Derek McInnes yesterday claimed Aberdeen would not have salvaged a dramatic late 3-3 draw at home to Celtic if not for the contribution of substitute Scott Wright.
Academy graduate Wright, 23 and in the last season of his Dons deal, has returned from a serious knee injury with a point to prove this term, following occasional glimpses of his ability in previous campaigns.
He had already made 12 appearances in the opening weeks, scoring once and impressing in his understanding with fellow creative attacking midfielder Ryan Hedges.
However, given the magnitude of the game – in terms of the Premiership table and the Scottish Cup semi-final next weekend, the 37 minutes Wright was on the pitch against the Hoops, as a replacement for the injured Ryan Edmondson, could certainly be viewed his most impactful of the campaign.
His performance must also have left the Aberdeen coaching staff wondering if they can afford to leave him out from the start at Hampden next weekend.
McInnes described his showing in these terms: “When he came on, what a reaction. He (Wright) was terrific.
“I gave him a special mention in the dressing room there because I don’t think we could’ve got the result without him.
“That shows how important he is and he needs to feel that importance.”
McInnes went on to praise both Wright and fellow sub Sam Cosgrove for the pace and counter-attacking threat they gave the Dons up top late on.
Wright’s speed certainly caught out beleaguered Celtic centre-back Shane Duffy, who – facing his own goal near the left corner – was robbed before he could get a long ball up the line under control.
With the score at 1-1, the Dons attacker, who’d only been on the park less than 10 minutes, squared the ball to fit-again striker Sam Cosgrove, whose shot was saved by Scott Bain before partner-in-crime Hedges turned home the rebound.
Of course, from 2-1 up, Aberdeen then found themselves 3-2 down going into stoppage time and fighting desperately to take something from their performance against the champions.
Their dramatic late penalty leveller again started with an electric moment of attacking from Wright, who took the ball from the halfway line to the edge of the Celtic area, beating four players in the process, before feeding Hedges. Hedges’ cut-back found Connor McLennan, who was wiped out as he sidestepped Callum McGregor to win the spot-kick, which Lewis Ferguson converted.
Wright’s two goal-making interventions can be seen at 3:05 and 5:54 of the clip below, as well as a moment at 3:47, where he nearly played Cosgrove in to put the Reds 3-1 ahead:
What do the stats show about Wright’s performance?
Opta stats reveal, over the course of Wright’s 34 regular minutes and three injury-time minutes on the pitch, he had 27 touches of the ball, completing 16 of 17 passes he attempted and creating two chances for the Dons.
Jonny Hayes was the only other player in the Reds’ ranks to create two opportunities against Celtic – and he played the entirety of the Premiership clash.
Here’s a map of Wright’s touches once he was sent on:
As you can see, Wright was not just getting himself on the ball, but finding possession around the Celtic box or in areas where he was able to run at the opposition defenders down the left-hand side.
Over the course the second period, the majority of which Wright played, almost 62% of Aberdeen’s attacking play went down the left and, as a result, involved him.
His link-up with left-back Jonny Hayes saw Wright complete five passes to the Irishman, while he also linked-up successfully with Lewis Ferguson (three times), as well as Hedges and Cosgrove (twice each).
Impressively, at a moment where Aberdeen were first chasing the lead and then chasing an equaliser as the clock ticked down, Wright’s passing accuracy of 94.1% was the highest of both teams, as was his passing accuracy in the opposition half (92.9%).
Despite his relatively short time on the field, Wright also won possession for Aberdeen five times, beaten by only Ferguson and Hayes, while he lost it four times – the lowest figure for a Dons player.