Europa League hat-trick hero Ryan Hedges aims to continue Aberdeen’s resurgence from a troubled start to the season by slashing the gap on Hibernian tomorrow.
The campaign was derailed by three successive postponements following Covid-19 protocol breaches by eight Dons players and Celtic’s Boli Bolingoli.
The Aberdeen eight are free to play at Easter Road having all been served a three game suspended ban by an SFA discipinary tribunal at Hampden yesterday.
After 19 days of inactivity due to the postponements the Reds have racked up two Premiership victories and a 6-0 destruction of NSI Runavik in the Europa League first qualifying round.
Now Hedges is determined to maintain the fight-back by dumping undefeated Hibs at Easter Road tomorrow.
Victory for the Dons would reduce Hibs points advantage to just four points, with Aberdeen holding two games in hand.
If the Reds suffer defeat that gap becomes a 10 point chasm.
Hedges said: “We are looking to go into the international break with nine points to put ourselves in a good position in the league.
“The aim is to build on the recent wins we have had.
“The way Hibs have started has been very good.
“They have played a few more games than us but there is no reason why we should go there and fear them.
“They are a good team but so are we and we can go there and get three points.”
Welsh international Hedges was dropped to the bench for the one legged tie against NSI Runavik despite an impressive start to the campaign.
He scored in the 1-0 defeat of St Johnstone and set up Scott Wright’s goal in the 2-1 victory against Livingston.
Hedges delivered an emphatic reply when introduced as a substitute at half-time by netting a hat-trick and hopes that is enough to seal a start at Hibs.
He said: “You are always disappointed not to start but the manager spoke to me and it was fine and all cleared up.
“It is good to be in amongst the goals because that is what I have been brought here to do.
“Hopefully I did enough when I came on to get a start at HIbs.”
Hedges’ second half treble was only the fifth European hat-trick in the club’s history. Only Francis Munro (10-0, KR Reykjavik, 1967), Mark McGhee (3-0, Ujpest Dosza, 1984), Adam Rooney (3-0, Daugava Riga, 2014) and Sam Cosgrove (5-0, Chikhura Sachkhere 2019) had previously achieved that feat.
Capped three times by Wales, Hedges hopes national Ryan Giggs will be monitoring the action at Easter Road tomorrow.
Alongside Hedges fellow Welsh call-up hopefuls Marley Watkins, on loan at Aberdeen from Bristol City, and Hibs striker Christian Doidge are set to feature.
He said: “You hope they will come up. We just need to keep producing and if we are doing well then hopefully I can get back in the Welsh squad.”
Only four games into the new campaign Hedges has already equalled his four goal tally from last season.
He began last season strongly only to fall out of the starting-line up at the end of the year.
Following the January winter break he made just one start before football was shut down in March due to the pandemic.
He said: “I need consistency.
“I am looking to keep my place in the team by performing well every week and by bringing goals and assists.
“It is up to me to do that.”
Hedges completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot after midfielder Lewis Ferguson was brought down late on.
Ferguson had converted a spot-kick in the 2-1 defeat of Livingston in the absence of regular penalty taker Sam Cosgrove due to a long term knee injury.
Scotland U21 international Ferguson stepped aside to let Hedges secure his hat-trick.
Hedges said: “I was delighted as it was my first career hat-trick but the most important thing was getting through. Sam and Curtis Main weren’t on the pitch and Lewis took the last penalty really well.
“I just wanted to take it for the opportunity to get my hat-trick.
“I wouldn’t say he gladly stepped aside but Lewis did and fair play to him for doing that.
“But if we get one on Sunday I would think he would be on them again.”