Aberdeen defender Mark Reynolds reckons his side has met the expectations placed on them by the club’s supporters this season.
The Dons followed up last year’s memorable campaign in which they ended a 19-year wait for silverware by winning the League Cup with their best league finish in more than two decades.
Saturday’s 2-1 victory against Caley Thistle ensures the Dons will finish no worse than second – the best showing since Willie Miller’s side finished runners up to Rangers in 1994.
The absence of Rangers, Hibernian and Hearts from Scotland’s top flight has placed extra onus on the Dons to take the challenge to champions-elect Celtic, who have an eight-point lead at the top of the table.
But Reynolds, who has been the stand-in captain in the absence of the injured Russell Anderson, believes his side – beaten only once in 21 league matches – has risen to the challenge.
He said: “We have always felt like a target this season but the way it’s gone we’ve always been up in the top two or three in the league.
“When teams have come to Pittodrie they have often been sat in or looked to get a goal and then tried to defend it.
“Third place was my best finish with Motherwell under Mark McGhee.
“We went from finishing 11th under Maurice Malpas to finishing third the following season with pretty much the same squad.
“It was a bit of a fairytale because nothing had really changed in the team, but the manager who came in clearly had us playing the type of football that suited us.
“Here at Aberdeen, we did well last year, winning our first trophy for a while. But even before that there was an expectation from the supporters who believe Aberdeen should be doing well and be up there challenging.
“So it’s nice to be in the position we are just now and hopefully living up to the expectation of the supporters.”
Dons under-20 manager Paul Sheerin believes Anderson looks ready to return to first team action after impressing in a 2-0 win against Hearts in the SPFL’s development league at Balmoor on Tuesday.
The 36-year-old is fully fit having not played a top team match since August after undergoing knee surgery.
Sheerin said: “Russell was very comfortable. His positioning is great and he showed his defensive qualities when Jamie Langfield made a save and he was first to react to it by snuffing out a really good opportunity.
“He is so bright and hopefully the younger players in the team can learn from him.”
Sheerin was also full of praise for 19-year-old forward Lawrence Shankland who took his tally for the season to 30 goals.
He added: “For Lawrence to get to 30 goals is outstanding. Whatever level you are playing at for a forward to reach that total is brilliant.
“Hopefully Adam Rooney, who is on 27, can manage to do the same for the first team.
“It bodes well for the club’s future to have forwards in the first team and the under-20s scoring 30 goals.”