Boss Stephen Glass is confident goal hero Marley Watkins brings a ‘different dimension’ to in-form Aberdeen.
Welsh international Watkins netted his first goal since signing in the summer with a superb equaliser in the 2-1 defeat of Hearts.
Glass hopes it is the start of a goal run for the 31-year-old, who has been dogged by a hamstring injury since penning a two-year contract.
Glass revealed he will attempt to protect Watkins from any chance of aggravating the hamstring problem to ensure he can make an impact all season.
Glass said: “It is great for Marley to get off the mark with his goal and I’m looking forward to more of the same.
“Marley has given us a different dimension.
“He is good on the ball, offers a threat in behind and is good defensively with his work rate.
“I’m pleased Marley has got a goal, because forward players like to score goals and feel good about themselves.”
‘Brilliant’ goal to beat keeper Craig Gordon
The 2-1 defeat of Hearts was only Watkins’ third start since signing on at Pittodrie in the final week of the summer transfer window.
Watkins had previously enjoyed a successful loan period at Pittodrie from then parent club Bristol City last season.
However, that loan spell was cut short when a hamstring injury in a 3-3 draw with Celtic in October last year precipitated a return to Bristol.
Watkins last scored for Aberdeen in a 2-1 defeat of St Mirren on October 2 last year.
The attacker’s first Dons goal of this season was a superb strike as he controlled a Ryan Hedges cross on his thigh before unleashing a 15-yard drive beyond Scotland international keeper Craig Gordon.
Lewis Ferguson netted the winner to end Hearts’ unbeaten Premiership run and continue Aberdeen’s resurgence in form.
Glass said: “Marley took his goal really well.
“Craig Gordon saved from Hedges in the first half and the one off Ramirez, I don’t know how he saved it.
“That is an unbelievable goalkeeper, so for Marley to stick it past him with that finish brilliant.”
— Aberdeen FC (@AberdeenFC) October 31, 2021
Why Watkins was dropped against Rangers
Watkins produced a man-of-the-match performance in the 1-0 defeat of Hibs to end a 10-game winless streak, the club’s worst run of form since 2010.
The defeat of Hibs was Watkins’ first start since a 2-0 loss to Motherwell six weeks earlier on September 11.
When I told Marley he wasn’t going to be on the pitch against Rangers, he was massively disappointed – but we want him to be on the pitch long term.
“We had half an eye on this game (Hearts), because we want to protect him.”
Aberdeen manager Stephen Glass
Despite that impressive return to the starting XI against Hibs, Glass dropped Watkins to the bench for the clash against league leaders Rangers at Ibrox just four days later.
Watkins was introduced at Ibrox in the 62nd minute for United States international striker Christian Ramirez, who limped off.
Ramirez passed a late fitness test to start against Hearts.
Glass insists he made that call to bench Watkins at Ibrox to protect the attacker as he pushes to recover full match fitness after his time out.
He said: “When I told Marley he wasn’t going to be on the pitch against Rangers, he was massively disappointed – but we want him to be on the pitch long term.
“We had half an eye on this game (Hearts) because we want to protect him.”
A window opened to sign Watkins
Watkins made a positive impact during his loan spell last season until suffering the hamstring injury which effectively wiped out his campaign as he did not return to action with Bristol City until a 3-0 defeat of Birmingham City on March 3.
Following his exit from Bristol City in the summer, Watkins joined Cardiff City on a short-term contract until the end of August following a successful trial.
The superb strike against Hearts is not Watkins’ first goal of the season.
He netted twice on his debut for Cardiff in August in a 3-2 defeat of Sutton United in the EFL Cup.
Despite that brace, then Cardiff boss Mick McCarthy opted not to extend Watkins’ short-term deal.
Watkins’ availability as a free agent offered a window of opportunity for Glass to bring the attacker back to Pittodrie – he jumped at it.
Glass said: “Marley has shown what it means to be back here.
“He has shown why he was loved the first time and performances like that will only help that.
“We are delighted with him.”