Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes says Lewis Ferguson is a player he has trusted completely since the midfielder arrived at Pittodrie two-and-a-half years ago.
Ferguson will miss Saturday’s Premiership clash through suspension, having received a controversial second yellow card in the 1-1 draw with St Mirren.
The 21-year-old had only just returned, having missed three games as he was self-isolating following a Covid-19 outbreak in the Scotland Under-21 squad.
Connor McLennan and Ross McCrorie also had to self-isolate and missed three games after being caught up in the outbreak.
Ferguson, the SFWA Young Player of the Season, will yet again have to sit out against Ross County through suspension.
On Ferguson, Aberdeen boss McInnes said: “Ferguson has been my mainstay and my go-to guy all the time.
“He has done it now for two-and-a-half seasons, a guy I’ve trusted from a young age. There’s that competitiveness and willingness to win in him.
“Ferguson is a first pick for me, he plays every game.
“I know the importance of Ferguson and McCrorie to my team. They bring that competitiveness in the middle of the park.”
Since signing on at Pittodrie in summer 2018, Ferguson has made 99 appearances for Aberdeen under McInnes, all starts.
He has never been on the bench for the Dons – when he is fit and available Ferguson starts.
The midfielder has already netted nine times this season and is Aberdeen’s top scorer.
During his self-isolation, Aberdeen lost 4-0 to Rangers, drew 1-1 at Hamilton and lost 2-1 at St Mirren to exit the Betfred Cup at the last-16 stage.
The addition of fellow Scotland U21 cap McCrorie this summer has paid dividends for McInnes.
Ferguson has forged a strong centre-midfield partnership with the on-loan Rangers star.
Following the completion of the season-long loan deal from Ibrox at the end of this season, McCrorie will pen a permanent three-year deal with Aberdeen.
McInnes said: “McCrorie has shown how important he is in his spell with us as well.”
Aberdeen have also been without midfielder Dylan McGeouch due to injury recently.
McInnes said: “It was unusual to have so many out in the same area, with McGeouch as well.
“He’s a good competitor.
“He plays the game in a different way, but having the three of them out at the same time was something we didn’t need.”
On-loan Bristol City attacker Marley Watkins and Scott Wright are both ruled out by injury.