It was a day of mixed fortunes for Connor McLennan – scoring on his Dons first start a day after his 19th birthday, but had to go off injured early in the second half as Aberdeen secured an emphatic win against St Mirren, winning 4-1.
Derek McInnes had to go for a more youthful setup with the list of injuries facing Aberdeen growing.
James Wilson, Stevie May, Niall McGinn, Mark Reynolds, Scott Wright, Frank Ross, Tommie Hoban and Greg Tansey all missed out due to injury while Scott McKenna was suspended.
Sam Cosgrove scored twice, his first, a header, after 16 goalless games and just his second career goal. For his first Shay Logan picked him out at the near post, and he stooped low to head beyond Samson, his second came from a direct effort at Samson with the goalkeeper failing to hold it as it fell into the net behind him.
Connor McLennan made it two with on-loan defender Max Lowe scoring a third before the break.
Derek McInnes said: “I’m delighted considering all the problems going into the game.
“It’s been a tough week. We were hopeful we’d have had a couple more players back, but they were clearly not ready yesterday in training. We thought James Wilson and Stevie May would be ready to play and that’s on top of Niall’s groin reoccurring again. He felt it on Thursday morning and reported, but we still thought he was going to be ok. McKenna’s suspension was the last thing we needed so that was four from our starting eleven last week.
“I would have taken any sort of victory today, but to have such an emphatic victory with lots of good play and lots of positives like young Connor scoring a fantastic goal, the performance of Max Lowe, Sam getting his two goals and having Lewis Ferguson back into the team, I’ve got to be pleased. We’ll get a few more back before the next game and hopefully be even better again.
“I’ve not been able to play the same team twice in a row this season and haven’t been able to get a back four together with one thing after the other. That kind of familiarity is always important in any team especially now that the season has settled down going into October. The youngsters have had to play their part and be more prominent which long term is such a good thing for us. We’ve never used this many youngsters and last time out against St Mirren Frank Ross got the late call to start and was very good on the day. That was similar with Connor today. It was a late shout to play after one or two missing out. The performances of these young lads give us lots of encouragement and that gives me comfort because it bolsters the squad and means we can be more dependent on the youngsters at the right times. That is never a bad thing.
“Like anything else strikers need the goals as they are like gold for them. That’s two lots of four goals we’ve had, and Sam got his two today. That’ll do him no harm. Tony Doc had said to him 30 seconds before he came off to go and get his hat-trick, but I said there was no chance as wee Bruce’s coming on!
“He should be pleased with his overall game. I love how he took the ball in, he linked the play and his two goals were good finishes. Sam for us is one we always felt was a good signing for us and we’ve been working with him to iron out some of those rough edges. He’s a youngster who’s not had a lot of game time, but he’s been effective, and I’m delighted he’s managed to be recognised as a goalscorer for Aberdeen.
“I thought it was a good game for Max. Last time here we played Graeme Shinnie at left back and St Mirren are very compact and narrow. I said to Max go and be a brilliant full back in our own half and play like a winger in their half and that’s exactly what he was. He was positive, he was assertive, imposed himself on the wide player he was against and the pace he’s got is clear. It was a lovely finish I don’t know how he ended up on the penalty spot, but he gets there, and it was a lovely calm finish. He’s one we’re enjoying working with and he’s one who’ll get better. He’ll have a good career and we’re grateful to have him.
“I thought their goal was kind of indicative of how the game was playing out. When Connor went off injured we lost that pace and zip and we were playing nothing football. We were controlling the game, but I’d liked to have played the game a wee bit more in their half. It’s a mistake (from Gleeson) but these things happen. It’s difficult for players when they’ve not been playing as regular as they want, it was a bit of sloppiness which we wouldn’t have wanted, but it’s not going to spoil my day. It was a very positive performance.
“I think we have always been competitive even if we haven’t been as free flowing in games.
“The two games we’ve lost were at Celtic Park last week where there was nothing between the teams and the other defeat was when we played with 10 men for 87 minutes against Kilmarnock. Even though we’ve not been at our best we’ve still been as competitive as ever. That pleases me.
“When you’re looking for that familiarity it’s important you still pick up points. Nobody’s more aware than me about winning games at Aberdeen and three points is very important. Three points today we’re grateful for and I’m confident because there’s been enough performances where my team has been stronger.
“We came away from the Celtic game last week and I said to Tony that if Lewis Ferguson had a good week’s training he’s the only one that would probably make me consider changing my starting team. Then before we know it we had four missing so there’s challenges and as a manager you have to deal with it. At this minute in time it’s Aberdeen’s turn to suffer but hopefully we get a bit more fortune as we go along.
“Scott and Graeme will do the club and the country proud if Alex decides to play them. Both of their games are in a good place and hopefully they get that opportunity. It’s important when they go away with their country that they feel worthwhile and valued and I’m sure if called upon they’ll do a job for Alex. Hopefully they come back injury free because we need every player we can with the games coming up.
“We’ve got big challenges ahead of us in the forthcoming weeks and it’s important those two come through unscaved.”
Teenager Connor McLennan told the club website: “It was a special day. My first start for Aberdeen.
“I celebrated my 19th birthday just yesterday. I am feeling old now!
“I knew just before the game that I was going to start. I was very happy when I heard that. There was no time to get nervous and I was confident. There is no need to be nervous, I play football every day.
“I can’t remember much of the goal to be honest and I didn’t even see it go in. I just thought ‘why not?’ and I just hit it and thankfully it went in. I meant it! I slipped a little bit but managed to guide it into the top corner. Pinpoint accuracy!
“We started the game quite slowly I thought but then Shay’s ball for Sam’s header was class. The second goal settled us down and the third goal killed the game off.
“I was happy to play my part and help the team get the win. And the end of the day that is the most important thing.
“This is a massive club with massive players. So there is always competition around the squad. The gaffer sees us day in day out in training so it’s up to us to fight for our spot and show what we can do on the pitch.
“Of course, you want to play, but there’s so much talent out there. What is important is that once you get your chance you’ve just got to take it. I was hoping the chance would come along soon and it did today. Hopefully the shoulder doesn’t keep me out too long and I can get back to playing. It’s too soon to tell.
“My shoulder popped out when I went down, and it thankfully popped back in when I stood up so hopefully it doesn’t keep me out too long. We now have the break. It’s ok now though as I can move it about. I think it was just the way I landed.”