Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes hailed the contribution of Ryan Jack after the returning midfielder’s early strike saw off St Johnstone on Saturday.
Aberdeen 1 - 0 St Johnstone
SCORERS: Aberdeen - Jack 8
Referee: W Collum
The result boosted the Dons’ European aspirations on a day to forget for Saints, who had substitute Steven MacLean sent off for two bookings. Jack, who has spent the past few months on the sidelines with a hip injury, scored the game’s only goal with a low shot on eight minutes, and McInnes believes the goal and three points were just reward for his efforts.
He said: “He’d done bits and pieces of training in the past few weeks. We trained on Friday and he was the best man on the park. We felt his freshness would be a good opportunity to get 60 minutes under his belt and the goal is his just reward for his comeback.”
The Dons welcome Dumbarton to Pittodrie in a William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-final clash next weekend, before taking on Inverness in Glasgow in the League Cup final.
McInnes continued: “We’re mindful that we have got important games coming up. Ahead of the cup final, we took the opportunity to get Ryan back into the squad a bit quicker than we would have thought, but that’s down to him and his attitude.
“On the training park, he’s healthy enough to take part. He’s worked hard with the medical staff and Ryan coming back into the team with the two cup ties ahead of us might just give us a jag at the right time.”
In-form Peter Pawlett limped off in the closing stages on Saturday but McInnes expects the winger to be fit for the clash with Dumbarton.
McInnes said: “He pulled up with a tightness in his groin. He got up from the challenge. I certainly don’t anticipate it to be a problem for next week.”
St Johnstone are also still in this year’s Scottish Cup and take on Championship side Raith Rovers next weekend.
Manager Tommy Wright believes there are a number of positives that can be taken from the defeat at Pittodrie.
“We missed chances but the good thing is that we created those chances away to one of the best sides in the country at the moment, and that is on the back of Tuesday’s performance,” he said. “If we keep the standard of the second half, there is no doubt that we can make top six.”
He added: “Next week will be a difficult game – no cup games are easy. Raith themselves had a terrific result in the last round against Hibs. We know the pitfalls, so we have got to prepare right and we will do.”