Aberdeen’s five changes for their 2-0 Scottish Cup win over Bonnyrigg Rose all staked a claim for increased game-time – with Dante Polvara and Shayden Morris setting up a goal apiece.
Recently-appointed interim Reds manager Neil Warnock rang the changes for the Bonnyrigg clash, using the cup fixture to take a closer look at – and give an opportunity to – players who didn’t start his first game: the midweek league defeat at Rangers.
Ross Doohan replaced Kelle Roos in goal, making his first appearance since signing in the summer, and was pretty solid when called upon. I can’t remember a moment where I felt nervous about him – and I have felt nervous about No.1 Roos when he’s been under opposition pressure this season…
I still think Roos is a good goalkeeper, but has not been at the top of his game this term, and maybe Doohan showing what he can do will shake him up a bit.
It has been a difficult season for Angus MacDonald – a huge part of the surge to third place in the Premiership last term – who has found himself behind Stefan Gartenmann, Richard Jensen and the injured Slobodan Rubezic in the Dons centre-half pecking order. But he played well enough, too.
I don’t think right wideman Shayden Morris did his chances any harm going forward under Warnock. He was quite direct in his running at times, and teed up Bojan Miovski to fire home Aberdeen’s opener.
It was pleasing to see, as the Dons have been lacking in the wide areas for quite some time.
If Morris can keep it up and Duk, another of Saturday’s incoming changes, can rediscover his form of last season on the left side, it would make a big difference.
Dante Polvara was the fifth change to Warnock’s starting line-up.
Midfielder Polvara has impressed me whenever he has taken to the field for Aberdeen this season.
He scored twice in Europe, and though Saturday was just his 19th start of the campaign, he has now made five assists – nodding down to set up Miovski’s volleyed second against Bonnyrigg, having also played in the Reds’ talisman for his stunner against Celtic the previous weekend.
Polvara is competing with Graeme Shinnie, Connor Barron, Leighton Clarkson, Jamie McGrath and now Killian Phillips for midfield game-time, but I think he has earned an extended run in the team.
Aberdeen’s Scottish Cup performance was low-key – and Miovski made it look easier than it was
Overall, the Dons’ performance against Bonnyrigg, while professional, was pretty low-key.
However, when you’ve got someone like Miovski upfront – the predator he is in front of goal – making it look all too easy, it helps.
Bonnyrigg weren’t out of it, particularly in the first half, with Smart Osadolor denied a goal to make it 1-1 by Nicky Devlin’s goal-line clearance.
It might have been more edgy without Miovski being so clinical with his opening period double, and as the game wore on, Aberdeen looked less and less likely to give up their advantage.
— BBC Sport Scotland (@BBCSportScot) February 10, 2024
Miovski’s goal tally more impressive than Lawrence Shankland’s
North Macedonian international Miovski is looking so sharp right now and is up to 22 goals for the season.
Hearts skipper Lawrence Shankland took his tally for the campaign to 25 with his double in the Jambos’ 4-1 cup win at Airdrieonians – and it will be fascinating to see which of Scottish football’s red-hot marksmen finishes with more goals this term.
I do think Miovski’s tally is the more impressive of the two at present.
While he showed his class with 18 strikes last season (mostly in the first half of a campaign where the Dons eventually finished third in the table), you have got to remember he is on his way to 30 goals this time around in a team who have struggled, in the Premiership in particular – barely tasting the top six.
Shankland is also a class act, but he is playing in a Hearts side comfortably heading for third place, with far more chances created for him by his team-mates than Miovski has had.
If Aberdeen can get motoring up the league under Warnock, and some of the players listed above can give Miovski a few more opportunities, the frontman has shown he will take them.
Killie at home still a tough Scottish Cup draw, but one Aberdeen will be content with
The Dons will be happy with their Scottish Cup quarter-final draw against Kilmarnock.
They are at home, which is really positive, while they’ve avoided Celtic, Rangers, Hearts and Hibs.
One of those teams won’t make it to the semi-finals at Hampden, as Hibs and Rangers are playing each other.
Of course, the last-eight clash with Killie won’t be easy – with former Reds gaffer Derek McInnes getting the better of axed boss Barry Robson’s Aberdeen twice in the league this season, and ex-Aberdeen players in the Ayrshire side’s ranks who will remain keen to hammer home their credentials.
Killie have also strengthened impressively, with the likes of striker Kevin van Veen coming in during January, and are well above the Dons in the Premiership at present.
They will provide tough opposition,
But, bar Morton at home, it’s about as kind a draw as Aberdeen could have got as they attempt to set up a third visit to the national stadium this term.
Motherwell midweeker is must-win for Aberdeen’s Premiership rise bid
Before the Scottish Cup quarter-finals roll around in early March, Aberdeen must get climbing if they are to achieve short-term boss Warnock’s other ambition – alongside winning the cup – of getting up to fourth place in the Premiership.
Motherwell visit Pittodrie on Wednesday in another of the ninth-placed Dons’ games in hand on the eight sides above them, including Well.
It is a must-win, especially at home, as the Dons have not really been able to utilise their catch-up games so far – not in the way previous boss Robson often talked about them doing.
I feel it is at the stage where Aberdeen need to be looking to take maximum points from their remaining league fixtures in the Granite City if they are to make up the required ground on the likes of fifth-placed St Mirren and fourth-placed Killie – in the league’s final European spot.