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Duncan Shearer: Downing PAOK could boost Aberdeen’s European progression hopes – and also fuel Premiership rise

It's a big week for the Dons as they aim for victories in the Europa Conference League and the Premiership after Saturday's postponement.

Aberdeen's Bojan Miovski celebrates after he scores to make it 1-1 against HJK Helsinki. Image: SNS.
Aberdeen's Bojan Miovski celebrates after he scores to make it 1-1 against HJK Helsinki. Image: SNS.

After Storm Babet put paid to Aberdeen’s Saturday night Premiership fixture against Dundee, all the focus is on a must-win Europa Conference League Group G tie at home to Greek opponents PAOK Salonika on Thursday.

Aberdeen played well last time out in Europe, against HJK Helsinki at Pittodrie – when they were unlucky not to win and had to settle for a 1-1 draw.

But they lost 2-1 away to Eintracht Frankfurt in their opener, so there is no margin for error for Barry Robson’s players if they are to have any outside chance of progressing.

Hopefully the weather will be fine for Thursday and we get a good crowd getting right behind the team.

Not only would a victory against PAOK give the Dons’ European chances a boost, it would be the ideal result ahead of going to Derek McInnes’ Kilmarnock on Sunday.

The Reds need to start to winning Premiership games consistently.

After beating Rangers 3-1 at Ibrox, they drew 0-0 with bottom side St Johnstone.

They are eighth, albeit just two points behind fourth-placed Hearts, who lost 4-1 to Celtic on Sunday.

Whether it’s in the league or the Conference League, Aberdeen need to ensure they win as many of these games as they can and they’ll be determined to do that after slipping up against Saints in their final game before the international break.

Chance for Ross County to leap in league

All going well, Ross County’s Premiership game at Dundee on Tuesday night will get the all-clear.

What an incentive it would be for County to win, knowing they would climb three places to eighth, above Dundee, Hibs and Aberdeen, if they leave Tayside with three points.

For me, it’s a much-improved Dundee team to the one who won the Championship last season.

So it will be a difficult fixture for County.

Dundee manager Tony Docherty has taken the club forward in the Premiership since coming into the club in the summer. Image: SNS Group

County’s match at home to St Mirren on Saturday was called off due to the weather and they won’t want to be going too long without playing.

Malky Mackay’s side have a busy spell ahead, with a trip to Motherwell this Saturday, Hibs away next Tuesday, then Celtic coming to Dingwall on November 4.

The players will want these games to be played – there’s nothing worse than when you’re training all the time and then the games are called off.

ICT must beat dangerous Airdrieonians

Caley Thistle were also idle on Saturday when their Championship match against Morton at Cappielow was postponed.

It means manager Duncan Ferguson has only had two matches in charge since replacing Billy Dodds last month – the 3-2 leagye win at Arbroath and the 0-0 draw with Partick Thistle.

They are level on points with Morton at the bottom of the table and just ahead of the Greenock team on goal difference. The weekend results leave them six points behind Queen’s Park and Dunfermline.

This Saturday, they are home to Airdrie, a side who drew 1-1 with Queen’s Park on Friday.

The Diamonds have beaten Caley Thistle in the Viaplay Cup group stages and in the league so far this season.

I was at their 3-2 win at Inverness in that cup-tie in July.

Airdrie are good to watch, and they like to play football from the back. They can pass around you or you can play the high press against them and try and get at them.

We will see what way they go against them.

I am sure Duncan Ferguson will have enjoyed having the wee break to work with his players on the training ground.

At the same time, they will be eager to get going.

Again, their home games are massive and this one against Airdrie is one they must take full points from if they have any ambitions of making the top four.

I’d say, even already, the Championship title has gone for Inverness. Dundee United’s 5-0 win at Partick Thistle has the leaders 16 points in front of Caley Thistle.

However, in a 10-club league, it isn’t too difficult to try to get into fourth position, particularly when you have the budget Inverness have got compared to a lot of other teams.

First and foremost, they must get away from the position they find themselves in.

They must make Inverness a really difficult place for teams to come to and get points.

Wotherspoon can be key ICT capture

David Wotherspoon in North of Scotland Cup action for Caley Thistle. Image: Jasperimage

I have to say Duncan’s first signing, ex-St Johnstone midfielder David Wotherspoon, on a short-term deal until January, is a great bit of business for me.

He’s a player I have always admired and loved watching.

I would expect David to have a similar influence at the club to what Kirk Broadfoot had two seasons ago.

He has a similar stature and character, having been around the Premiership for so long and having won three trophies at St Johnstone.

I am sure the young lads will pick up a lot of advice from him.