RECENTLY-appointed Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes sang the praises of PFA Scotland Player of the Year nominee Niall McGinn after the former Celtic man’s 20th goal of the campaign handed the Dons victory over Kilmarnock at Pittodrie on Saturday.
Aberdeen 1 - 0 Kilmarnock
Scorer: McGinn 4
Referee: C Charleston
McGinn’s stunning fourth-minute strike proved to be decisive, but McInnes’ side could have won far more comfortably had they not passed up a series of chances, particularly in the second half. The Northern Ireland international collected the ball on the edge of the penalty box, before nutmegging Ross Barbour and curling the ball into the top corner of the net from 15 yards.
“We’re obviously biased, but in any team who’s not been free-flowing with goals and have the onus on one player, players like Leigh Griffiths or Niall McGinn have been hugely important to their individual teams,” said the manager. “Niall’s bit of quality for the goal would have graced any pitch, it was a top, top finish.
“Without question I think he deserves his nomination. It’s the players who make the nominations, and sometimes they recognise better than anyone else who is a good player.”
Russell Anderson missed out through injury, and McInnes admits the Dons are being cautious with their skipper, who saw his time in England hampered by hamstring problems.
“He’s not been ruled out for next week,” he continued. “It’s a bit of a bizarre one. He completed the 90 minutes at Easter Road, did his recovery the next day and then it was Wednesday night before he felt anything. It’s the hamstring that’s caused him problems before so we’re being cautious with it.”
Despite losing a third game in succession, Kilmarnock manager Kenny Shiels was keen to stress the positives of what he saw as a brave performance from his young side.
Shiels’ starting line-up included 20-year-olds Ross Barbour and Jude Winchester, Mark O’Hara, 17, and striker Chris Johnston, 18, and the manager hopes that by blooding these youngsters he is building a solid base for the future. “We have to believe in it and we must sustain that belief. You keep playing them, and they’ll keep making mistakes until such times as they become more experienced,” he said.
“I’ve got to be brave and keep playing them, because Mark O’Hara made a couple of mistakes today, Ross Barbour made a couple of mistakes. They made mistakes last week too.
“Gradually that will diminish from their game. If we put them in the stand, they’re not going to develop and learn. The more mistakes you make, the better the player you become so long as you learn from those mistakes.”
While Kilmarnock goalkeeper Cammy Bell made a number of saves throughout the match, Shiels was keen to play down the goalkeeper’s performance, adding: “Cammy Bell is a fantastic goalkeeper, but he didn’t have a lot to do today in terms of fantastic saves.”