Boss Derek McInnes believes Sam Cosgrove’s return from long-term injury will give the Dons a Scottish Cup boost.
Prolific scorer Cosgrove featured for the first time this season when coming off the bench in the 3-3 Premiership draw with Celtic at Pittodrie.
Last season’s leading scorer on 23 goals, Cosgrove has been sidelined since fracturing knee cartilage during a pre-season friendly match.
The initial fears were Cosgrove would be ruled out until late November or early December, but the striker has returned ahead of schedule.
McInnes believes the talismanic striker’s return is a timely boost going into Sunday’s Scottish Cup semi-final with Celtic at Hampden.
Within minutes of Cosgrove’s introduction against Celtic, he was at the heart of the Dons’ second goal when his shot was parried by keeper Scott Bain into the path of Ryan Hedges, who netted.
It was Cosgrove’s first competitive game time since a 2-0 Scottish Cup defeat of St Mirren on February 29.
McInnes admits the striker will be short of match fitness ahead of the semi, but has organised a bounce game today to get more minutes into Cosgrove and others returning from injury.
He said: “Getting Sam back on the pitch was very important and his team-mates will be encouraged by the sight of him coming into full fitness.
“Sam is an important figure for us and carries a threat.
“He looks as powerful as ever, but just needs to sharpen up his work.”
Cosgrove rejected a £2.7 million move to French side Guingamp in the summer just days before suffering the knee injury.
McInnes is confident he will be quickly back up to full sharpness after working hard in training.
He said: “Sam had a (practice) game before the Hamilton match last week and looked like a boy who hadn’t played football or trained for a while, with the greatest respect.
“He then started to knuckle down and put in hours on the training pitch. There was another practice match and he looked far more like himself.
“I felt he could be ready for the Celtic game (3-3 draw) – not to start, but to give us something from the bench.
“We have another practice match and there will be more boys more ready for Sunday such as Sam, Greg Leigh, Matty Kennedy and Curtis Main.
“They are coming back from injury, so we will have more options for Sunday.
“We will be feeling even more ready for the semi-final with players coming back and after another week’s work and practice match.”
Midfielder Dylan McGeouch is a doubt for the semi having suffered a groin strain in the draw with Celtic. Marley Watkins and Ryan Edmondson also came off injured, but McInnes is hopeful both will be okay for Sunday.
McInnes said: “The players deserve a lot of credit for never giving up and getting something from the game.
“I felt the semi-final was a game we could win prior to the league match.
“I believe that even more so now.”