Strong squad and good signings means there’s light at end of the tunnel for Aberdeen goalkeeper Joe Lewis

Joe Lewis.
Joe Lewis.

Dons goalkeeper Joe Lewis is aiming for a strong start to the Premiership season to prove that they are still the second force in Scottish football.

Aberdeen head for the Highlands tomorrow to face Ross County in their second league fixture of the season.

During the summer a lot of the attention has been on Rangers as Pedro Caixinha continues to splash the cash in an attempt to not only close the gap on Celtic but also Aberdeen – who finished nine points ahead of them last campaign.

Over the close season the Gers have spent around £10 million on the likes of Graham Dorrans, Bruno Alves and Alfredo Morelos.

Focus has also been on Hibernian, who are back in the top flight after three seasons away.

While he lost Jason Cummings to Nottingham Forest, Easter Road boss Neil Lennon has brought in free-scoring strikers Anthony Stokes and Simon Murray and some expect them to overhaul the Dons.

However, manager Derek McInnes has strengthened his squad.

After the departures of Jonny Hayes, Niall McGinn, Ryan Jack, Ash Taylor and Peter Pawlett at the end of last season Greg Tansey, Gary Mackay-Steven, Nicky Maynard, Kari Arnason, Ryan Christie and Greg Stewart have all arrived at Pittodrie along with Stevie May, who is the latest of seven summer signings made by McInnes.

Aberdeen, who have finished second behind Celtic for the last three seasons, have opened their domestic campaign with consecutive wins against Hamilton Academical. They beat Martin Canning’s team 2-0 at Pittodrie on Sunday in their opening Premiership fixture and then won 1-0 at the Superseal Stadium in the Betfed Cup last 16.

Goalie Lewis reckons the squad at Pittodrie is actually stronger this term and he wants them to show the rest of Scottish football that they have no intention of vacating their position as Celtic’s nearest challengers this campaign.

He said: “It’s very important that we start well to build momentum, as a defence we’ve had two clean sheets in a row which is pleasing.

“It’s important to get a good start and get ahead of the teams that you want to be ahead of and set a marker out early on, so teams take notice of you.

“You don’t want to be playing catch-up at any time on any teams, especially at this stage of the season.

“It was pleasing to get three points last Sunday and then getting through in the cup on Wednesday was good

“So we go into tomorrow’s game with confidence.

“We’ve strengthened as well this summer and we have a lot of strength in our squad.

“I think that was evident on Wednesday because we had a lot of good players sitting on the bench.

“We’ve got a strong squad and, while it is a strong league and a competitive league, I think we have the team to match that, and we want to make a statement of our intent.”

The Reds were not at their best against Hamilton on Wednesday night but the keeper was impressed with the way they managed the game –something that he thinks bodes well for the season ahead.

He added: “We dug in and were gritty towards the end of the game.

“I thought we defended crosses really well.

“We were first to every ball when they came into the box and it was a really good test for our defence.

“We’ve never found Hamilton an easy place to go, the first goal was always going to be important and I think we deserved it.

“It was a good finish for our goal from Kenny McLean and we are just really pleased to be through because it was always going to be a tough one, and it was.”

Aberdeen will play their fourth game in 10 days at the Global Energy Stadium tomorrow.

Having had a busy start to the campaign after playing in the Europa League qualifiers Lewis believes a squad with strength in depth is essential if the Dons are to cope with the exertions of so many games in a short space of time. He said: “The manager might shuffle things around a bit because we have a strong squad. It’s a stronger squad with more depth to it, so he has a bit of a decision to make.

“When players have come into the team they have done well. Scott Wright I think has done really well when he has come in and there is a lot of competition for places just now.

“We’re looking forward to the game at the weekend and we will look to play with a lot of energy and try to get the three points.

“It will be a lot of games in a short space of time but that’s what we have been used to and that’s what we have to prepare for. For me it’s not about getting physically tired, it’s more a mental tiredness, but, personally, I enjoy the games coming thick and fast and I think it’s something we have to relish as a squad.

“I’m looking forward to Saturday and the chance to get another three points.”