Aberdeen Euro hero Greg Stewart has backed himself to form a dangerous partnership with Ryan Christie once he gets up to full fitness and he believes the Dons are in a strong position to enjoy another fruitful campaign.
Derek McInnes’ men turned in a thoroughly professional display in baking Bosnia when two late goals by Stewart and fellow new boy Gary Mackay-Steven sent the Dons through to the third qualifying round for the fourth year in a row after a 2-0 away win against Siroki Brijeg.
They had to be patient though as the stubborn home side tried desperately to cling on to the goalless draw which would have been enough for them to qualify after the first-leg 1-1 draw at Pittodrie.
The architect of the Dons win was on-loan Celtic midfielder Christie, who provided two brilliant assists for both Stewart and his former Parkhead colleague Mackay-Steven.
Stewart – another Dons loanee, from Birmingham City – admits it will take him time to get up to speed after hardly featuring at all for the English Championship side last season.
But he is convinced good times are ahead for Aberdeen once he gets his match sharpness back because he knows just how good Christie can be.
He insisted there was no panic among the Dons stars… even though they didn’t make the breakthrough until 18 minutes before the end.
Stewart said: “I’ve seen it every day with Ryan since I’ve come into the club. He does it all the time in training, shows that kind of vision.
“He’s a great talent, lots of potential. He sees passes that others don’t and it’s great to play alongside someone with those gifts. Hopefully I can set him up for a few and he can set me up for a few. He’s a great player.
“For me, it’s always nice when you score early at a new club – it gives you a wee bit of a boost to get off the mark sooner rather than later.
“The heat made it really tough because I’m trying to get my fitness up personally. I’ve not played in this kind of heat for a long time. We always knew that aspect of the trip would make it tough. We wanted to get our passing game so they would have to run more than us. It didn’t really happen in the first 25-30 minutes, but our fitness showed in the end.
“The gaffer said at the start we shouldn’t panic. We shouldn’t try to thread passes at the beginning, just to try and keep the ball going from side to side. But it didn’t really happen that way.
“I thought Siroki started well, if I’m being honest. We struggled to get into the rhythm of the game and it being really hot was a big factor. It took us a while to adjust to it.
“In the end the second half showed we fully deserved the win. We created a lot of chances in the second half and we could have scored before we actually did. But overall we deserved the victory.”
Aberdeen’s reward is a tie that certainly looks winnable against Cypriot side Apollon Limassol, with the first leg at Pittodrie next week.
A Dons win would take them into the play-offs for the group stages, after years of knocking at the door.
They have won in Croatia, Holland, Latvia twice and now Bosnia under McInnes on their European travels in the last four campaigns.
Former Dundee star Stewart is convinced the Premiership runners-up are well set up to enjoy another good campaign.
He said: “When I came in the manager stressed he wants to keep improving the team, doing better than last season. The boys did unbelievably well last season, but we need to forget about that and concentrate on us moving forward.
“Hopefully, we can do that. It’s always an incentive to do well in Europe – it was something that was mentioned when I spoke to Derek about coming on loan.
“Right now I just want to keep getting fitter and getting sharper. I’m a couple of weeks away from that, but the more games I get the sharper I’m going to be.”