Hayes ready to fight for place
Aberdeen winger Jonny Hayes is determined to force his way back into manager Craig Brown's plans but believes he is battling for a place in one of the strongest sides in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League.
The Irishman has been forced to settle for substitute appearances in the last two outings against Kilmarnock and Dundee United after recovering from injury.
The form of Ryan Fraser has made competition even stiffer but Hayes accepts he must bide his time and make an impact when the opportunity arises.
Speaking prior to Saturday's home encounter against Dundee, he said: "I knew after missing a game I wouldn't come straight back in. The team won two games on the bounce.
"It is a little bit frustrating but you can't do anything. You can't argue with the gaffer, he's picking a team and the team are performing.
"The team are doing well and I'm happy from that point of view.
"We have one of the best squads in the SPL, without a doubt. You only have to look at the strength of our bench most weeks.
"All players have to understand you can't just walk into the team.
"You have to bide your time and work harder off the pitch, in training, and in the gym and wait for your opportunity.
"When you get a chance you have to take it."
The Dons head into the clash with Dundee sitting third in the SPL and undefeated since the opening day loss to champions Celtic.
Hayes said: "From the first day I came here, I realised it was the right move.
"We do have a great squad and we deserve to be where we are.
"The confidence is growing within the squad. You can see it at training every day.
"Considering the points we dropped early in the season, points we should have gained, we probably deserve to be top of the league at the minute.
"It's not to be so all we can do is look forward to the games ahead. Three points on Saturday would put us right back up there."
Left-back Gary Naysmith returns to the Dons squad after recovering from a hamstring injury.
Naysmith played for the Under-20s in midweek in his comeback from the injury he suffered in August.
Ryan Jack (foot), Andrew Considine (ankle) and Rory Fallon (stomach muscle) remain out.
Visitors Dundee may be bottom of the table but Hayes is taking nothing for granted.
He said: "This league has proven anybody can beat anybody on their day.
"They will be fighting but we would expect Dundee to be like most teams who come to Pittodrie, they will sit back and defend.
"We have seen that numerous times this season. We have to adjust our tactics and our game to go about getting the three points."
Dundee pair Cammy Kerr and Davide Grassi will both miss out with knee injuries.
Lewis Toshney (ankle) is a slight doubt but Nicky Riley and Colin Nish are both expected to make the squad.
Dundee boss Barry Smith admits he will always look to benefit from the knowledge of more experienced coaches as he prepares to lock horns with the veteran management team of Aberdeen.
The 38-year-old finds himself in a difficult situation in only his second full season in management with Dundee five points adrift at the foot of the SPL.
Smith has had to contend with a huge injury list, which Davide Grassi and Mark Kerr joined this week with knee problems, on top of the lack of preparation for the SPL season after Dundee's place was only officially ratified in the last week of pre-season.
Smith comes up against two of his former managers on Saturday - Brown had him in his Scotland Under-21 squad, while former Dundee boss Jocky Scott recently joined the Pittodrie coaching staff.
Another former Dens Park manager, Archie Knox, takes the Dons coaching triumvirate to a combined age of more than 200 and Smith will bank their post-match advice.
"Any experienced coach like Craig or Jocky Scott, Alex Smith, Jim Duffy, I speak to them all," the Dundee boss said.
"I want to win and I want to do better. If you can't learn from these guys then you are struggling.
"These are guys I would definitely pick the phone up to.
"I was on the phone to Alex Smith the other day. I went down to watch the Under-20s game (against Falkirk) and we had a wee chat before the game, and I appreciate him taking the time to phone me.
"Sometimes that's what you need, maybe a different insight into something."