Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes is confident ending more than three months of injury frustration will deliver a psychological boost to defender Mikey Devlin.
The 25-year-old centre-back finally returned to action when introduced as a substitute in the 4-1 Scottish Cup defeat of Queen of the South.
Devlin’s campaign was derailed when suffering a foot ligament injury in mid November while on international duty with Scotland.
A debut cap was on the horizon for the Don until he suffered the injury during training with Alex McLeish’s national squad.
It was the start of an extended period out that saw Devlin miss the Reds’ 1-0 Betfred Cup final loss to Celtic.
After missing 16 games, Devlin is finally back and closing in on being in contention to make a first start against St Mirren on Saturday.
McInnes said: “It was great to see Mikey Devlin back on the pitch again.
“It was always our intention at some point in the game if we could get him on.
“It is a lot to expect of him, being out since the middle of November, just to come straight back into it after four or five days of training.”
“It was good for Mike psychologically to have got on to the pitch again and there were a lot of positives.
“Hopefully Mike can get a good week’s work now and step up his work.”
While he welcomed back one centre-back, McInnes was relieved not to lose another in Tommie Hoban.
The Dons boss admitted to concern when the on-loan Watford defender clutched his shoulder during the Scottish Cup fifth-round victory.
Hoban only recently returned to action having been sidelined for five months following surgery on a dislocated shoulder.
McInnes said: “I heard a crack, but it must have just been the coming together.
“I feared the worst to be honest but Tommie is tough and has had a lot to contend with in his short career so far.
“Thankfully he is okay and he showed his quality throughout when he went into right-back when Shay (Logan) came off.
“His quality is fantastic and it is great to have Tommie up and running.
“We got a wee fright there, but he is okay.”
Aberdeen were without suspended centre-back Scott McKenna for the cup clash against the Championship side.
McKenna was serving a ban having been red carded in the 4-2 defeat to Rangers on Wednesday following a flashpoint with Alfredo Morelos.
While Aberdeen accepted the dismissal and subsequent ban, Rangers appealed Morelos’ sending off.
That appeal was rejected on Friday evening with the Colombian hit with a subsequent three game ban.
Before Devlin’s injury he had forged a strong centre-back partnership with McKenna, also his flatmate away from the pitch.
Yet again that partnership, so strong that both were in the last Scotland squad, was unavailable for McInnes at the weekend.
However, the Pittodrie manager was satisfied with the defensive solidity of his back-line against Queen of the South, despite conceding an equaliser within minutes of taking the lead.
“Defensively we were very good and very concentrated, other than (Queen of the South’s Stephen) Dobbie’s strike,” he said.
“If you are picking the bones out, Dobbie maybe develops a bit too much space.
“(Graeme) Shinnie and (Greg) Stewart got ahead of the ball a little too much and he got a bit of space.
“But Dobbie still had a lot to do and what a strike it was.
“It shows you the quality Queen of the South have got.
“The response was good to losing that goal and we ran out comfortably because the players were very good.”
Aberdeen were trailing 0-0 to Queen of the South at half-time, forcing McInnes to make a change at the break.
Northern Ireland international Niall McGinn was brought on for Stevie May and scored within two minutes of his introduction.
McGinn also pitched in with two assists to help the Reds reach the last eight as they bid to make a fourth domestic final from the last six.
Boss McInnes reckons his squad may have been feeling the after-effects of the 4-2 defeat to Rangers last Wednesday.
Winger McGinn, 31, did not start against the Ibrox club, but was introduced as a late substitute.
McInnes said: “In the first half we never played with enough pace or tempo, although I thought we controlled the game.
“Defensively we were absolutely fine, but we wanted to come out and work Queen of the South more and get them to defend more.
“There was a lot of effort put into the Rangers game and I think there was a wee bit of tiredness at times.
“However, what was really evident was the players’ determination to make it go our way. I was delighted with the performance in the second half.
“While the score-line reflected on the dominance of the second half, it was maybe a bit harsh on Queen of the South as well because they put a lot into the tie.
“They are a very good side and I’m just pleased to have overcome that challenge.”