Ross McCrorie is confident he and his Aberdeen team-mates can use this afternoon’s encounter with Hearts to show just how far the team has come since the previous meeting between the two European contenders.

The Dons suffered a 5-0 humbling at Tynecastle the last time the pair met but McCrorie insists the men from the north east have improved since then. The defeat contributed to former manager Jim Goodwin being relieved of his duties but results have picked up in recent weeks under interim boss Barry Robson.

So much so that a win for the hosts this afternoon would cut the gap between Hearts in third and fifth-placed Aberdeen to four points – something that appeared to be outwith the Dons’ grasp only a matter of weeks ago.

It would be natural for the teams’ previous encounter to weigh on the players’ minds ahead of their reunion in the north east this afternoon but McCrorie insists the squad will be focusing purely on the here and now.

“Last time was obviously really disappointing but we have improved and we’ve got a few new players in as well in the January window,” McCrorie observed. “The boys have been brilliant and really improved us as a team.

“Not just that, we have had Barry Robson come in as well and he has brought in new ideas and different styles of training methods as well so it’s been really good. You can see from each game we have been improving massively. It is just all about us now to get as many points as we can in the remaining games.

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“I think we go into every game to try and get the victory. We are not really thinking about the last game. That was a while ago anyway. We have had six games since then and we are on a decent run of form. It will be a really good game. Hearts are a really top team as well. There are a lot of good players on both sides and it will be good to see.

“Absolutely [the loss at Tynecastle hurt]. It is like after any defeat. As I say, we don’t think about defeats. You have to have short memories as a footballer and go on to the next game and focus on that and be confident. That was a while ago. We have a new game coming up this weekend and a new challenge.”

The upcoming international break will give the likes of McCrorie an opportunity to reset ahead of the run-in but the former Rangers player isn’t exactly thankful for the rest. Capped at every age level up to the Under-21s, the versatile defender is still to be called up to the senior side.

The 24-year-old missed out on the most recent squad and he admits to feeling disappointed to have been overlooked once again. He feels his performances for Aberdeen merit an inclusion but he accepts that the only way to receive international recognition is by performing week in, week out at club level.

The National:

“Definitely, yes,” McCrorie replied when asked if he was disappointed not to make the cut for Steve Clarke’s squad. “Not just that, previous squads I’ve been disappointed as well. I feel I’ve been playing at a top level for a while now. It’s just up to me to keep up that consistency and wait for my chance.

“My full focus is on Aberdeen. I want Aberdeen to do the best we can and if I get international honours for playing well with Aberdeen that would be great. It’s an aim of mine to be called up one day and get a few caps. It’s frustrating at the time but I just need to keep playing at a high level. I’ll just keep trying to improve day on day.”

A few eyebrows were raised at the most recent Scotland squad announcement when it transpired that just four players – Liam Kelly, Zander Clark, Ryan Jack and Callum McGregor – ply their trade in the Premiership.

McCrorie, though, doesn’t believe that playing in the Scottish top flight is a barrier to gaining a place in Clarke’s squad – nor does he think that his versatility can hold him back at times.

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He explained: “No, I wouldn’t say so [that playing in Scotland makes it harder to be selected for the national team]. Steve Clarke has a hard job. There’s a lot of top players and it’s a very good squad with players in the Premier League and all over. But I think if you are good enough you will get called up.

“I think that’s a credit to myself that I can play in different positions with my upbringing at Rangers. I had a good upbringing there to play in different positions. Since I’ve come to Aberdeen I’ve played near enough every game. So [my versatility] is not a problem.”