Aberdeen defender Andrew Considine reckons finishing best of the rest in the Scottish Premiership is a far tougher assignment this season.
The Dons, who take on St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park this evening, are bidding for a fourth successive top-two finish under Derek McInnes.
The Reds are sitting third at the moment, behind rivals Rangers on goal difference with Neil Lennon’s Hibernian only three points behind.
Aberdeen are in the midst of a tricky stretch of fixtures with this evening’s meeting with the Perth Saints followed by the weekend visit of Hibs to Pittodrie before they take on Celtic in Glasgow on December 23.
Considine remains confident the Dons possess enough quality to finish second this term but feels it is becoming far more competitive in the top half of the table.
He said: “The strength of the league has improved a lot since last year.
“It would be a huge achievement to finish second and a club like Aberdeen should be striving to do that.
“We proved last year we were the second best team in Scotland.
“Regardless of the two recent results against Rangers, I still feel we have enough in that dressing room to finish second again.
“It will be tough because Hibs are a very good outfit and, along with Rangers, they will push us all the way.
“There are also the likes of Hearts, Motherwell and St Johnstone but I definitely feel we have enough to finish second again.”
After last week’s dramatic events at Pittodrie, Considine is enjoying the more serene build-up to tonight’s McDiarmid Park meeting with St Johnstone.
The 30-year-old is thrilled that manager Derek McInnes, who turned down the chance to move to Rangers last Thursday, remains at the helm.
He said: “Last week was a strange week.
“The main objective for us was to make things right on Friday night against Dundee and I felt we did that.
“It was a tough game so we were pleased to win 1-0.
“Dundee are a different team compared to last season and the personnel that Neil McCann has brought in are a lot better.
“They had the better of the chances in the first half.
“In the second half we looked more solid with Anthony O’Connor in midfield.
“Regardless of how unpretty our winning goal from Scott McKenna was, it was vital that we got back to winning ways.”
Victory against Dundee ended a poor run of form from the Dons, during which they had taken only four points from a possible 15.
But Considine says the speculation linking McInnes with a move to Rangers was not to blame for his side’s downturn in results.
He added: “The honest truth was it didn’t have an impact.
“I just felt we weren’t at the races in both games against Rangers, especially down there.
“They went a couple of goals up in the first 20-25 minutes and that just knocked us for six.
“We had two very chances and it could have been different if Gary Mackay-Steven had scored just before the break . Whether it was a penalty or not, I haven’t seen it again.
“In the home game against Rangers, we created very little and gave them a couple of gifts.
“That was disappointing because we got in their faces last year and got a couple of good results.
“It was a huge week for us and we let quite a lot of people down.
“That was why it was essential to get back to winning ways against Dundee on Friday night.”