Aberdeen have emerged from the busy festive schedule exactly where they aimed to be, second in the SPFL Premiership table, although Derek McInnes will be acutely aware that Motherwell are lurking ominously behind with a game in hand.

Their mix of established campaigners and experienced younger players in Ryan Jack and Peter Pawlett - both still in their early twenties - seems to have worked for them. Their success has been built on a stoic defence which has allowed their creative players time to wear opponents down to snatch late wins or draws.

Central to that strategy is Russell Anderson, whose 35-year-old joints and muscles may feel over-stressed when asked to perform in a twice-weekly game schedule, but whose drive and motivation nevertheless continue to be an influence.

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The centre-back and captain is long enough in the tooth, however, to know that at no point during the season should outrageous claims be made regarding final league placings. Endeavouring to draw him on such speculation is a fruitless exercise.

"We're only just into the New Year," he said, "There's half the season still to go. I heard Stuart McCall [the Motherwell manager] saying it doesn't matter where you are now, it's where you are at the end of the season that counts.

"Motherwell bounced back from a really difficult period when they went out the cup and were beaten heavily by Celtic and look where they are now. McCall was completely correct. It's all about where you are come May.

"We beat Dundee United on New Year's Day, but I've got no doubt they will bounce back. They are too good a team not to. Inverness will bounce back as well; there are so many tough games to come."

Anderson points to the blossoming of Pawlett as a principle reason for the current run of good form from the his side. The former winger, now enjoying a role just behind the main striker, has thrilled Pittodrie with his determined flair, and Anderson sees no reason why he would not be able to force himself into Gordon Strachan's Scotland squad.

"It's difficult to measure the improvement he has made," he said, "But you see it every week on the pitch. Teams are setting themselves up to deal with him because they see him as our main dangerman at the moment. It's a huge compliment to him. He's playing with a lot of confidence and doing really well.

"It helps when everyone else is playing so well also but he is in great form. He's managed a run of games without injuries whereas previously he struggled to get consistency because he never had the opportunity to play in a run of games.

"That's helped him but it's also been the case he's maybe slipped under the radar this season. He's a bit like Ryan Jack in that people maybe don't see them as young any more because they have been around for so long. It terms of Scotland, I can't see why he shouldn't be involved. The players Gordon Strachan is picking are doing well at the moment and they are playing with confidence.

"But I am sure he will be looking to the future and you can't help but notice the likes of Peter and Ryan Jack who are young and doing well in the first team."

Aberdeen also confirmed that Nicky Weaver, the goalkeeper currently providing cover for Jamie Langfield, has extended his contract at the club until the end of the season.

The 34-year-old former Manchester City, Charlton and Dundee United player was released by Sheffield Wednesday last summer before being signed by McInnes on a short-term deal. Weaver has only featured twice, coming on as a substitute against Celtic and starting against Hearts at Tynecastle at the beginning of the season.

Lawrence Shankland has moved on, though, if only temporarily, signing a loan deal with Dunfermline until the end of the season. The midfielder - yet to make his first-team debut for Aberdeen - will be available to face Stranraer on Saturday.

"There were a few clubs in for the player and keen on his signature, and one from the Championship," said Jim Jefferies, the delighted Dunfermline manager. "But we had already spoken to Derek McInnes on a couple of occasions. Lawrence is still a young boy, still learning, but hopefully he can come and score a few goals for us."

Meanwhile, Jack Grimmer, the defender who left Pittodrie for Fulham two years ago, has joined League One side Port Vale on a month-long loan. The 19-year-old, who cost £200,000 when he left Aberdeen, has yet to make a first team appearance for the Barclays Premier League side but will go straight into Micky Adams' squad for Saturday's match against League One leaders Brentford at Griffin Park.