Aberdeen midfielder Jonny Hayes took less than a minute to show why Championship strugglers Cardiff City want him with the opening goal in the win against Uzbeks Bunyodkor in Dubai yesterday.
It’s likely when and not if the Bluebirds will be back in for Hayes and the midfielder showed the 150 Dons supporters at the game Jebel Ali, some of who had flown in yesterday and were travelling back today, what they may be missing by tapping into an empty goal after Graeme Shinnie’s impressive burst from midfield.
Shinnie netted a late winner for Aberdeen after Javokhir Esankulov’s equaliser and midfielder Kenny McLean reckons the performance capped an excellent week for his team-mates.
Next up is the Scottish Cup match against Stranraer and McLean, who had to dodge a rogue pigeon which found its way into the press tent, knows the importance of that one.
He said: “It’s been a great trip and we needed this match as it would have been three weeks without a game.
“After the tough December we had we needed time off but we are ready for second half of the season and that starts against Stranraer.
“That’s our focus and the cups are something we want to do well in. We got to one final and came up short. We did well to get to the League Cup final but were second best to Celtic.
“Last season especially was poor in the Scottish Cup but we are at a club where expectations are high and we need to be challenging for trophies and in the league.
“Every season we need to do well in the cups and the Stranraer match is going to be a tough one. But we are confident.
“There is never a bad time to win the cup and we are feeling good. I don’t see why we can’t do well.
“We are desperate to get up the table and do well in the Scottish Cup, so we need a big push from everyone. We know what’s ahead of us.”
Conditions at the Jebel Ali sports complex were perfect, cloudy and cool, with the backdrop of the crack of gunfire from the nearby shooting range mixing in with the shouts from the expat and travelling Aberdeen supporters.
After six training sessions during the week the Dons were sharp to their work and after Hayes had opened the scoring, more goals seemed certain.
McLean almost conjured a goal of the season contender but his long-range lob was just saved by the goalkeeper.
The Dons were controlling the tempo and pressing well, with Shay Logan the next to go close only to drag his left-foot shot wide.
As training matches go, this was perfect for the Dons, with Adam Rooney showing strength and determination to shake off his marker only to also shoot wide of Dilshobek Khamraev’s goal.
The Dons were made to pay for their profligacy 10 minutes before the interval when the defence failed to clear Bunyodkor’s first corner and Javokhir Esankulov shot low and hard past Joe Lewis for the equaliser.
Tackles were tasty and it was game on, with Lewis making a fine save from Yadim Cemirtan’s powerful free kick before being replaced by Neil Alexander and Miles Storey getting his chance in place of Peter Pawlett as manager McInnes rang the changes throughout the second half.
The Dons would not be denied their win and after Peter Pawlett and Storey had opportunities, Shinnie showed all his class to rifle in the winner on the volley from 20 yards with 77 minutes.
The perfect end to a good week for Aberdeen but it is matters off the pitch concerning Hayes’ future which remain the pressing issue.