SCOTT McKENNA could have easily thrown his toys out the pram. With the English transfer deadline approaching, Aberdeen continued to knock back approaches from Sheffield Wednesday, Queens Park Rangers and Nottingham Forest.

Up until even 5pm on Thursday when the window closed, it wasn’t clear whether McKenna would play for Aberdeen in Rijeka. But seeing as no club matched the Pittodrie board’s valuation of the defender, he started in Croatia as Aberdeen lost 2-0 in the Europa League third round qualifier.

McKenna was keen to move away from the north-east this summer, but despite the frustration of not being allowed to depart, he fulfilled his duties as Aberdeen player and was one of their better individuals on a disappointing night in the Balkans.

Joe Lewis has watched as McKenna’s stock has continued to rise since making his breakthrough in September 2017 and is not surprised.

“You would never have known [about the situation] with the way Scott played. Scott’s attitude is one of his main positives. Things don’t affect him and I think you could see that with his performance in Rijeka – he can be proud of the way he played.

“I am amazed there hasn’t been a lot more interest in Scott. For me, as a defender, he is one of the best I have played with. There is no doubt there will be loads of interest in Scott going forward. He is a great lad and a complete a professional.

“I have spoken to Scott about the situation, but that conversation will remain in-house. He doesn’t need me to tell him how to act. He is a sensible lad and he will do what is best for him to take his career to the next level.”

Aberdeen have a huge mountain to climb after falling to a two-goal defeat in Rijeka. Shay Logan was at fault for the opener, conceding a penalty by pulling over Luka Capan as he burst into the box.

Lewis, however, believes Spanish referee Ricardo De Burgos was wrong to point to the spot, as he was set to take control of the ball.

“The ball was going straight into my hands,” he said. “It was never in danger with regards any of their players. I have looked at it again on the video and it doesn’t look like a penalty. I am not sure what view the referee had but he has seen something that he thought was a penalty and blew very quickly.

“It came at a time where I wouldn’t say we were comfortable but I didn’t feel they had anything to unlock our defence. It gave them a lift.

“There is no time to think of it as an injustice. Yes, it is disappointing but it is half time and we take them back to Pittodrie next Wednesday. If we can create a good atmosphere there and we can get the first goal then I think that would give us a real momentum going forward, especially with the crowd behind us.”

Robert Muric’s late strike to give the Croats a comfortable advantage should be enough to see them through to the playoff round, but Lewis has not given up hope.

He said: “We felt the game was going well for us but the penalty changed that and gave them a real lift. The second goal was a killer. He is a decent player and maybe we should have stopped him from coming in on his left foot and that was the only disappointment for us in terms of poor play or not following the game plan.

“I felt we played well and 2-0 was a harsh scoreline. We need to make sure when we get them back to Pittodrie we put on a performance that can get us the result we need to get through the tie.”

Aberdeen got their Ladbrokes campaign off to a positive start with victory over Hearts last weekend and they are aiming for another three points tomorrow against St Mirren.

“It is important we keep our league run going," he said. "We need to keep that positivity and we can’t beat ourselves up too much over Thursday. We are disappointed [but] we need to come back out and show what a good team we are.

“They will be difficult opposition. It is difficult to have so many games and so many different types of games early but hopefully we have the squad to cope.”