Dons turn up the heat
Cosgrove helps Aberdeen finish Dubai training camp on high
Greg Stewart could be a target for Aberdeen as manager Derek McInnes looks to add to his striking options in the January transfer window.
Stewart has been recalled from a loan spell at Kilmarnock by parent club Birmingham, who are looking to sell the 28-year-old after his impressive early-season form.
Reports yesterday indicated he was on the Dons radar and when asked after the friendly with Dibba Al-Hisn in Dubai yesterday, McInnes was coy on any potential interest.
He said: “We’re looking at various options but we’re looking for a bit more firepower and a left-back. We’ll see how things play out. We’re hopeful of getting a few things done and who that is, remains to be seen.”
Blues manager Garry Monk said the decision to recall Stewart, who hit eight goals in 16 games for Killie, was made by the club and he is not part of his plans at St Andrews.
McInnes is planning on winger Gary Mackay-Steven remaining with the Dons for the remainder of the season, after New York City approached the club during the week for permission to speak to the Scotland international.
He added: “I’ve not heard anything and I haven’t spoken to Gary about it. I’m going with him for the rest of the season, as expected, unless an offer comes in or he indicates anything different. He looked sharp when he came on – it’s been a good five or six weeks since he’s played, so it was good to get him back out there.”
Aberdeen rounded off their training camp in the UAE with a 2-0 win over part-time Dibba, with Sam Cosgrove getting both goals. Shay Logan, Stevie May and Tommie Hoban sat out the game but should return against Stenhousemuir in the Scottish Cup on Saturday.
McInnes said: “Shay could have played but we decided, with the workload we put into him, that he can put his work in during the week.”
Be it on home soil or half-way across the world, Sam Cosgrove can still score goals.
His brace in the Dubai twilight yesterday, albeit against part-time Emirati opposition, typified the transformation in Cosgrove’s game over the last month.
Both of his goals were clinical striker’s finishes and he came close to grabbing a hat-trick, as Aberdeen rounded off their training camp in the Middle East with a comfortable 2-0 win over Dibba Al-Hisn.
Aberdeen named close to a starting back four as they can expect for next week’s game against Stenhousemuir.
Graeme Shinnie dropped to left-back and Dominic Ball was in at right-back, with Shay Logan sitting out the game along with Stevie May, Tommie Hoban and Mikey Devlin. Stephen Gleeson and teenager Dean Campbell started in the middle of the park.
Shinnie and Wright both threatened inside the opening minutes for the Dons against the second-tier side, while Campbell, who shone in training this week, hit the post with a shot from 25 yards.
Centre-back Scott McKenna headed Shinnie’s free-kick straight at goalkeeper Salem Rashed as Aberdeen looked to assert their dominance early.
The game might have been a friendly but Cosgrove certainly treated it with no less intensity, getting involved in an early confrontation with left-back Sultan Saif and then clattering through Abdulhameed Al-Nemri in an effort to win the ball in the middle of the park.
When he has the bit between his teeth like he does just now, it is best just to let him play his natural game.
There was a chance for Dons striker James Wilson to build on his goal against Livingston and recapture his scoring touch, but the closest he came in the first half was a glancing header from a Shinnie cross, which sailed wide.
While Dibba offered little attacking threat in the opening 45, they were well organised and matched the Dons for physicality.
Connor McLennan was determined in his efforts to beat his man down the right flank but was singled out for some rough treatment, with two players booked for scything him down.
The worry for Dons boss Derek McInnes – and what drew his ire last year – was the overtly physical nature of the opposition and the risk of his players getting injured.
With three players coming back into the fold after prolonged periods out and two sitting out the game as a precaution, now was not the time for further knocks.
Cosgrove resumed his role as man of the moment six minutes before half-time, finishing well after Wilson slid him through. It was just reward for the travelling side, who had dominated the opening 45 minutes.
McKenna enjoyed a running battle with the lone Brazilian frontman Vinicius Lopes, who seemed to take objection to the Scotland international’s aggressive challenging for the ball.
Lopes, a wily target man who has played in South Korea and Kuwait, did not waste any little opportunity to leave a mark on his counterpart.
The confidence was
flowing for Cosgrove and he did brilliantly with his second, taking a reverse pass from winger Gary MackaySteven, a half-time substitute, and rifling beyond Rashed at his near post.
At the moment little seems to faze the former Wigan and Carlisle man and long may that continue.
He was denied a hat-trick by the referee, firstly for fouling a defender while heading in a Shinnie corner and then being blatantly cleaned out as he challenged for a loose ball.
Mark Reynolds and Gary Mackay-Steven both returned to action in the second half, with the latter not featuring since the Betfred Cup final defeat to Celtic and Reynolds last taking to the pitch in the abandoned pre-season friendly with Cove.
Mackay-Steven looked to have lost little of his ingenuity, as he regularly looked to slalom past Saif down the right.
The Dons saw out the closing 20 minutes with little alarm and with their frontman prolonging his hot streak in front of goal, the trip back to Aberdeen today will be a happy one. DIBBA AL-HISN (4-2-3-1) – Salem Rashed 6; Al-Kaebi 5, Al-Saroumi 5 (Al-Wahdani 32), El Sayed 6 (Saoud Rashed 67), Saif 5 (Al-Hamoudi 73), Al-Nemri 5 (Abdulrahman 46), Al-Mansouri 6, Al-Nuami 6 (Malallah 30, Al-Dhahouri 76)), Abdulhameed 5, Ahmed 5 (Obaid 46), Lopes 6 (H Rashed 46). Subs not used – none. ABERDEEN (4-4-2) – Lewis 6 (Cerny 64); Ball 6 (Virtanen 84), McKenna 7, Considine 6 (Forrester 76), Shinnie 6, Wright 6 (McGinn 64), Gleeson 6 (Ferguson 64), Campbell 6 (Reynolds 46), McLennan 7 (Mackay-Steven 46), Cosgrove 8, Wilson 7 (E Ross 84). Subs not used – none. Man of the match – Sam Cosgrove.
THIS IS GETTING FAMILIAR: Sam Cosgrove, left, celebrates scoring the first of his two goals against Dibba alongside Dons winger Gary Mackay-Steven
RICH VEIN OF FORM: Sam Cosgrove puts the first of his two goals past the keeper to put Aberdeen up 1-0
Returning: Gary Mackay-Steven in action
Challenged: Scott Wright is taken down