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Five star start sets up Dons for tasty September schedule

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Aberdeen could not have asked for a better start to the Premiership season. Five wins from the opening five matches is, quite simply, the perfect start to the season and the Dons are only a point off Celtic at the top of the table with a game in hand.

With many tipping the Dons to push the Champions further this season, Saturday’s victory at Partick Thistle made it the first time since 1984/85 that Aberdeen have won their opening five League matches – the season when they (and anyone else outside the Old Firm) last won the title.

It’d be foolish at this very early to say that it’s an omen for Derek McInnes’s men this season but it is an encouraging start, given that the Dons lost three of their opening five matches a year ago.

An early start to the season participating in the Europa League, seen as a hindrance to their faltering domestic start last season, has helped give the Dons some match fitness ahead of the campaign and have taken the form shown in these European ties into the Premiership campaign.

Day one saw the Dons visit Dundee United on the back of a 9,000 trip to Kazakhstan. McInnes made four changes to freshen the side up and it worked with Kenny McLean scoring the only goal of the game with nine minutes to play.

Kilmarnock then travelled to Pittodrie deploying damage limitation tactics given their opening day thumping by Dundee. Despite this, Aberdeen were still too good and goals from new boy Graeme Shinnie and a penalty from Adam Rooney sealed a comfortable 2-0 win.

Fir Park was the next port of call and, despite the setback of losing an early goal, goals from Niall McGinn and Ash Taylor secured a well earned three points.

Dundee were next to visit the Granite City and this was expected to be the Dons toughest test given the visitors were a bogey team to them last season, drawing three times and knocking the Dons out the Scottish Cup. However, a Rooney double ensured a comfortable 2-0 win.

Saturday’s trip to Firhill saw Aberdeen secure their fifth consecutive victory thanks to goals from Rooney and McLean, maintaining the only 100% record in the top flight.

It means that Aberdeen go into the International break in fine form, which is ideal given that September is a very testing month for them.

A visit of Celtic on September 12 will be the first big test to see how far McInnes’s men have come and provides the opportunity to get a monkey off their back given that Ronny Deila’s side won all four meetings last campaign.

If the Dons are to be taken seriously as potential title contenders, they must look to take something from the match, especially in front of a capacity of Pittodrie with the Red Army likely to ensure this is a sell out.

A re-arranged home game against Hamilton will be trickier than first anticipated given the Accies, once again written off as relegation certainties, have won their last three matches, including Saturday’s 3-2 win over Hearts that ended the visitors 100% record.

The Jam Tarts provide the next opposition at Tynecastle and their start to the campaign, five wins before the Hamilton defeat, suggests they are going to be strong contenders to fight the Dons for second place or even push Celtic in the title race.

Aberdeen then have another trip to the Capital City, this time swapping Gorgie for Leith to face Hibs in a tricky League Cup tie before concluding the month at home against Scottish Cup winners and last seasons third place side Inverness Caledonian Thistle, who will be eager to impress after a poor start to the season.

Whilst September does throw in some challenging fixtures, there is a feel good factor about Aberdeen these days that suggests they can cope with the big game demands.

Defensively, Aberdeen have been solid again with only one domestic goal conceded despite missing the reliable Mark Reynolds. In Danny Ward, Aberdeen have a goalkeeper who the Red Army finally have faith in and he’s looked assured in each of his displays so far.

Shinnie has shown why he’s one of the best left backs in the League, whilst also proving his versatility by slotting into midfield occasionally, Taylor and Andy Considine have been a solid centre back pairing whilst Shay Logan has dismissed speculation on his future by continuing to produce consistent performances at right back.

Ahead of that, McLean has started to show why McInnes brought him North from St Mirren and has five goals to his name, including three in the Europa League, and has formed a good centre midfield partnership with Jack whilst Niall McGinn and Johnny Hayes have given ammunition from the wide positions.

Rooney has started to score goals again after a slow start and David Goodwillie has impressed with his hold up play, though he needs to hit the goal trail again if he is to fully win over the Red Army.

Aberdeen also have strength in depth that will become crucial later in the season. Saturday’s sub bench of Flood, Smith, Robson, Pawlett, Quinn, Brown and new boy Josh Parker, plus the arrival of Liverpool right back Ryan McLaughlin on loan and the return of Reynolds in October, emphasises the point that Aberdeen have several options to choose from in many positions to cover for injury, suspensions and possible fatigue from the early start to the season caused by the Europa League adventure.

Of course, it’s far too early to say what Aberdeen can achieve and the chances of them overhauling Celtic are very slim.

However, the signs are good that the Dons can have another good campaign and perhaps add some silverware to the cupboard come the seasons end.

Results and performances in September will show how far Aberdeen have come.

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