Paul Third: Dons have chance to be early season pacesetters

One more hurdle before the Dons can put their feet up for a rest.

Victory at Partick Thistle this weekend will ensure Aberdeen have brushed their Europa League exit off in impressive fashion by opening their domestic campaign with a 100% winning record.

It would be a strong statement of intent but also an important psychological reaction to losing to Apollon Limassol earlier this month.

It would be nice to move on from Europe but that’s been easier said than done.

Aberdeen were better than the Cypriots but they must have come away from the second leg feeling an opportunity had been missed after losing 3-2 on aggregate.

That feeling has only worsened in the last 24 hours after Apollon Limassol qualified for the group stages of the competition before being drawn with Everton, Lyon and Atalanta. Talk about rubbing salt in the wounds.

Aberdeen, of course, have had time to digest that disappointment and put it behind them. They’ve done it in impressive fashion despite clearly being nowhere near the performance level this new-look team is capable of.

The victory last weekend was a classic case in point. The Dons were sloppy at times, with too many passes going to the Blue shirt, but they dug deep to grind out another three points. As Pedro Caixinha is discovering all too quickly at Ibrox, wins are not easy to come by and his side is already five points behind the chasing pack with just three games played.

They could be eight behind before they kick a ball at Ross County on Sunday depending on tomorrow’s results at Firhill for the Dons and at Parkhead where Celtic and St Johnstone, the only other sides boasting perfect records, go head to head.

That’s the mark of a competitive team isn’t it? The ability to grind it out on a weekly basis? Celtic did it on many an occasion last season and it took them all the way to an unbeaten domestic treble.

Aberdeen, while not blessed with the resources or squad depth Brendan Rodgers has, are doing their best to last the course as long as they can.

That’s the key and that’s why tomorrow’s game at Partick represents another acid test for Aberdeen.

While Celtic are in touching distance, Aberdeen will remain buoyant and have a target to aim for. Can it take Aberdeen to the title? Probably not but it could help provide the focus for the Dons to keep their noses in front of the chasing pack.

It’s early days but as we saw a year ago, if one team breaks clear of the rest, catching them can be a daunting and forlorn task.

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