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Wright: No surprise that Pawlett has been handful

IT has no come as no surprise to Tommy Wright, the St Johnstone manager, that Peter Pawlett has flourished in the Aberdeen team this season.

Peter Pawlett returns to St Johnstone, where spent the first half of last season on loan
Peter Pawlett returns to St Johnstone, where spent the first half of last season on loan

Pawlett has played a key role under Derek McInnes, playing both out wide and behind the central striker, as his side have established themselves in the top half of the SPFL Premiership.

Wright believes the Perth club can take some of the credit for the 22-year-old's progress - Pawlett made nine appearances for St Johnstone in a five-month loan spell in the first half of last season.

"Peter is a very good young player and someone I really like," admitted Wright. "He had injury problems here but we have to take some credit because we helped diagnose and get him on a programme which has helped him. I think Peter Pawlett is a real handful and a top player. They are seeing the benefits.

"Derek has done the right thing, he probably gave him the confidence to go and play as well, which to be fair we did when he was here. When he was fit he played most of the games. He's got pace, he is someone who has had a very good season so far."

Both sides go into the game in good form: St Johnstone have won five of their last six matches and Aberdeen got back on track with a cup victory over Partick Thistle last week after losses to Hearts and Celtic. The hosts can also leap above Aberdeen in the table with victory.

"They are a massive club, a club that is crying out for success," said Wright. "Derek has assembled a really good squad and they are the type of club that could go and strengthen in the window because of the supporter base they have got.

"It's going to be a difficult game but Derek could say the same about us: that we will be difficult opponents. Let's hope that's the case because we do believe that we can beat anybody on any given day."

If they are to do so, they will probably need to quash the threat of Calvin Zola up front. The imposing striker's career seemed to be petering out in the summer after he was released by Burton Albion, but McInnes chose instead to give him a chance in the north-east.

The confidence his new manager has shown in him, Zola feels, is behind his current run of form. "It's nice when the boss has faith in you," he said. "But we have a big squad here with good players so everyone needs to do well to stay in the team. The competition for places keeps everyone motivated and the manager wants us to keep winning games."

Playing in front of a packed Pittodrie, too, has been a highlight. "I'm still on a learning curve, but I am enjoying myself at Aberdeen," he admitted. "It is great to be at a bigger club playing in front of great crowds. It's unbelievable.

"You go into these games and you get a sense of the occasions with the build-up and the fans. We want to achieve things at Aberdeen and that's something I had missed."

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