aBERDEEN’S credentials as potential champions will come under the closest possible scrutiny this week but Peter Pawlett says Celtic would be unwise to expect their challengers to crumble under the weight of expectation.
The Dons face a daunting away double-header at Inverness Caledonian Thistle tomorrow and Partick Thistle on Friday knowing victories in both would move them back to the top of the table.
Ironically it was a position they could have taken in late December had they not drawn at home against the same opposition, but Pawlett does not read too much significance into those results.
After all, those were minor blemishes during a current sequence of nine wins in an unbeaten league run of 12 matches, which hardly suggests a team lacking conviction.
Celtic have looked considerably more culpable in that respect lately, notably in their 2-1 defeat at Pittodrie, and from personal experience Pawlett finds Aberdeen’s present position much less stressful than the days when the midfielder was trying to establish himself in the team.
That was back in the dark days when Mark McGhee was manager and the Dons were stuck in the bottom half of the league while suffering some embarrassing defeats in the cup competitions.
Now under Derek McInnes they are in a position to push for a first league title since Sir Alex Ferguson was manager, an amazing 31 years ago. After what he experienced in the past it’s a situation to savour for Pawlett, who said: “The pressure is definitely not as bad as when you are down at the bottom as it’s much more enjoyable at the top.
“If you are down near the bottom of the table you go home after matches thinking ‘oh come on’ but you are much more relaxed knowing that you are doing well and thinking ‘just keep doing what you’ve been doing’.
“It’s a case of keep working and preparing for matches in exactly the same way that you have been every week.
“The next two away games are tough so we have to concentrate on those and see where it takes us.
“There are still 39 points to play for and it would be putting down a marker to do well in them, but the entire focus is on Inverness at the moment as that is the way that Derek McInnes works.
“Since the manager has come into the club he installed a belief in the players right from the start. We all have that confidence to do well when we go out on the pitch and we all believe we can get three points in every game.”
Now the only imponderable for Pawlett is how much of a part he will be allowed to play in Aberdeen’s bid for success after making his first start in eight games at Perth last weekend.
If that was a relief, then contributing a first league goal in a year to the 4-3 victory against St Johnstone was an equally welcome bonus for someone used to regular top-team football.
Competition for places would have become even tougher if McInnes had succeeded in a bid to sign Caley Thistle’s Greg Tansey just last month.
As it is, captain Ryan Jack and Willo Flood are fit again after a month out injured, increasing the pressure on Pawlett to make the most of any opportunity.
He added:”I was delighted to be back involved and it was a bonus to start the game [against St Johnstone] and score a goal as well.
“It was a relief to get back on the scoresheet and make that sort of contribution.
“This season has been a bit stop-start for me but I just need to keep my head down and keep working hard to get back.
“It’s up to me to prove to the manager that he can trust me to put a performance in for him.
“There are still a lot of matches to go this season and hopefully I will get my chance again after the way I played.”