LAST season was not Derek McInnes’ finest as Aberdeen manager. They failed to finish second for the first time in five years, conceding more goals, and finished with the lowest points tally (67) of his full six campaigns in charge.

He has pinpointed a weakness when defending set-pieces as a contributing factor towards their unpredictable form and it is why he moved quickly to snap up Ash Taylor when it became clear he had no future at Northampton Town.

The 28-year-old left Aberdeen for the East Midlands two years ago but McInnes believes the defender made the wrong decision in moving south. In Taylor’s first season, Northampton were relegated from the Sky Bet League One to the bottom tier and last year finished 15th in League Two.

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“Ash knows the league and the club,” he said. “I didn’t want him to leave and we felt he made the wrong decision at the time but he couldn’t be told. He went down to England and it hasn’t worked out as well as he would have hoped but he was always a player who, if you strip it back, did really well for me and we always like to have four centre-backs. Getting Mikey Devlin, Ash Taylor, Scott McKenna and Andy Considine gives us good experience and physicality there.

“We lost too many goals last season from set-plays in our own box, which was really unusual for us, and Ash will help give us a presence there. There are good options there for me and [we have] the benefit of Ash knowing the club and how we all work as a staff. Once he had made it clear he was desperate to come back, we moved pretty quickly to bring him here.”

McInnes’ transfer window appears to have been shrewd. Taylor represents experience, Craig Bryson is a proven talent, Jon Gallagher should provide decent cover, Curtis Main will challenge Sam Cosgrove at the front and Ryan Hedges should replace the output of Gary Mackay-Steven on the wings. The latter, a Welsh international signed from Barnsley, is an unknown quantity but McInnes has high hopes for the 23-year-old.

“Ryan is a great age and was one we were looking at,” McInnes said. “He is a full Welsh international, extremely driven to establish himself in that squad and he can play off both sides. He is quick, a strong runner and I think he has more goals in him. Even in the couple of days of training I’ve seen how good a finisher he is. We were looking for another wide player and he is someone we feel has the potential to play regular football. If he can do that here he can be a big influence on our side.”

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Given that Cosgrove already fills the role of bullish target man at Pittodrie, eyebrows were raised when McInnes swooped to sign Main from Motherwell. However, the Aberdeen boss admitted his side relied too much on Cosgrove last season, who scored 21 goals in all competitions.

“From the first minute of a game he [Main] makes himself known and my defenders know from experience how difficult an opponent he can be,” McInnes said. “What we need to get out of him, and what he needs to find now, is more goals to go with his work rate. He is a good team player and if we can get him scoring goals and showing his potential he will be a real asset for us.

“We were over reliant on Sam last year. Curtis coming in will give us competition. There’s a seriously driven boy there and he feels he is capable of playing at a higher level. He sees us as being an important step for him.”