Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes confirmed in-form striker Bruce Anderson has forced his way into contention to face Ross County today.
Now the challenge from McInnes to the 20-year-old is to give him a selection headache for the rest of the campaign.
Pittodrie Youth Academy graduate Anderson has scored successive hat-tricks in his last two games for the second string.
Anderson hit junior Superleague champions Banks o’ Dee for three in a recent 6-1 Evening Express Aberdeenshire Cup victory.
He then followed that up with another hat-trick in the 4-1 Reserve Cup defeat of Ross County earlier this week.
Anderson’s red-hot form is impeccable timing as the Dons first team have failed to score in four of the last five matches.
Asked if Anderson had pushed himself into contention, McInnes said: “Absolutely. In the last two or three weeks Bruce has been back to himself again.
“Bruce started a wee bit sluggish through the pre-season by his own admission. But he has been as bright as a button recently and that is great to see.
“Bruce took his goals against Banks o’ Dee brilliantly and his hat-trick against Ross County was magnificent with three very good finishes.
“He didn’t get a lot of service in the game against Ross County on Tuesday but what he did do was show the quality of his finishing.
“His second goal in particular was a lovely finish with his left foot. Another hat-trick does him no harm.
“I would expect Bruce to be involved this weekend.”
The summer transfer window is set to close on Monday at midnight but Anderson will not be sent out on loan. Instead he will remain at Pittodrie to fight for a slot with the other recognised strikers – leading scorer Sam Cosgrove and summer signings Curtis Main and James Wilson.
Cosgrove is on nine goals for the term already whereas Wilson and Main have yet to score competitively this season.
McInnes’ centre-forward options were reduced when Stevie May’s protracted transfer to St Johnstone was finally completed on Thursday.
The deal for May, a £400,000 signing from Preston in summer 2017, twice collapsed at advanced stages during the window.
However, May, 26, signed on at Saints until 2021 having had the final two years of his Aberdeen contract terminated.
McInnes has urged Anderson to continue pushing to break into his first team plans.
The manager said: “It is important we have people at the top of the pitch carrying attacking intent.
“Bruce is one of a few strikers we have managed to put into the squad this season who we feel can have a big part to play for us.
“With youngsters coming through their job is to put pressure on first-team players.
“Bruce has done very well in the last few weeks and has always been a very good finisher.
“There are things Bruce has to work on and he knows that.
“However, Bruce improves because he trains against Andy Considine, Scott McKenna and Mikey Devlin every day and has to work hard to show himself during training.”
Anderson has a proven track record as an instinctive goal-scorer. On making his first-team debut in the first game of last season he came off the bench to score an injury-time equaliser in a 1-1 draw with Rangers.
The Scotland Under-20 international also made a telling contribution off the bench against Kilmarnock. He equalised to set the platform for a 2-1 win.
Having made 16 appearances in the first half of last season, with just one start, Anderson was sent on loan to Championship side Dunfermline Athletic where he hit six goals in 14 starts.
McInnes confirmed Anderson was close to game time in the 0-0 draw with Kilmarnock at the weekend.
He said: “We rewarded Bruce’s hat-trick against Banks o’ Dee by putting him on the bench (against Kilmarnock) and we left out some senior players. I was kicking myself a wee bit I didn’t put him on with 10 minutes to go as we pushed Connor McLennan up to make it 4-4-2 at that stage.”