Double-goal hero Curtis Main delivered a compelling argument to be first-choice striker at Aberdeen by grabbing his opportunity to impress.
Main’s lethal double in the 2-0 Pittodrie win over Ross County vindicated Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes’ decision to freshen up his attack by dropping multi-million-rated Sam Cosgrove to the bench.
What is Dons’ striker solution?
In only his second domestic start of a campaign dogged by injury setbacks, Main not only delivered a focal point in attack for Aberdeen, he also delivered goals.
This summer Cosgrove rejected a £2.7 million move to French side Guingamp following a campaign where he netted 23 times.
In horrific timing for Cosgrove and the Dons, just days after knocking back that big-money overseas move, the striker suffered cartilage damage which wiped out the first three months of his season.
Main also had his own injury problems this term, having come back from summer knee surgery only to suffer from a recurring thigh problem.
Of the two Aberdeen strikers returning from injury, Main looks to be the one who has grabbed his opportunity, with Cosgrove netting just once in his last six straight starts.
Now McInnes faces the dilemma of potentially leaving the club’s biggest bankable asset Cosgrove on the bench.
Main has waited patiently and, with a performance that delivered more than just two goals, has earned the right for a sustained run of starts.
Ultimately the ideal scenario for McInnes would be if Main and Cosgrove could forge a potent strike partnership in an Aberdeen front two.
However, this would essentially mean moving away from the 3-4-3 formation which has been effective this season and which maximises the pace within the team.
While Cosgrove and Main have both suffered injury problems, a huge loss in attack has been the absence of Marley Watkins due to a hamstring injury.
Bristol City attacker Watkins brought a vibrancy and pace to the attack, stretched back-lines and also created chances. A master creator, Watkins could have proved the perfect foil for either Cosgrove or Main. However, Watkins is ruled out until January.
Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes has already confirmed he will strengthen the squad with free transfers and loans.
Extending the loan for Watkins, who is out of contract at Bristol at the end of the season, should be seen as a priority during the upcoming winter window.
Main showed his predatory instincts
It took Main just five minutes to repay McInnes’ decision to start him when a corner from Ryan Hedges was headed down by Tommie Hoban.
The ball bounced around the box and County failed to clear. Main was a calm head within the pinball melee and stroked home from eight yards. It was a scrappy goal, but Main was in the right place at the right time and converted.
Main had forced his way into the position of first-choice striker in February and March before Scottish football shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic. He looks desperate to repeat that.
Ross County’s 4-5-1 formation was supposed to give the Staggies time to bed into the game and keep the Dons at bay.
Main’s clinical touch in front of goal blew that plan out of the water.
And, although both teams had chances before and after the break, it took more predatory striker play from the Englishman to kill the game off in the second period.
Hedges’ drive into the box saw a shot blocked and Main, with his back to goal and barely half a chance to capitalise on, swivel efficiently and fire into the top left corner past Laidlaw.