Aberdeen boss Stephen Glass confirmed attacker Austin Samuels had to be protected from derailing his recovery from injury against St Johnstone.
On loan from Wolves, the 20-year-old posed the main attacking threat against Saints, but was taken off on the hour mark with the game level at 0-0.
Aberdeen went on to lose 1-0 at Pittodrie as a winless run extended to seven games.
Glass insists if former England Youth international Samuels was 100% fit he would have remained on the pitch for the full 90 minutes to lead the bid for three points.
Samuels had only returned from an injury that ruled him out of the 2-0 loss to Motherwell and Glass was working to a strict limit on his game time.
He was informed by the club’s physios and medical team the loan star could only play for a maximum hour without running the risk of setting back his return from injury.
Although the Dons were chasing a vital win, Glass refused to extend that time-line and risk putting the attacker’s fitness on the line.
Boss Glass says he looked at the long-term benefits of having Samuels fully fit rather than chance playing him for longer against Saints and potentially aggravating the injury.
Glass said: “We were only able to get an hour out of Austin against St Johnstone.
“That was the limit we had.
“When you get him back as quickly as Austin returned there are limitations on how far you can push him or you risk he could go longer term.
“We worked with Stokesy (Adam Stokes, Head of Medical and Football Science) on that.
“I was even asking Stokesy in the second half if we were tight on that 60 minutes.
“With the game as it was and if Austin was as he should be, there would be no danger of him coming off the pitch with the way he was playing.
“However, we are looking at the long-term picture.”
Samuels the main attacking threat
Samuels made a solid debut in the 1-1 draw with Ross County, having signed on a season-long loan from Premier League Wolves.
He was also the prime attacking outlet for the Dons in his hour against St Johnstone.
Aberdeen pushed for the insertion of an option to buy clause at the completion of the loan deal.
Early indications are that will be a sound piece of business by the Dons.
Watkins set to be fit to face St Mirren
Aberdeen were minus attacking play-makers Marley Watkins and Ryan Hedges for the loss to St Johnstone.
Watkins suffered from muscle tightness after the loss to Motherwell, his first start since signing a two-year contract in the final week of the summer transfer window.
Glass is confident 30-year-old Welsh international Watkins will be face to fit St Mirren away on Sunday.
In a double fitness boost, fellow Welsh cap Ryan Hedges is also on schedule to return from injury for the trip to Paisley at the weekend.
Hedges has missed the last six games with a hamstring injury suffered in the 2-1 League Cup loss at Raith Rovers last month.
The 26-year-old is set to return to full training this week, which will elevate him into contention for the St Mirren game.
Glass said: “Marley had a little bit of tightness and we thought he was going to be okay (for St Johnstone).
“He should be okay for this week, hopefully.
“Ryan is ready to come back. When we get these player ready and together we will be alright.”
Six Premiership games with 21 changes
Now six games into the Premiership campaign, boss Glass has made 21 changes to his starting XI to date – more than any other top flight team.
Scotland international defender Andy Considine is out injured until the new year having suffered a serious knee injury in the 1-0 Europa Conference League play-off first leg loss to Qarabag in Azerbaijan.
Considine suffered a cruciate ligament injury that required surgery.
Glass said: “I have been able to pick a team that is capable of winning every week.
“Ryan (Hedges) has been missing for a bit and Marley has been missing.
“Calvin (Ramsay) couldn’t play every game and I think he is still feeling the affects of the amount of games he has played.
“Andy Considine is a big miss.
“We have a lot of good players here, we will continue to work and we will make things better.”