Stephen Glass has hailed the return of Ryan Hedges as ‘like having a new player’ after Aberdeen cranked up the pressure on Hibernian in third place in the Scottish Premiership table.
Hedges doubled the Dons’ lead over Livingston in the 74th minute after Callum Hendry had given the visitors the lead six minutes after half-time.
The Lions threatened a comeback after Jay Emmanuel-Thomas fired in a wonderful volley with 10 minutes remaining.
However, Aberdeen held firm, and survived a late penalty claim when Jack MacKenzie appeared to handle in the box, to move to within three points of Hibs with two games left.
The teams face each other in their next league outing, with Aberdeen knowing another victory would give them a chance of overhauling the Easter Road side, who have a superior goal difference.
Whatever happens, new Pittodrie manager Glass is thrilled to see Hedges back to fitness after three months on the sidelines following shoulder surgery.
He said: “It’s like a new player. I think the club has missed him, I think the team has missed him.
“He showed his obvious quality. It feels like a new player for next season already. But with a few games left it’s a huge bonus.
“And it is testament to how hard he has worked to get back and testament to the medical staff and how hard they have worked.”
After being knocked out of the Scottish Cup with a meek performance against Dundee United the previous weekend, Aberdeen knew they needed a strong performance to bounce back from that disappointment.
And Glass was delighted to see his players stand up to the threats posed by the home side.
He added: “It’s a test of character for 90 minutes when you come here. They’re a good team, they are well drilled, they are tough to play against, they have good players.
“I’m not sure they get the credit they deserve. You know what you are coming into.
“But our group stood up to it, and the last 10 minutes was an extra effort, but the test of character was walking in the door here today.”
Hendry struck after Max Stryjek had brilliantly tipped a Connor McLennan header onto the bar and then Flo Kamberi combined with Jonny Hayes before picking out Hedges for a superb finish.
Emmanuel-Thomas brilliantly swept in a Jaze Kabia diagonal but Livingston dropped to sixth on goal difference with the defeat and St Johnstone’s victory against Hibs.
Manager David Martindale pointed the finger of blame at his players for the sloppy defending that allowed Aberdeen to surge into a two-goal lead.
But he was baffled by the performance of referee Grant Irvine, who he is adamant should have awarded his side ‘more than one penalty’.
The Lions boss revealed, however, that he decided against confronting the official after the full-time whistle.
He said: “To be fair, he was very open. He said come and speak to me inside, which is fair enough.
“But by the time we got to the tunnel I thought we’re not going to get anywhere. The referee has not gone out to make a bad decision.”