ANTHONY O’CONNOR did not need to wait for the evidence to arrive before coming to his conclusion.

Around 20 hours before Pedro Caixinha took his seat at Parkhead to watch his new side compete admirably to grind out a 1-1 draw with Celtic, the Aberdeen defender stood in the bowels of the Richard Donald Stand at Pittodrie, content at an afternoon’s work which ensured the weekend would come to a close with an eight-point gap still between Aberdeen and the Portuguese’s Rangers. Despite that chasm, the latest points haul was of significant importance to the Aberdeen centre-half.

“Rangers will probably get a lift from bringing in a new manager which they need but if we keep playing to what we’re capable of then I’m convinced we will finish in second place,” said the Irishman, fresh from his team’s 1-0 victory over Motherwell. “We are confident of getting second spot but we need to go out every week and earn it because nobody will give it to us. If we just turn up and think ‘We’re nine points ahead, we’ll finish second’ then that’s when you get a kick up the backside.”

This victory was Aberdeen’s eighth home win in a row, a record that goes back to the days of Sir Alex Ferguson. As much as it may not have been the most emphatic in terms of scoreline, Aberdeen’s persistence in the face of a defiant Motherwell was indicative of the spirit Derek McInnes has instilled in his team.

Faced with an inspired Craig Samson and an at times charmed Motherwell goal, McInnes changed the game late on by bringing on Ryan Christie and Miles Storey, and the pair played their part at finally wearing down the resistance of their visitors in the closing minutes as Niall McGinn struck at the death. It is this adaptability and commitment which will provide as much reassurance and comfort going into the closing stages of the season as that eight-point cushion over what could potentially be a resurgent Rangers.

“We lost at Hamilton a couple of weeks ago and people probably looked at that and thought it would be an easy win and despite dominating the game we still lost it so we need the right mentality,” added O’Connor. “The manager keeps getting onto us about every game being so important.

“I won’t lie, I thought Motherwell did well and tried to make it hard for us. They are fighting for their lives down the bottom end of the table so it was always going to be difficult. They were always going to sit in and try and make it hard for us but we had chances and should have scored before we did. But it shows the character and desire in the team that we never give up and keep going until the end to get that goal. It shows what we’re all about at the minute and it’s a good camp.

“We’ve scored a lot of late goals and that spirit and desire is something you can’t teach. It’s inside you to keep going. Sometimes you will see players who will accept it’s not their day and pack it in but we have the calibre of player who will keep going and believing.”

For Motherwell, the defeat may leave them still sitting ominously just outside the Premiership relegation zone, but there was encouragement in the despair for Stephen Robinson’s temporary charges. With that 7-2 defeat at Pittodrie still fresh in the scarred minds of these players, the endeavour here was night and day compared to that dismantling which ultimately contributed to Mark McGhee losing his job.

“The bottom line is we still came away with nothing despite an improved performance and we need points with the position we’re in. It was a disappointing day,” said Carl McHugh, the Motherwell defender who has moved to centre-half in recent weeks. “When we reflect on the game I’m sure we’ll see we did a lot of good things but it’s just disappointing that Niall McGinn ran in from wide and got space in the box.

“Someone has to be closer to him but you can pick out a million things when you lose a goal and it would be better to focus on the positives when we look back. It’s tight at the bottom but it’s the same looking towards the top six. We need to focus on the next game and hopefully we’ll get the results moving forward."

McHugh reiterated his desire for Robinson, who will speak to the Fir Park board today along with Simo Valakari, to get the manager's job on a permanent basis.

He said: “You can see the players are giving Stephen everything.

"All you can ask is to give everything on the pitch and we did that. He’d be a great appointment moving forward.

"You could see how organised we were and we had a plan. Everyone knew their jobs. There was no stone left unturned in the preparation and it showed in the performance."