The disquiet felt around Pittodrie is understandable, given Aberdeen's penchant for inconsistency.

Indeed, having seen his side thrashed 4-1 by Motherwell on Wednesday, Craig Brown is only too aware improvement must be shown quickly, starting at Dundee today.

Brown pointed to the success of Inverness Caledonian Thistle as something his side can learn from, reminding his players that the Highlanders had endured an even more torrid afternoon against the Lanarkshire side in mid-November yet were able to revive their form and continue what had been an excellent run. "Inverness have shown how to react after suffering a heavy defeat," Brown said. "Losing 5-1 at home to Motherwell was even more embarrassing than what happened to us. But you have to commend the way Terry Butcher and his players responded. They won 1-0 at Celtic and beat us at Pittodrie."

Loading article content

Aberdeen hope to have Stephen Hughes fit for action this afternoon, which could release Scott Vernon from the midfield role he has assumed in recent matches due to a spate of injuries. "I would prefer fighting for my place up front because that's my position, my bread and butter," Vernon said. "Midfield isn't my best position, but I had to do the job as best I could for the sake of the team. I've certainly learned more about playing there with every game and I've been getting good advice from Gavin Rae who's been alongside me."

Dundee, too, are trying to make the best of an unpalatable position, with Barry Smith believing his side can derive encouragement from their Boxing Day defeat by Celtic. The Dens Park team lost 2-0 and find themselves nine points adrift at the foot of the table but they competed well for long spells and Smith insisted the display provided cause for optimism. "It's not as though we were heavily defeated," Smith said. "We gave a good account of ourselves, so we have every right to take confidence from that into the Aberdeen game. We lost to a quality side, but we have to move on and we can do so with a bit of encouragement. We all want to get off the bottom of the table."

Smith appreciates Dundee are in the middle of a crucial spell, with just two games, including today's, left before the winter break, and he is determined to give the supporters something to shout about. "It would be nice to win out last home game of the year," he said. "Our fans have been so loyal and they deserve it. They stayed right with us during the Celtic game, which the players all appreciate. We need them to do the same against Aberdeen and I'm sure they will.

"We want to give them a positive start and hopefully give ourselves something to build on. Aberdeen are also coming off a defeat so will be dangerous opponents. We're under no illusions about how difficult this game will be."

Nicky Riley and Iain Davidson are set to return for Dundee and Stephen O'Donnell suffered no adverse reaction to his comeback from injury in the Celtic game.