rightly so. The Dons boss made reference to Niall McGinn and Jonny Hayes, and how he expects Mackay-Steven to get to the levels displayed by that duo.
They contributed so much in terms of goals and assists as well as being a focal point in attack, an inspiration, on a consistent basis.
The 27-year-old didn’t quite replicate what that pair produced. There wasn’t the getting to the byline and whipping crosses of Hayes or the devilishly twisting and turning of McGinn. But there was a purpose that has been missing from his game too often.
The cushioned assist to set up Graeme Shinnie early on provided a platform to build on and the confidence surged through the player who is the definition of a confidence player. His three goals were taken superbly. The third was the best and included an inventive backheel.
If Aberdeen are to kick on and keep the pressure on Celtic above them and Rangers below they need Mackay-Steven do provide more games like today. He is capable, he just needs to believe he is capable.
• READ MORE: Aberdeen 4 - 1 Hibs: How the Hibs players rated
A game too far for Hibs
It was always going to be a trying week for Hibernian. They couldn’t have asked for a harder seven days of football. First and second (at the time) at home and a trip to the team placed third.
Four points would have been a fine week’s work. Anything more would have been excellent. One point however is very disappointing, especially when that arrived after the first game against Celtic.
What makes it even more disappointing is that Hibs performed so admirably against Celtic and then dominated Rangers.
They started well against Aberdeen but after the first goal the legs seemed to get heavier and so did the head.
Fans will say that they are professional athletes, they should be capable of playing three games a week. But such was the intensity of the previous two matches it takes its toll and more recovery is required. Especially for the mind. The Hibs players will have had to fight through a mental barrier before the physical one after going behind.
Neil Lennon was perhaps too harsh in his scathing attack on his players. Comments like “Cowdenbeath would beat us today” are not helpful to the group, only prompting sniggering towards his players from those outwith the club.
The Hibs boss does have a tendency to throw his players under the bus after a disappointing performance while failing to accept any responsibility himself.
• READ MORE: Aberdeen 4 - 1 Hibs: How the Aberdeen players rated
Shinnie leads Aberdeen’s renaissance
While Hibs collected only one point during the last week Aberdeen picked up all nine. What will have pleased McInnes the most and gave the supporters renewed confidence is the performance in the last two games.
In 180 minutes they’ve scored seven and conceded only one, a shot which was deflected twice before dropping past Joe Lewis.
While not reverting completely to last season’s Aberdeen, the suffocating energy and intensity with and without the ball has made a welcomed return.
Leading that has been Graeme Shinnie who would have picked up the man of the match award if it wasn’t for Mackay-Steven finding his shooting boots.
It was a typical all-action performance from the captain. More and more he is affecting the game further up the pitch. He used his dynamism to break past Dylan McGeouch to put Aberdeen ahead before snapping into a challenge with Brandon Barker to win the ball back and put in motion the move for the second.
He led by example and his team-mates followed. When he gets home he’ll reach into his right pocket and find a Marvin Bartley, in the left will be Dylan McGeouch and then in the back pocket a John McGinn.
Neil Lennon has talked up his side as the country’s second best team. When it comes to the style of football he is correct. Most weeks they are enjoyable to watch, their balance of pace, power and finesse. They excite and can do so in different ways.
Yet, they sit fourth, only six points ahead of Hearts and now nine points behind Aberdeen who have taken second place on their own.
Praise has to go to Aberdeen for the way they won and then controlled the midfield battle. Yet, in attack, Hibs were nonexistent for large spells. Brandon Barker flitted in and out, Martin Boyle was anonymous and Simon Murray cut an isolated figure.
The reason Hibs aren’t second and unlikely to finish there - as things stand - is because they do not possesses the consistent quality. The likes of Boyle and Murray have their moments but can be wasteful, while Barker can flatter to deceive. Anthony Stokes is now a creator first and finisher second.
Niall McGinn would be a great signing but perhaps another central forward could be a more pressing need.
The referee discussion
This is due for wider and more in-depth discussion but it seems that the standard of refereeing has regressed this year.
This writer is not one to focus on referees or slam Scottish referees as the worst in Europe. There are incompetent referees and scandalous decisions everywhere.
However, in the last few months there appears to be an increasing amount of big decisions that are being called wrong.
There were a handful in the Betfred Cup final, the Celtic penalty against Motherwell in the league, two solid shouts for penalties at Easter Road on Wednesday and another two at Pittodrie today.
Sometimes the referee is in a difficult position as Willie Collum was when he awarded Celtic a penalty for what he deemed a foul on Callum McGregor. Other times the linesman has not helped his fellow official out as happened when Hibs claimed for a penalty for handball against Rangers’ David Bates.
It is time in Scotland we had a serious discussion about VAR? Including all stakeholders, questions need to be asked. Do we want it? Will it help? Is it affordable?