Derek McInnes won’t go as far as claiming Sam Cosgrove is the answer to his goalscoring problems but the Aberdeen manager is certain someone plucked from the obscurity of Carlisle United reserves last January will be an important factor in the solution.
That much was evident on Thursday as the striker signed for less than the average English Premier League player earns in a week gave the Burnley defence a night they are unlikely to forget in a hurry during the Europa League qualifier.
England international James Tarkowski in particular was so uncomfortable coping with the strength and aggression of someone who cost the Dons a paltry £20,000 that he conceded the penalty Gary Mackay-Steven converted in the 1-1 draw.
Cosgrove’s overall performance certainly provided some consolation for McInnes who had been frustrated in his efforts to compensate for Adam Rooney’s departure to Salford City with a new front man in time for this round.
Doncaster Rovers rejected an offer of £250,000 for John Marquis earlier in the month while enquiries about Preston North End’s Eoin Doyle and Louis Moult came to nothing leaving him to choose between Cosgrove and Stevie May.
The former got the nod for his physical presence and didn’t disappoint, although McInnes is hoping for even better at Turf Moor this week as a first competitive goal from the 21-year-old might just be enough to leave a more painful impression on their opponents.
“Sam was 20 grand from Carlisle reserves so we don’t want to put too much on him but he is learning quickly,” said a delighted Aberdeen manager. “He was up against an England international in James Tarkowski, a Premier League player for the last few seasons and a brilliant operator at centre-back.
“Sam did really well and the Burnley defenders in general will certainly remember having played against him.He is getting better and better and he was very important for us. Even on the sports science side of things we are physically getting him better.
“We are getting him more equipped tactically and trying to fine tune his game but what he has got is good raw materials.
“He is no slouch, a good size and he just needs to be a wee bit cuter with his work at the right times and see the importance of not just being a team player but getting amongst the goals.”
Of course substitute Sam Vokes’ late equaliser in the first leg means Aberdeen must score at least one goal to stay in the competition and make it to the third round of qualifying for a fifth successive season.
That would bring the reward of a trip to Turkey to face another tough test against Istanbul Basaksehir the following week but McInnes for one is confident they will be heading to the ancient city by the Bosphorus.
It’s a belief gained through experience as the Dons have actually won more European ties away from home than at Pittodrie during his time in charge of the club. including some impressive against-the-odds successes.
Victories away to quality opposition like Rijeka of Croatia, Dutch side Groningen and Siroki Brijeg of Bosnia in recent seasons has left McInnes convinced there is no reason why they can’t do likewise down in Lancashire.
He added: “A lot of our players are tasting European football for the first time but for the ones who have been through those positive experiences that gives you the resolve and personality to get the job done. We have got enough.
“Next week will be my 24th European tie as a manager and normally we have had to score away from home to get through.
“So nothing changes really. The goal puts a wee bit more pressure on us but 1-0 would still have been a delicate scoreline, we’d have had to go there and defend well and probably have to score.
“That’s where we are and we will take that challenge on and hopefully be as good as we were in the good moments on Thursday and show a wee bit more of ourselves for the 90 minutes.
“The strength in the legs will be better for the benefit of having had a game. Nothing beats that. We will be ready.”