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Richard Gordon column: Aberdeen’s revival in fortunes a real eye-opener

Aberdeen have emerged from a disrupted start to the season
Aberdeen have emerged from a disrupted start to the season

Given the horrendous start to the campaign both on and off the pitch, the turnaround in the Dons’ fortunes over the past four weeks has been a real eye-opener.

The limp display against Rangers followed by the breach of COVID regulations heaped pressure on everyone at the club and lesser men might have crumbled, but Dave Cormack and Derek McInnes stepped up to the plate, showed strong leadership, and the squad responded magnificently once they were allowed to get back playing.

It was a bit of a slow burn against St Johnstone, but the form improved against Livingston, and the performance at Easter Road was magnificent. It was important to follow that up at home to Kilmarnock, which the boys did, becoming the first team this season to reel off four straight victories in the Premiership.

The wins have been narrow, but the football they have been playing belies that.

This has not been the Aberdeen team that frustrated us all for large chunks of the past couple of years; rather it has been a side brimming with confidence and attacking intent, one which, if the form is maintained, will cause a lot of problems for most opposition throughout 20/21.

Settling into a steady back three of Hoban, McKenna and Considine has been one of the key aspects. It is a formation that has not always worked for the manager, but he has put together a trio that looks comfortable and using attack-minded players like Matty Kennedy and Jonny Hayes in the wing-back positions means the team can transition quickly out of defence. Hayes in particular was outstanding against Killie.

Scott Wright and Ryan Hedges have been in impressive form

I have already written about Scott Wright this season, and it has been refreshing to see him unleash his undoubted potential. He has linked up really well and shown a level of consistency we have seen from him only too rarely in the past. His interactions with Ryan Hedges and Marley Watkins have played a big part in the transformation of the team.

Joe Lewis has done what has been asked of him, but thanks to the defence hasn’t been overly tested since the opening day, and he must be enjoying watching some the play of his team-mates.

One aspect that will certainly please the captain is the superb contributions of both Lewis Ferguson and the excellent Ross McCrorie, who have bossed the midfield since teaming-up and look as if they have played together for years. McCrorie has filled a number of roles already, but he belongs in the heart of the pitch, and the quality goal he netted last weekend is indicative of what the 22-year old has to offer.

If Ross maintains his standards, he will be a massive player in the coming years and could prove to be the best bit of business Derek McInnes has done as Dons manager.

The days of Aberdeen having genuine title ambitions are probably gone for now – Celtic’s power and Rangers’ spending spree in recent years put an end to that – but that’s fine, it doesn’t mean they can’t have a memorable season, and with three domestic Cup competitions up for grabs, the Dons will certainly be in the mix if the last month is anything to go by.

Aberdeen players celebrate Ross McCrorie’s goal against Viking FK

The European adventure continued with another polished performance in Norway. There were moments when the Dons were under pressure, that was to be expected against a side like Viking, but the players coped well, and won the tie thanks to two quality goals.

There is much uncertainty over the next game in Lisbon, but however things pan out over the next few days, it is one to look forward to with some relish against one of the iconic names in the world of football.

Derek’s biggest problem will be preparing for a match in which he has no idea who will be turning out for the opposition.

The draw for the play-off round threw up the prospect of visitors from Austria or Slovakia, and while the group stages remain some way off, Aberdeen have been handed as good a draw as they might have hoped for.

It could be an exciting few weeks ahead!

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