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Aberdeen winger Jon Gallagher could make a remarkable return to first team duty on Saturday – just days after fearing he had broken his leg.
The 23-year-old, who is on loan at the Dons from MLS side Atlanta United, returned to training yesterday just 72 hours after being sent for an X-ray following a tackle in his club’s 1-1 draw with St Johnstone at Pittodrie.
Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes said: “Jon had a really bad haematoma after the game and he was in a lot of pain. He left Pittodrie in a boot and we feared the worst when he went for his X-ray but thankfully it is not as bad.
“We anticipated it was going to be a lot worse but there is no fracture and he did some work in training today so it looks as if he will be OK for the weekend.”
McInnes does, however, face an anxious wait to discover how long he will be without Craig Bryson and Funso Ojo.
Bryson (ankle) has had a scan while Ojo suffered a suspected hamstring strain against Saints on Saturday.
The Aberdeen manager said: “We’re waiting for the scan results but we expect both to be out for Saturday.”
The timing could not be worse for McInnes, with the losses coming at the start of a pivotal run of three away matches for Aberdeen.
The Dons travel to Livingston on Saturday before they face Hearts at Tynecastle in the quarter-final of the Betfred Cup on Wednesday.
McInnes’s men round off their run with a trip to Ibrox to face Rangers next weekend and a lengthy absence for Bryson and Ojo will leave the Dons with two recognised fit central midfielders in Lewis Ferguson, 20, and 18-year-old Dean Campbell.
Stephen Gleeson, who missed pre-season training after suffering a knee injury, stepped up his return when he started light training last week but he is not expected to be available for first-team duty for at least another month.
The Dons concluded their business well before the transfer window closed two weeks ago but the importance of the upcoming matches, and the need to add some experience should Bryson and Ojo’s absence prove longer term, may lead to a loosening of the Pittodrie purse strings.
The Aberdeen manager would no doubt welcome the opportunity to bring in a short-term reinforcement if given the chance.
McInnes watched his young Dons beat Huddersfield reserves 3-0 at Glebe Park in Brechin yesterday thanks to goals from Bruce Anderson, Ethan Ross and Chris Antoniazzi.
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Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes has warned his players to cut out the self-inflicted goals which is costing them dear.
The Dons let two points slip at Pittodrie on Saturday as St Johnstone came from a goal down to earn a share of the spoils in a 1-1 draw.
For the Aberdeen boss watching his side go from being in charge of proceedings to losing their control of the game was a scenario he has grown weary of and he has urged his players to regain their composure.
He said: “Saturday was self-inflicted and all too familiar of last season. We scored a good goal, had plenty crosses in the box and played at a good tempo. It looked like it was only going to go one way until the equaliser.
“We allowed St Johnstone to counter on us, when we didn’t need to. We allowed the cross to come in when we shouldn’t have, and we allowed Michael O’Halloran too much space and we allowed a weak shot to get into the net.
“A cumulation of all of these things have given St Johnstone the equaliser. For that type of goal to be lost isn’t good enough.
The Dons boss added: “From there the second half was not good enough. We tried to make changes to alter the flow and I don’t think the subs made any real change.
“We never had any real confidence or control in the second half. Everything was a bit too hurried when there was no real need. We need to find more composure.”
The dropped points at home compounded a frustrating day for the Dons where Jon Gallagher, Craig Bryson and Funso Ojo all limped off with injuries.
Gallagher was sent for an X-ray on a suspected broken leg but scans have shown there is no break. Bryson and Ojo also suffered ankle and hamstring injuries and all three are expected to miss Saturday’s trip to Livingston.
McInnes said: “Bryson came to us with a problem with his ankle, but it wasn’t the one he injured on Saturday. He just landed awkwardly. We will need to see how that one is once it has been scanned.
“Ojo felt both hamstrings a bit tight when he went into the challenge, so we will need to see how that settles.”
There has been some good news for the Dons boss, however, with midfielder Stephen Gleeson, who suffered a knee injury in pre-season, on the road to recovery.
McInnes said: “He is back on the training pitch. He’ll be able to get back to full training in three or four weeks.”
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A painful afternoon for Aberdeen in more ways than one as the Dons paid the price for a lethargic display.
The home team was punished by struggling Saints, who came from behind to claim a point.
And they came close to taking all three in a strong second-half showing against a Dons team which struggled to find any rhythm or energy after the interval.
To compound matters for Dons boss Derek McInnes, Jon Gallagher, Craig Bryson and Funso Ojo all joined a rapidly growing injury list.
No wonder the Aberdeen manager is concerned.
He said: “Jon Gallagher has hurt himself in a challenge with Liam Gordon and he has a problem with his tibia.
“He was struggling after that to have any real impact on the game. That one doesn’t look good.
“Bryson doesn’t look great at the minute either. Ojo, we need to wait and see how that settles. Off the back of Scott Wright’s injury this week he and Gal can play central so to lose both is a blow.”
It had all started so positively too as Sam Cosgrove saw his header from Greg Leigh’s cross hit a post.
The Dons soon moved up through the gears after Cosgrove’s header and by the time the game reached the half-hour mark they were ahead.
Ryan Hedges, the key performer in the previous outing, showed great composure to fire the ball past Zander Clark after Leigh and Lewis Ferguson had worked an opening for the Wales international in the box.
Saints may have arrived at Pittodrie propping up the Premiership but they were everything they have been in previous seasons under Tommy Wright – dogged, determined and organised.
With the home team’s energy levels dropping, Saints committed men forward on the break when afforded the opportunity and one such break resulted in them drawing level before the interval.
The goal seemed to happen in slow motion with Saints full back Scott Tanser finding Michael O’Halloran on the edge of the box with a low cross. The attacker had time to look up and beat Joe Lewis with a low effort which, despite not having pace on it, had just enough direction to squirm through the goalkeeper’s hands.
Lewis will be disappointed at conceding in the manner he did but his team-mates did little in the second half to turn the disappointment around.
McInnes said: “I thought St Johnstone were the team who looked more assured in the second half. I thought they were worthy of a point. I don’t think we did enough to win all three. The forced changes to Bryson and Ojo didn’t help matters in terms of getting that control but there’s no excuse really. The second-half performance wasn’t good enough. We need to do more to win the game.
“I just thought the dynamic of the team wasn’t right in there.”
Saints, buoyed by their equaliser, almost took the lead at the start of the second half when Murray Davidson rose to meet Jason Holt’s corner but the midfielder headed wide as a great chance was wasted.
Aberdeen, as was the case in the first half, were slow out of the traps and Saints were in the mood to make the most of their chance as Holt set-up Davidson again but his powerful effort was turned round the post by Lewis.
Aberdeen were in need of energy and Gallagher was sent on for Bryson as boss McInnes tried to regain the initiative.
But Saints thought their perseverance had paid off when referee Steven McLean pointed to the spot after Matty Kennedy had gone to ground under pressure from Andy Considine.
The Dons defender was stunned but, following a discussion with his assistant, McLean reversed his decision.
There was no relenting in the restless atmosphere among the home support, however, in what had fast become a frustrating and uninspiring afternoon for those in red.
The late surge from the home side never came with an injury-time deflected free kick from Lewis Ferguson, which Clark saved, the closest Aberdeen came to a winner.
A disappointing day for the Dons.
Wright’s spot of frustration
St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright believes referee Steven McLean got his side’s big penalty decision wrong in their 1-1 draw with Aberdeen.
McLean pointed to the spot after Matty Kennedy went down under a challenge from Andy Considine before changing his mind and awarding a goal kick after consulting his assistant.
It was a huge call and one which Wright believes was the wrong one.
He said: “I’ve seen it. I don’t see how you can be 100% on it. I think there is contact on his left heel but he bounces straight back up. The only thing I’d say is the referee has the best view of the incident.
“It’s rare it is overturned but Derek McInnes believes it was the right decision and I think there was contact. That aside our performance was excellent and we deserved more out of it.
“I’ve just been in to see the referee. He said he had some doubt in his mind but he gave it and it is his assistant who doesn’t give it. Derek will say there is no contact but my players say there was contact and if there was the decision should have stood. I don’t send my players out to go to ground easily.”
Supporter’s view: Pittodrie paradox of having to now win twice
The Dons are finding it extremely difficult to win at home, even when they have been in complete control of matches.
Saturday was the ninth occasion this calendar year in which Aberdeen have opened the scoring in a domestic home fixture and Ross County, a fortnight ago, remain the only one of those opponents who failed to hit back with an equaliser.
Basement boys St Johnstone join Stenhousemuir, Queen of the South, Livingston and Motherwell in managing to recover – even temporarily – from what should historically be the crippling blow of falling behind at Pittodrie.It is a most perplexing phenomenon, particularly as it pertains to a period in which four of the Dons’ last six domestic clean sheets have been kept in the stadiums of the three teams to finish above them in last season’s table.
The figures certainly tend to suggest that the lower Aberdeen rate their opponents’ ability to breach their defence, the less care they take to prevent it from happening.
Questions will fairly be asked of personnel, but it is in large measure a consequence more of attitude and strategy.
Saints’ leveller here was extraordinarily slow in the works, which makes it incredible that, when Michael O’Halloran received its laborious final pass, there was no Dons defender within six yards of him in any direction. Flocking like wasps around the innocuous passing sequence in front of the Main Stand, they were buzzed around for long enough to switch off their concentration.
It was a loss in intensity which is becoming characteristic of such situations.
The more leads that Aberdeen drop, the foggier grows their plan to preserve them. Caught between pressing on to kill games off and shutting up shop for 1-0, the Dons are doing neither. It is hard enough to win matches at the top level without having to win them twice.
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Aberdeen were held to a 1-1 draw by St Johnstone at Pittodrie on their return to Premiership duty after the international break.
Ryan Hedges’ goal had given Aberdeen the lead but Michael O’Halloran equalised for Saints before the break in what was a frustrating afternoon for the Dons.
Dons boss Derek McInnes named an unchanged side following the 3-0 win against Ross County before the international break while Stevie May made his return to Pittodrie after making the starting 11.
Following a subdued start Sam Cosgrove almost gave his side the lead with his first chance but his header came back off the post and Saints scrambled the ball clear.
Saints were powerless to prevent the Dons from breaking the deadlock when the next chance came as Ryan Hedges turned in the box before firing past Zander Clark in the visiting goal to give Aberdeen the lead.
Aberdeen were on top and put Saints under pressure as they pushed for a second but the visitors stung the home side by drawing level just before the interval.
Michael O’Halloran got the goal with a low effort from the edge of the box which Dons captain Jow Lewis got a hand to but could not keep out.
Murray Davidson went close for Saints twice at the start of the second half before the visitors were awarded a penalty, only following an Andy Considine challenge on Matty Kennedy, only for referee Steven McLean to reverse his decision after consulting his assistant.
Aberdeen huffed and puffed in the second half but the late surge never materialised leaving them with a share of the spoils.
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Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes has challenged his players to make Pittodrie a fortress again.
The Dons endured a frustrating home campaign last season, winning just nine of their 18 matches at Pittodrie. It was a stark contrast to their outstanding away form where they boasted the best away record in the top flight, winning two points more than champions Celtic.
But with two home wins out of two so far in the Premiership McInnes wants to see his team restore the reputation of the club’s home being a daunting venue for opposing teams.
He said: “We have been clear that if we want to do what we want to do then our home form has to improve.
“It has to get back to what it had been every season until the last one.
“In comparison to previous years it wasn’t good enough and for any team to do what we want to do, you have to win the majority of your home matches.
“We have to make sure we’re better at home, we enjoy playing at home and don’t lose as many poor goals.
“We want to have more control of home games and impose ourselves more.
“In the games against Hearts and Ross County we have scored six goals, but more than that it has given us the kind of performances we’re looking for.”
St Johnstone are the latest club bidding to become the first side to avoid defeat at Aberdeen in the campaign when they head north today.
Tommy Wright’s side prop up the division following two draws and two defeats in their opening four matches but McInnes expects Saints to bounce back although he is planning on their wait for a win continuing beyond today.
He said: “The League Cup can put a lot of teams under pressure quickly, especially when you don’t have your recruitment done.
“If you’re not right you can go out and it can have a bearing on your league form.
“One thing about St Johnstone is when they have a spell like this one you always feel like they’ll come out of it.
“They have been boosted by getting some good players in the building before the window closed.
“Tommy has good options now and he will be happier with the squad now compared to a few weeks ago.
“I always liked Jason Holt, he will give them good energy in there and they’ve brought in Stevie May, obviously.
“And in Anthony Ralston they’ve signed someone who has played at a good level for Celtic.
“So the additions they’ve made will make them stronger.”
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Connor McLennan has had worse weeks of his fledgling career.
The Aberdeen winger made a game-changing appearance from the substitutes bench in Croatia on Tuesday as he scored a late double to give Scotland’s under-21s victory in their Europa Under-21 Championship Group D qualifier.
The win, which followed a 2-0 victory against San Marino last Thursday, was a rare moment of light for the Tartan Army following the misery of two home defeats for Steve Clarke’s national team against Russia and Belgium.
There is an air of despondency surrounding the national team but McLennan believes the under-21s can offer some hope for the future.
He said: “It is a brilliant start for us. To get six points out of six from two different games was great and the approach for both went to plan.
“I wanted to get as much fitness under my belt as I could after missing the start of pre-season so the two games will do me no harm.
“The under-21 squad is full of talent. There are boys playing at first-team level all over the pitch and you can see it in training.
“We’ve got a really good bunch there and I can see a few pushing on to the national team. First and foremost it is about proving ourselves at our level but definitely I can see a few pushing on.
“A few of the younger boys here have done well with Scotland after coming through the performance schools. I missed it by a year.
“You don’t want to look too far ahead. We’re all around 18 and 19 but most of us are playing first team football.”
McLennan’s cameo for Scott Gemmill’s side in midweek impressed his club manager Derek McInnes but the Dons winger knows he faces competition for a starting role with the Dons.
International wingers Niall McGinn and Ryan Hedges are the men he must replace but both impressed in the 3-0 win against Ross County before the international break.
McLennan, however, is confident he can compete.
He said: “The game against Ross County you could see what they can do. I missed a pre-season with a wee injury.
What a pler https://t.co/L8YPkRUIgT
— lewis ferguson (@lewisferguson7) September 10, 2019
“I had a tidy up in my knee and then it was about trying to get as much fitness as I could when I was away. “These under-21 games helped and hopefully I can kick on from here.
“The plan is to become a first-team regular again and that is what I am looking to do now.”
Aberdeen showed signs of finding their form against Ross County before the international break but the inconsistent start made by several teams has not gone unnoticed.
Former Don Stevie May makes a quick return to the Granite City following his move to today’s visitors St Johnstone two weeks ago.
May had a disappointing two seasons at Pittodrie but McLennan hopes to see his former team-mate get his career back on track with Wright’s side.
He said: “It will be good to see him because he was a great guy in our dressing room. You can see his quality and I hope it works out for him.
“I don’t know why he wasn’t scoring here every week but hopefully he can start doing that at St Johnstone.
“He was great to play with, works his socks off, is so unselfish and does the work of two players. He helped me with that goal at Ibrox and I hope it works out for him.”
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Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes has backed Scott Wright to make a complete recovery as the winger comes to terms with the fact his season is over.
Wright has suffered a cruciate ligament injury in training which has brought his campaign to a premature end but the Dons boss has reassured his player he will recover.
McInnes said: “It wasn’t even a tackle, he just hurt it running the other day.
“We knew he had damaged his knee but we thought it was the cartilage, so it was a shock when the physio phoned. It’s disappointing for us but it’s an absolute killer for Scott.
“He will have to get his head round it now and get on with it. Thankfully it’s not the same as 20 or 30 years ago when it was a career ended, these days lots of players come back from it stronger and better.
“He will be fine longer term. He will have to go for surgery and we’ll know more about that next week.
“Scott is the kind of player who can light up a game, he is maturing and we had spoken about him playing more centrally. He’s a capable player for us at this level, so it’s very disappointing.”
McInnes was watching Connor McLennan come off the bench to score both goals in a 2-1 win for the Scottish under-21s in Croatia when he found out the severity of Wright’s injury.
While saddened by Wright’s setback he was pleased to see McLennan make a major contribution for his country.
He said: “When your players go away you always want them to make a positive impact and come back in a good place.
“He was disappointed not to start but he’s made a massive contribution to what was a very good result.
“So far his season has been a bit stop-start because of his injury so hopefully being away with Scotland will kick start things a bit for him.”
The loss of Wright to a long-term injury is a blow to the Dons boss who is already without central defenders Scott McKenna and Ash Taylor.
Three central defenders – McKenna, Taylor and Mikey Devlin – have all suffered hamstring injuries this season but McInnes believes there is no link between an early return for pre-season and the pattern of injuries.
He said: “Scott will probably be back before Ash because his setback has put him right back to where he was.
“We thought he was through it and had done the bulk of the work, but he won’t play again for a while. It will probably be after the next international break.
“Scott is making progress so he will have a chance before the next lot of internationals.
“We have had three hamstring injuries this season but Ash’s was a lunge in a game, Scott’s was the pitch at Kilmarnock and then Mikey’s was down to his eagerness to get back and pushing himself.
“I don’t think it’s anything to do with the early start to the season we had.”
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Scott Wright may miss the rest of the season after suffering a cruciate ligament injury.
The Aberdeen winger sustained the blow in training this week and manager Derek McInnes confirmed he will miss the remainder of the campaign.
Wright came back into the fold this season after a loan spell at Dundee and scored in the 5-0 win against Chikhura Sachkhere in the Europa League. He made seven appearances in all competitions.
The 22-year-old made his debut for the Dons as a teenager against Daugava Riga in 2014 and is under contract until 2021.
Derek – Scott Wright has picked up a cruciate injury in training and could be out for the rest of the season while Dean and Shay are both back in training and will be in the squad for Saturday.
— Aberdeen FC (@AberdeenFC) September 12, 2019
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