Aberdeen midfielder Dylan McGeouch insists he is fully fit and ready to make an impact in the fight for third following his first start under new manager Stephen Glass.
In a season derailed by injury frustrations, the 2-1 defeat of Livingston at the weekend was only McGeouch’s fourth Premiership start and his seventh in all competitions.
The 28-year-old impressed in a defensive midfield role against Livingston to stake a claim to start the all-or-nothing third-place showdown with Hibs on Wednesday.
McGeouch suffered a groin tear in October that ruled him out of action for three-and-a-half months.
He returned on February 6 when starting in the 2-0 loss to third-placed rivals HIbs at Easter Road, but mustered just one more start after that under former boss Derek McInnes.
Glass and assistant Allan Russell are assessing every player in the squad between now and the end of the season and McGeouch was happy to get the chance to impress.
McGeouch said: “I feel fine and fit.
“I have just been waiting to have a chance and came in against Livingston.
“It is good to get back into the starting XI and also get the win as well.
“Hopefully I did well.
“The most important thing is that the team performed well on the day.
“We battled away when we had to and creatively we did well in the final third.
“It was a big three points for us on the back of last week’s performance and result (3-0 Scottish Cup quarter-final loss to Dundee United).
“The boys bounced back, created a lot of opportunities and defended well when we had to.”
Injury heartache on eve of Scottish Cup semi-final
Scotland international McGeouch’s season suffered a major set-back when sustaining a thigh injury in the 3-3 Premiership draw with Celtic at Pittodrie on October 25 last year.
It was a bitter blow for McGeouch as Aberdeen’s next game was the delayed 2019-20 Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic at Hamdpen.
He watched from the sidelines as Aberdeen lost 2-0.
Scans revealed a tear and the initial prognosis was that the former Sunderland and Hibs midfielder would be sidelined for two months.
In his first start under Glass, McGeouch produced a rock solid display in breaking up Livingston attacks as an extra level of protection in front of the back four.
Playing alongside Lewis Ferguson, who had more of a licence to push on, McGeouch was also pro-active in starting attacks.
McGeouch’s role in securing European qualification
Victory at Livingston secured qualification to the Uefa Conference League next season.
Aberdeen will enter Uefa’s newly-created third tier of European club competition at the second qualifying round on Thursday July 22.
Clubs like Feyenoord (Holland), Spartak Moscow (Russia), Standard Liege (Belguim), Basel (Switzerland), Sparta Prague (Czech Republic) and Apollon Limassol (Cyprus) could potentially await in that second round draw.
McGeouch started all three of Aberdeen’s Europa League ties this season – facing NSI Runavik of Faroe Islands at Pittodrie (6-0 win) before away ties at Viking of Norway (2-0 win) and Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon (1-0 loss).
All ties were reduced from the normal two legs to just one match due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Games were also played behind closed doors.
It is hoped that with the successful Covid-19 vaccine roll-out across the country supporters will be in Pittodrie, albeit in reduced numbers, for the European campaign.
McGeouch said: “With the size of this club, we should be aiming for Europe this year.”
All-or-nothing clash with Hibs in fight for third
The defeat of Livingston also kept alive the hunt to overtake McGeouch’s former club Hibs in the race to finish third in the Premiership.
The Easter Road club hold a three-point advantage and superior goal difference.
However, Aberdeen’s next game is against Hibs at Pittodrie on Wednesday.
Hibs is the second last match of the Premiership campaign with the season finale at league champions Rangers four days later on Saturday May 15.
McGeouch is determined to overcome Hibs to set up a dramatic last day fight for third.
He said: “Beating Livingston sets up a massive game for us against HIbs.
“We did what we had to do against Livingston.
“Hopefully we can take care of Hibs and who knows what can happen between now and the end of the season.”
⚽️ Could Dylan McGeouch keep the incoming Scott Brown out of the @AberdeenFC team?
🔴 Is Connor McLennan's future at right-back?
— EveningExpress Sport (@ee_sport) May 4, 2021