Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes reckons it is too soon to predict a Premiership title race.
Four teams are separated by just three points at the top of the table but with 17 games still to go, McInnes thinks greater time is needed before a genuine championship challenge can be deduced.
Rangers, Hearts, Kilmarnock and Celtic have all held top spot this season, while the Dons’ form in December – six wins in eight games – has clawed them back into contention. They have finished second in the last four seasons and after a sticky start, have raised hopes that they can extend that record.
However, McInnes is holding off predictions of a title race just yet but does concede this season has brought the excitement back to Scottish football again.
He said: “I don’t think there is a title race. I’m not sure anyone can say that, even if we would all want that. After 21 games it shows there is a real credibility at the moment, but it falls short of a real title race.
“If we get to March and April and there’s still congestion at the top, then you could say with certainty that there is a title race on then. It’s easy to have a good couple of months in this league.
“But there have been enough good teams over 21 games which is why it’s right. It is exciting.
“I think Celtic are the most likely to stretch away but every team is finding it difficult to get away and get those winning runs going.
“Where we are is where we normally tend to be in terms of our points tally. We are better than some years, maybe a bit behind compared to others. Celtic have come back to us but that’s not to say Celtic have deteriorated; it’s more other teams are making it difficult.”
Reinforcements are on the radar for the Dons manager, with a left-back and a forward player the most likely targets. Max Lowe’s return to Derby County means they are short in the full-back areas and a calf injury to Bruce Anderson means they are down to three strikers.
Should they stave off interest from outsiders in their own players and add those two bodies, then the Dons could sustain their challenge at the league’s summit.
McInnes added: “I think the potential would be more than we showed in the first half of the season. It’s been more challenging this season than in previous years and that goes for most teams, because the league is stronger.
“We also have challenges within. We want to carry more of a goal threat.”