Derek McInnes will have to step up his search for a creative midfielder after Brendan Rodgers confirmed that Celtic have no intention of selling Ryan Christie to Aberdeen when the player completes his loan deal at Pittodrie in May.
The Dons manager failed in an attempt to prise the player away from Parkhead on a permanent basis last summer and just last week vowed to try again if it looked like the midfielder was going to be surplus to requirement at his parent club.
Instead, Rodgers is intent on giving Christie the chance to make an impact with Celtic, who paid Inverness Caledonian Thistle £600,000 for his services in September 2015 but for whom he has only made 13 appearances since.
That will leave McInnes with another gap to fill as Kenny McLean has already signed a contract to join English Championship side Norwich City at the end of the season, but the good news is Christie insists he is fully focused on doing well for his current manager and still has more to contribute.
“To be honest I haven’t really thought about it all and that is the best way to be in terms of focusing on my football right now,” said Christie.
“I thought that in January when a few questions were asked, and I said then that I wanted to concentrate from now until the end of the season. I want to get my level of performances up as high as I can as right now as I think I can be playing better.
“I need to keep in that mindset and keep working game to game and when the summer comes we will see what happens.”
The main priority will be making sure it’s not 18th time unlucky for Aberdeen against Kilmarnock when their Scottish Cup quarter-final resumes with the replay at Rugby Park a week tomorrow.
It’s currently 15 wins and two draws in meetings between the teams since McInnes took over as manager five years ago this month and he wouldn’t want to mark that anniversary with a first defeat in the fixture, especially as he was narked at the award of the penalty Kris Boyd converted in 68 minutes to earn the Ayrshire side a second chance. He believed Jordan Jones dived in the box rather than being felled by Shay Logan.
Not that the full back or his defensive partner Kari Arnason could be anything other than embarrassed by their part in the incident, leaving the responsibility for clearing an innocuous through ball to each other.
Boyd’s 17th goal of the season also helped spare the blushes of Kilmarnock goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald who was culpable for allowing Graeme Shinnie’s acute-angled cross to become an acute-angled opening goal in nine minutes.
At least MacDonald, pictured left, redeemed himself with a terrific save early in the second half to prevent Arnason putting the game beyond redemption, while Boyd’s 11th goal in the last 13 matches provided further evidence of their resilience under Steve Clarke.
Of course, actually beating Aberdeen would be another significant step forward but the man who was between the sticks when Hearts humbled Hibernian in the 2012 Scottish Cup final is confident they can do just that given how well they are playing both individually and collectively now.
“We were disappointed to go 1-0 down but the gaffer told us to make sure we were in the hat at the end of the day and we have done that,” said MacDonald.
“I think the last three or four weeks, our character and team spirit has got us through a lot of games.
“But it is great to have one of Scottish football’s top scorers ever up there, even if he is getting on a bit, but he is still banging them in. Hopefully he can get a few more in the replay. It certainly gives us confidence having a guy like him up there.”