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Aberdeen boss lays down challenge to Craig Bryson

Derek McInnes hopes to see Craig Bryson kick-start his Aberdeen career over the next three weeks.

The former Derby midfielder was brought in to replace the battling qualities lost when Graeme Shinnie headed in the opposite direction to Pride Park this summer.

But an ankle injury has hampered his first few weeks at Pittodrie and he was only able to make his first start during last week’s Betfred Cup extra-time win over Dundee.

However, with a return to old side Kilmarnock to come on Saturday and then Ross County’s visit before the international break, McInnes senses an opportunity to increase the 32-year-old’s workload and hopes that will finally get him up to speed.

He said: “Craig is still a good bit away from peak fitness. He’s a naturally fit boy but nothing prepares you really like playing games.

“Getting him up to speed is very important for us. I think we need to remember that everyone was talking about how important a signing Bryson would be having lost Graeme Shinnie at the end of the season because there are similarities there.

“We have missed that ball-winning quality in midfield at times. We’ve missed the confidence, the energy, the drive that a Bryson can bring.

“We’ve not had that dynamic to our midfield but we must be mindful he’s coming from a long way back.

“We’ve got two games ahead of the international break and hopefully he can get that increased work that he is needing and his season can start properly after that.”

McInnes described reports in the Italian media that Lazio were preparing a bid for top scorer Sam Cosgrove as “pure speculation” after insisting the Dons had heard nothing from the Serie A giants.

Instead he is focusing on this weekend’s Italian connection as Aberdeen face up to Killie for the first time under the command of Antonio Conte’s former assistant Angelo Alessio.

And McInnes has leapt to the defence of the new Rugby Park boss, who has come under fire since his side were dumped out of the Europa League by Welsh minnows Connah’s Quay Nomads.

He said: “These early European games can put real scrutiny on your team and put you under pressure.

“But if you take away the Connah’s Quay game – and I know that’s difficult to do if you’re a Kilmarnock fan – then I think the start they’ve had has been OK.

“People, however, are obviously looking for reasons why that performance and result came about.

“But I think it’s unfair. He’s been put in the job and whether people like that or not it’s too early to be making judgements on any new manager.

“Hopefully for Angelo things settle down and he gets on with his job. But for our point of view it’s about going down there and not really caring who the manager is, not caring about Kilmarnock.

“You do have to look at changes to systems and things like that and they have been a bit more like last season’s side in the last couple of games by giving up possession at times and playing with tighter lines.

“We expect a tough game but we have our own need for three points and we’ll set about that task.”