Aberdeen goal hero McLennan: Nightmare spell with Brechin prepared me for dream start at Pittodrie

St Mirren's Ryan Flynn challenges Connor McLennan.
St Mirren's Ryan Flynn challenges Connor McLennan.

Six months of Brechin’s season from hell helped prepare rising teenage star Connor McLennan for his Dons breakthrough.

The striker, who netted on his first start for the Reds in the 4-1 defeat of St Mirren, was at Brechin for the first half of the part-timers’ nightmare season in the Championship.

Brechin became the first Scottish club in 126 years to endure an entire season without a victory when they took just four points from 36 games.

Vale of Leven were the last senior Scottish side to suffer the same ignominy back in 1891-92.

Being a striker in a team that is losing every week could be a thankless task but McLennan still scored twice and played in three of Brechin’s four league draws before returning to the Dons.

Connor McLennan scores to make it 2-0 against St Mirren.

Rather than break him, that six months only helped the attacker who is the latest Pittodrie Youth Academy graduate to make an impact this season.

He said: “Playing in the Championship week in, week out with Brechin was a massive learning curve for me.

“We were on the back foot most games but I did get a couple of goals at Brechin and it has done me a lot of good.

“I was playing alongside and against senior professionals in every game and learned a lot from that time.

“That loan spell helped me massively because I felt stronger and more confident when I came back from Brechin.”

McLennan turned 19 on Friday and was given a belated birthday present less than 24 hours later when boss Derek McInnes informed him he was set to start for the first time against St Mirren.

He grabbed his opportunity with a superb strike to put Aberdeen 2-0 up.

His first senior start was bittersweet, however, as McLennan suffered a dislocated left shoulder in the second half when falling awkwardly after tackling Cammy MacPherson.

He was taken off injured but is hopeful of being available for selection to face league leaders Hearts at Tynecastle in the first game following the international break. Despite suffering the dislocated shoulder the teen was still able to talk to the Evening Express immediately after his memorable first start.

He said: “It is the first time I have done my shoulder.

“It popped out when I went down. It wasn’t nice and was pretty sore.

“I was just lying there on the pitch and thankfully it popped back in itself when I stood up so hopefully it is not too bad. I can move about so hopefully I will be okay as we have the international break coming up.”

McLennan made his Dons debut in a 3-0 away defeat to St Johnstone in April 2016 when coming off the bench late on.

He featured as a substitute in the 4-0 Betfred Cup defeat of St Mirren last month. That was the only game time for the Reds until his start at the weekend.

Now that he has made that breakthrough the teen is determined to fight to retain his spot in McInnes’ starting line-up.

Connor McLennan warms up.

He said: “This is a massive club with massive players so there is competition day in, day out.

“There is so much talent and depth in the squad but hopefully if I get the chance again I will go on and take it.”

McLennan underlined his potential by netting a sublime solo goal in the 3-1 Scottish Youth Cup final defeat to Hibs at Hampden last season when he beat three challenges to score.

Confirmation of his first start came just hours before the St Mirren game when strikers James Wilson and Stevie May were both ruled out late on by injury.

McLennan said: “I only found out before the game that I was going to start so there wasn’t time to get nervous.

“I turned 19 on the day before the game – I’m feeling old now.

“For my goal the ball came through and I thought I would just hit it. I didn’t really see the ball go in to be honest as the defender was blocking me.

“The main thing was to get three points and get ourselves back up the league table. That is where we want to be challenging and where a club like Aberdeen should be challenging.”

In response to the call from Aberdeen Chairman Stewart Milne for the SPFL to seek a summit with the Scottish FA, an SPFL spokesman said: “We welcome this initiative suggested by Stewart Milne and are liaising with our colleagues at the Scottish FA.

“We look forward to positive discussions with all parties to enable greater understanding of the Scottish FA’s disciplinary procedures.”