Leighton Clarkson has two major aims as he looks ahead to leaving Aberdeen in the summer; that he can help cement a third-place Premiership finish for the Dons and, with it, European football, then head back to Anfield and establish himself in Jurgen Klopp’s squad.

Clarkson, slight of frame but as cultured a midfielder as there is in Scottish football’s top tier, has excelled in a loan period at Pittodrie that started last August and which has seen him as a first pick ever since.

He produced another outstanding performance in the Dons 2-0 home win over struggling Kilmarnock on Saturday as the hosts hit Derek McInnes’s outfit with two clinical finishes from their former Benfica attacker, Duk.

Clarkson 21, was at the heart of most of his side’s play as he showed once more that he has thrived and matured as a Reds regular.

But while he praised Duk and his strike partner Bojan Miovski for their movement and flair up front, he was ready to compliment defenders Angus McDonald, Mattie Pollock and Liam Scales for their part in the keeping a fourth clean sheet in their last five games.

"There is a saying in football that if you keep them out at one end then you always have a chance of winning the game,” he said.

"Mattie, Angus and Scales have defended the box really well and Kelle Roos, our goalkeeper, pulled off an unbelievable save just before half-time that keeps us in it.

'We know if we keep clean sheets then we have talented players who can score goals."

He likes, too, what he sees of Duk and the contribution he and Miovski, who teamed-up for both goals – the first was scored 16 seconds after the kick-off – have made to the team.

He said: “Duk does the off-the-ball stuff for the team. He and Bojan put in the hard yards and you can see by the end of the game they are both knackered.

"They are getting the opportunities and Duk is putting them away. I rate him really highly.

"He is a really unique player and at times I don't know what he is going to do and the fans don't know what he is going to do either.

"Somehow he keeps hold of the ball and he is a pleasure to play with. I am glad it has all come good to him.

"It would mean a lot for me to know when I go back south that we have secured a European place. The fans have welcomed me since the day we got here.

"To give them something back - I really want to do that for them.”

Joe Wright, the Kilmarnock captain, summed-up the loss of that early goal succinctly. “We shot ourselves in the foot,” was how he put it, remembering, perhaps, that he helped pull that particular trigger just 16 seconds into the game when Pittodrie pies were still being purchased.

With Ross County snapping at Killie's heels in relegation land, the big centre-back is well aware that particular fight will go right to the wire and while there were occasional signs at Aberdeen that they might rally to take something from the game, it never materialised and their first league win on the road stills eludes them.

"We need to start picking up points and putting on full performances instead of just bits and pieces of games,” he rightly said.

"We need that full 90 minutes and it's something we've been working towards.

"We came into the game confident after three unbeaten home games in the league but we just didn't get going as we should of today.”

And that appalling away form?

"In the league it's just one of those things where it's been tight matches all the time,” he said.

"Decisions have gone against you and there's been mistakes as well.

"But it's something that we need to address as quickly as possible.

"Our home form's been brilliant and if we had a decent away record as well we would be in a lot healthier position.

"It's Celtic at home next and they are where they are for a reason.

"They are the best team in the league but we can cause them problems at our place.

“Hopefully, we can frustrate them and nick something.”