Now striker Sam Cosgrove is off the mark for Aberdeen, the young striker wants to score again – against Burnley in Europa League qualifying.
The Dons welcome Sean Dyche’s Premier League Clarets to Pittodrie on Thursday for the first leg of their second qualifying round tie, with the second at Turf Moor a week later.
Derek McInnes’ side concluded their pre-season preparations with a 1-1 draw against West Bromwich Albion in the Granite City on Friday night.
Cosgrove, a January signing from Carlisle United who McInnes has previously tipped to come of age in the coming campaign, rose in the 37th minute to nod Gary Mackay-Steven’s cross past Baggies keeper Jonathan Bond for his first Reds goal – just his second in senior football.
The 21-year-old said: “For me personally getting the goal has been something I’ve been after for a long time, since I came. It’s a relief and a weight off my shoulders.
“But the hard work only starts now.
“Goals are the icing on cake. There’s a lot of effort in my performances, the ugly side of the game that people sometimes don’t see. To get the goal was definitely a nice one.”
McInnes’ side’s pre-season games presented them with increasing quality of opposition.
After a win against Irish first division side Cobh Ramblers at their training camp in Cork, they saw off Scottish Championship Falkirk at Gayfield and were held by St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park.
A friendly against Inverness Caley was called off after the Reds’ squad was hit by injuries, while a collision between defender Andy Considine and Cove Rangers’ midfielder Jordon Brown saw the opening fixture at Cove’s new Balmoral Stadium abandoned.
However, Darren Moore’s West Brom, relegated from the Premier League last term, gave Aberdeen an idea of the quality they will be up against when Burnley come to town.
Cosgrove was glad to test himself against Moore’s men – though he laughed at the suggestion he had bullied centre-backs Kyle Bartley and Martin Cranie – and the Dons impressed with their attacking inventiveness and solidity at the back.
Cosgrove said: “You’re the one saying I was bullying them.
“It was a bit different out there and a good test. You could see in the latter end of last season what the manager there (Darren Moore) has done.
“Arguably they should have stayed in the Premier League and you saw they were a high quality side.”
Mackay-Steven’s left-footed cross to target man Cosgrove was perfectly executed at breakneck speed, which showed the players could be a good combination for the Dons this year, in the same way four-and-a-half-year talisman Adam Rooney, who left for Salford City last week, combined so lethally with wingers Niall McGinn and Jonny Hayes.
Cosgrove thinks the Reds’ style of play for the new season is really starting to emerge.
He said: “It is all coming together and that’s testament to everyone behind the scenes really – there’s a lot of work gone into it.
“Sometimes not everything goes to plan as I’m sure you know, but everything’s coming together and I think you can see that. We’ve progressively built on every performance.”
Of the relationship he’s building with the players around him, he said: “That’s something we work on in training, getting that early ball in.
“It’s just something Gary (Mackay-Steven) and Scott (Wright), or whoever’s on the wing, they’re the people who make my life easier.
“I rely on them, they rely on me. It’s just getting that understanding.
“As I said there’s a lot of work behind the scenes in training, a lot of crossing and finishing – that’s my meat and veg.”
Now Cosgrove’s attention turns to Burnley, seventh in the Premier League last term, with an enormous budget compared to Aberdeen and a squad full of top talent.
Like every player in the Reds ranks, he’s desperate for a crack at them. He said: “Hopefully, that’s what we’ve all been building towards. Putting performances in day in and day out in training and in matches as well.
“The Burnley game’s been the end goal. Looking at pre-season there’s been a lot of hard work put in over the weeks. It’s been a good summer, but also a good pre-season.
“Everyone’s goal has been to get in that starting 11 for the Burnley game.”
Starting would be one thing, but for Cosgrove, if selected instead of or alongside Stevie May, a goal would be a big statement as he attempts to show his manager, team-mates and the fans how important he can be in the coming campaign.
Cosgrove said: “The game’s have built up in pre-season, we were arguably against Premier League defenders on Friday night.
“It’ll definitely be a good test against Burnley.
“It would be massive to score. Scoring on Friday was good, but scoring in the Europa League against such a good team as Burnley would be a statement.
“That’s my aim.”