ON an afternoon that more resembled a punishment exercise than a football match, perhaps the only thing that could be described as “outstanding” for Aberdeen, as his manager Derek McInnes praised, was the defending of Scott McKenna, writes Duncan Hare.

Expected to be named in former Aberdeen defensive master Alex McLeish’s Scotland squad today, the 21-year-old’s international call-up will be as deserved as the contract extension until 2021 that was awarded to him by the club last week.

The manner in which he firstly read Chris Erskine’s reverse pass in the first half of this dreary 0-0 draw and then intercepted Conor Sammon to cleanly take the ball from the Partick Thistle forward and cut out a clear run on goal was indicative of a defensive display as decisive as Aberdeen’s play in the final third most certainly was not.

“I’ve not seen someone at any of the teams I’ve been at come in at a young age and just constantly play at a certain level,” said team-mate Dominic Ball.

“To play in midfield with someone at the back like him, it gives you a lot of confidence. Scott is a very good player.”

Having not won since the Scottish Cup victory over Dundee United – league defeats to Hibernian and Celtic and the quarter-final draw with Kilmarnock and this stalemate have followed – the replay with Steve Clarke’s men tomorrow has huge significance on Aberdeen’s future under McInnes.

“It’s a very big game,” said Ball.

For 11th-placed Thistle, this was a very big point, especially since the draw followed devastating last-minute defeats to Hamilton and Dundee.

“As a unit we set out not to concede and we did that, and that’s something to build on now,” said right-back Christie Elliott, making his first appearance since September due to an ankle injury.

“Late goals kill you inside. We were so disappointed in conceding the way we did. But we defended on Saturday as a unit, from the front, and we’ll take that into the next game.”