Ryan Hedges carved his name into Aberdeen history against NSÍ Runavík, registering the 200th competitive hat-trick in the club’s history – and the first of his career.
“It’s the first hat-trick of my career so it’s nice to get that personal accolade but the most important thing tonight was that we got through and progressed into the second round.”
Ryan completed the job with a ferocious finish from the penalty spot, but he had to work hard to win the right to take it in the first place.
“After Lewis took his penalty really well last Sunday, I think he fancied the penalty but with a hat-trick at stake, I wanted it! He stood aside and fair play to him for doing that, but if we get one against Hibs, I think he’ll be after it again!”
The Dons eventually swamped the side from the Faroes, but it was a night for patience early on, as Ryan points out.
“For the first 15 or 20 minutes it was a fairly even game, we were growing into it and when we scored the first game, that really took it out of them. Getting that second goal just before the break obviously made the second half a lot easier. Scoring the third nice and early killed things off and from there we controlled the game and took advantage.”
Hedges replaced Curtis Main at the break, but took full advantage of his time on the pitch in the second half as Derek McInnes rotated his team to get valuable minutes into as many players as possible, while keeping an eye on their overall fitness levels.
“You’re always disappointed not to start games but the manager spoke to me before the game and explained his decision and in the end, we got the result we wanted, which is all that matters.
“It’s good for me personally to be amongst the goals. I want to keep chipping in like that and hopefully my form keeps improving. Consistency is the important thing to keep my place in the team, performing week in, week out, adding goals and assists.
“The strength in depth that we have in the squad means we are strong in all areas of the pitch and we all know that if you don’t do your job, there’s someone ready to come in and take your place.”
There were good performances all over the pitch from the Dons, including another from new signing Marley Watkins, a player Ryan knows all about.
“I played with Marley at Barnsley for six months, we made our Welsh debuts together against Panama, so I know his qualities, what he can bring to the team. He hasn’t scored yet but in the two games, he’s helped the team, been a menace to the opposition, create opportunities and I’m sure the goals will soon start flowing for him. All the strikers we’ve got offer something different and the manager can pick different attributes for different games to give us other dimensions.”
With the first round successfully negotiated, thoughts will turn to the next round and the hope of further progress in the Europa League this season, something Hedges is desperate to enjoy.
“When the draw comes through on Monday, hopefully we’ll be at home again because that’s important with the games being one-offs, even without supporters in the ground. I feel like we can beat any team here. We just want to take it as far as we can and hopefully reach the group stages.
“We need to find more consistency than we managed last season when things were a bit up and down. Three wins in three has been a good return for us so we need to keep on that run and try to carry it further at Hibs on Sunday. They’ve made a great start to the season but there’s no reason why we can’t go there and get another win if we play to our potential.
“We’re all looking to keep building on the wins we’ve had, that’s three in a row now, and we’re hoping to sign off on Sunday before the international break with another one and put ourselves in a good position in the league.”