Aberdeen's revival will face its litmus test at Rangers - the Kieran Tierney inspiration, jittery Ibrox, deadly duo
Next up for Jim Goodwin’s side is the litmus test of Ibrox. It is almost a year since Aberdeen claimed a draw in Govan, but traditionally speaking, it is Pittodrie where Rangers get a run for their money in this fixture. It will be interesting to see just how Goodwin can manipulate 90 minutes against a Rangers side who will be heading into the game on the back of what could be another sobering Champions League test against a rampant Napoli in Italy.
With the noise around Giovanni van Bronckhorst amplified on the back of an insipid draw against Livingston, Goodwin will feel quietly confident that Aberdeen are ripe for a result. There remain deficiencies in this Aberdeen team – Motherwell might have snatched a draw in the late stages of Saturday’s contest at Fir Park – but there is an intriguing sense of purpose and attacking verve about them when they find their rhythm. What has been impossible to overlook so far this season, however, is an inability to trust them to deliver; Ibrox will go someway to revealing what kind of spine they have about them.
There has been a move to a back three from Goodwin in recent games to facilitate a front pairing of Bojan Miovski and Duk with both capable in front of goal. Miovski netted his ninth goal of the season with a deft and clever chip over Liam Kelly, the Motherwell goalkeeper, while Duk was a handful throughout for Motherwell to cope with. Unencumbered by any psychology around the history of the Rangers v Aberdeen fixture, Goodwin will look for them to be just as bold at Ibrox.
Similarly, Jack MacKenzie left Paul McGinn flailing as he found a yard of space before plonking the ball on Duk’s head for Saturday winner as Aberdeen expunged the brief flicker of Motherwell hope hope that Stuart McKinstry’s goal had given them. The 22-year-old has revealed that Kieran Tierney was his inspiration when he was asked to make the adaptation from left-back to wing-back. Ibrox was a fairly happy hunting ground for the Scottish internationalist whom MacKenzie would dearly like to emulate.
“When Tierney was at Celtic I looked at the way he played – very powerful, really good going forward and really good defensively,” said the 22-year-old.
Closer to home Jonny Hayes has also been a prime example of aggression and directness for the newly appointed wing-back to observe.
“Jonny’s brilliant, he's doing his coaching as well,” he said. “He’s really good at describing different roles, and ways to play the game. Just watching him, you don’t even need to speak to him, just watch what he does on a day-to-day basis, he’s a massive influence.
“He probably would have learned something off Tierney at Celtic and Tierney would have learned off him as well. It is a really big week for us. Hopefully next Saturday we can put in a good shift as well.”