Will it be Aberdeen's inner strength this season which allows them to finish in the SPFL Premiership's runners-up spot?

There may be a range of qualities that cause certain teams to stand out from the rest, but an unwillingness to surrender when the going is difficult is one Aberdeen will point to as a significant part of their make up this season.

That has not been a common trait at Pittodrie prior to this season, a series of finishes in the bottom-six places testifying to that. The comfort with which Aberdeen hold second place in the table at the moment - third-place Motherwell remain two points behind, despite Dundee United earning a draw at Pittodrie on Saturday - is indicative of a change in mentality at the club. Derek McInnes will hope to nurture it this summer by tweaking his playing squad.

Loading article content

The Aberdeen manager is likely to move on players such as Scott Vernon, once a prominent goalscorer but now simply a substitute, and Josh Magennis, who is on loan at St Mirren. There is also the question of what to do with Calvin Zola - big and powerful, yet without a competitive start to his name since December. The striker has another year on his contract but might be encouraged soon to find a different employer.

His future at Pittodrie is uncertain but it is possible to speak with more authority about that of Barry Robson. Now 35, his influence in the team's midfield has still to show signs of age. "He's a winner, a competitor and we're confident we'll get round to sorting everything out," McInnes added. "We are a better team with him here."

It was Robson whose cross was converted by Niall McGinn early in the second half - the first goal he had scored in 17 matches. "Aberdeen are a great side," said Brian Graham, who is improving quickly as a striker for United. "In the second half we didn't want to concede a goal early doors but Niall has scored a good header which was frustrating for us."

His side - five points behind Aberdeen and with a game in hand - are still in contention for a place in the Europa League qualifiers, even if they were unable to fend off an eager home side at the weekend. That attitude was noted later by Cammy Smith, with the 18-year-old showing impressive maturity following his 16th appearance of the campaign.

"In the last few games we have been down a goal behind but it's allowed us to show our character," he said. "We won't stop and we showed that against United."