Scott McKenna the lynchpin as Aberdeen toughen up their act

Scott McKenna repaid the faith of Derek McInnes in choosing the young centre-back to transform Aberdeen's attitude, and also laid down a reminder to Celtic in the title race as well.
Aberdeen's Scott McKenna at full-time. Picture: SNSAberdeen's Scott McKenna at full-time. Picture: SNS
Aberdeen's Scott McKenna at full-time. Picture: SNS

The 20-year-old symbolised the rugged new approach from the Dons after their Betfred Cup exit to Motherwell last week, contributing to a shutout at Fir Park yesterday which closes the lead on the champions in the Premiership to two points.

McKenna, pictured, won praise on BBC Radio during the 1-0 win from Aberdeen’s former captain and manager Willie Miller. He also received it from McInnes, who said McKenna was the first name on his teamsheet when he arrived at work last Friday to ensure his side did not suffer another defeat at Motherwell.

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“We didn’t want Celtic to run away with it too early and to stay as close to them for as long as we can,” said McKenna. “It was all about being more aggressive. We knew what they were going to do and dealt with it better than Thursday.

“The manager has asked me to be patient but he gave me my chance today. Hopefully I repaid him.

“It gives me confidence to hear someone as good as Willie
Miller was and an Aberdeen legend to say good things about me. I worked with him for a bit with the Under 15s and 17s before he left Aberdeen.”

McInnes reflected: “McKenna and Kari Arnason were both outstanding. I thought it was a good game for McKenna as he is an old-fashioned centre half. He had a tough loan spell at Ayr last season but I never lost faith in him. On Friday morning I made up my mind to play him. He and Arnason made us more physical and stronger. It was an ugly win. It wasn’t polished. But it was the type of performance that was needed and we got our reward for doing the basics right.”

Motherwell boss Stephen Robinson could not hide his frustration. “I thought we deserved a minimum of a point out of that game and it probably shows how far we have come that they are celebrating and banging doors,” said Robinson. “Fair play to them, they stood up to us.”