Scott McKenna admits Aberdeen will have to do more than attempt to wind up Alfredo Morelos if they want to blunt the Rangers striker’s effectiveness at Pittodrie tonight as the Colombia international seems to finally be controlling his volatile temperament.
The Dons defender had some success in exploiting that flaw in his opponent’s character when Morelos was red carded in three of the five games he played against Derek McInnes’ side last season. Although McKenna was sent off along with him after an incident early in the second half of the Ibrox club’s 4-2 win on their last league visit to Pittodrie in February.
Now they meet for the first time this season as the Scotland cap missed the 5-0 thrashing in September because of injury, and he knows they cannot rely on the old game plan to distract their opponents’ biggest threat.
“The gaffer was probably winding us up to make sure we wound him up. It worked a few times and it did benefit us but his discipline has definitely improved,” said McKenna, pictured. “He seems to have tightened up on that aspect of his game and it is up to us to try and stop him scoring. That is our job but he is a handful the whole game and doesn’t give you a minute’s peace. Any time there is a ball up to our defence he is always there, putting you under pressure, being a nuisance and holding the ball up. He is quick and strong and he has everything so I need to stay focused and concentrated.
“I haven’t played against him this season and I just need to focus on myself and I’m not doing anything stupid or getting myself sent off. I tried to have a wee nibble back last season and I didn’t realise my feet were as high as they were and got what I deserved. It was pure stupidity. Ryan Jack also got sent off at one of the games at Pittodrie, so it is important we keep our discipline and we don’t get sucked into anything stupid.”
That might be difficult given the feisty nature of the fixture, especially as Aberdeen need to make a statement after suffering embarrassing defeats against both halves of the Old Firm. The 5-0 defeat at Ibrox in September was the biggest losing margin since McInnes took over as manager in March 2013 and was followed by an equally traumatic 4-0 home defeat by Celtic the following month.
McKenna was in the side for that one and is still baffled by the lack of determination shown on the day as he added: “I have no idea what went wrong. We knew what we had to do and we had our instructions but everyone fell below the standard and Celtic punish you when they smell blood.”
Niall McGinn, on the brink of his 300th appearance for Aberdeen, is a doubtful starter tonight with injury.