Evening Express

Lewis confident Aberdeen have time to make up any lost ground in Premiership

Stewart spent the first half of the season at Kilmarnock.

Already trailing league leaders Hearts by seven points and four behind Celtic – but Joe Lewis insists there is no concern about the league start.

For the Dons keeper the Premiership race is a marathon, not a sprint, which is why he is confident there is ample time to make up early lost ground.

Aberdeen suffered a first domestic defeat of the season when going down 2-0 to Kilmarnock at Pittodrie.

Following a red card to defender Mikey Devlin, the Dons were forced to play a man down for 86 minutes against Killie.

However, the damage has been done with a first defeat in 19 league meetings to Kilmarnock costly as the Reds dropped to eighth in the table.

When asked if there was any concern about the early league position, Lewis, 30, said: “No. It is only four games in.

“We have 38 games this season so there are 34 games to make up seven points, which we are confident we can do.”

There have been mitigating circumstances for the Reds’ slow start as boss Derek McInnes has had to negotiate a defensive crisis. At one point four of the six recognised first-team defenders were ruled out through suspension or injury.

On-loan Watford defender Tommie Hoban is set to undergo surgery on a shoulder injury and is expected to be sidelined for two to three months.

Scotland international defender Scott McKenna has missed the last four games with a hamstring tear. He is set to return for the St Johnstone game after the international break.

Centre-back Mark Reynolds is out until February having undergone knee surgery.

Lewis said: “It has been frustrating with injuries and we also had Mikey Devlin sent off as well.

“We have tried to make the best of a bad situation and hopefully the lads who have niggles can rest so we can come back stronger after the break.”

Following the contentious dismissal, Devlin is also suspended for the next game. However, the Reds have appealed that red card.

Referee Craig Thomson sent off the Dons defender as he deemed he was the last man and denied a clear scoring opportunity. However, Eamonn Brophy pulled Devlin’s shirt before the initial foul, which was 40 yards from goal on the right flank.

The Reds were also denied a penalty in the 1-1 draw at Hibs and there was a hand- ball from Kilmarnock in the build-up to their opening goal on Saturday.

However, Lewis refused to criticise the match officials.

He said: “The referee made his decision and it is always a battle when you go down to 10 men against a Kilmarnock side who are very capable and will make the most of it.

“It is a lot of work for the lads in midfield who have to cope with it. The free-kick was dubious as well.

“But referees have a tough job and have to be everywhere sometimes.

“For the handball in the lead-up the linesman was there and could maybe have helped the referee out a bit more.

“From where I was it looked like a clear handball as he (Stephen O’Donnell) has mis- controlled it as it hit his arm and bounced into his path.

“It was frustrating.”

Despite being a goal and a man down at half-time, Lewis insisted the Reds remained confident they could salvage a result.

“We were still positive,” he said.

“During the break, although we had just conceded and were a man down, the lads all felt we could get back in the game and get a draw or even a win.

“We had to leave it with two v twos at the back which was going to leave us open to the counter-attack a little bit, which is a risk you have to take when you are pushing forward for a goal.

“It (Killie’s second goal) was great from Greg (Stewart’s) point of view and once he got through on goal I felt I had all angles covered and he would just hit me.

“But he showed great composure to dink it over me.

“It was an excellent finish but going down to 10 men at the start of the game killed us.”