Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes is delighted at the response of the Pittodrie young guns when called upon during the on-going injury crisis.
McInnes has had to turn to emerging youngsters from the club’s Youth Academy this season due to injury absences.
Eight players were ruled out injured for the 4-1 league defeat of St Mirren at the weekend, with Scotland international defender Scott McKenna also suspended.
Teenage striker Connor McLennan was pitched in for his first start the day after his 19th birthday – and netted a sensational goal.
Striker Bruce Anderson, 20, came off the bench in the Premiership opener to score an injury-time goal in a 1-1 draw with Rangers.
Anderson has also posed a threat when given game time.
Attacker Frank Ross also made his first Aberdeen start this season and impressed in the 4-0 Betfred Cup win over the Buddies last month.
The 20-year-old started the next game, a 1-1 draw at Hibs, but picked up a back injury after that which has ruled him out.
Winger Scott Wright, 21, also excelled in an unfamiliar No 10 role in the cup defeat of St Mirren. However, he picked up an ankle ligament injury just days later that has ruled him out for the last six weeks.
McInnes hopes Wright and Ross will return from injury to be available for selection against Hearts in the first game following the international break.
McInnes said: “I have not been able to play the same team twice in a row this season due to injuries.
“The youngsters have had to play their part and be more prominent, which long term is such a good thing for us.
“We have never used this many youngsters.
“The performances of these young lads gives us lots of encouragement.
“It also 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.”
McLennan is the latest Pittodrie youth star to stake a claim for a starting slot with an impressive performance.
The teen was informed he would make his debut start just hours before kick-off following the late injury call-off of on-loan Manchester United striker James Wilson, and Stevie May.
McLennan spent the first half of last season on loan at struggling Brechin City who were eventually relegated.
On his Pittodrie return, McLennan helped the Dons reach the Scottish Youth Cup final where he scored a sublime solo goal in the 3-1 loss to Hibs at Hampden in April.
McInnes said: “Connor is a strong boy and always has been but I feel there has been more responsibility and level of performance shown in the last six months, to where we can be confident of the level of performance we will get.”
McLennan sustained a dislocated shoulder during the second half against St Mirren.
However, the Reds remain hopeful the teen will have recovered in time to be available for selection to face the league leaders at Tynecastle.
“When Connor went off we didn’t cause the same amount of threat as we missed his pace and drive, which says a lot about him,” said the manager.
“Hopefully Connor’s injury isn’t too bad.”