St Johnstone V Aberdeen at McDiarmid Park : Match Preview
St Johnstone V Aberdeen - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.
Pawlett progress no shock to Wright
St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright has not been surprised to see Peter Pawlett flourish in the Aberdeen team this season.
Pawlett has been given a key role under Derek McInnes, playing both out wide and off the central striker, scoring twice in 18 games this season.
The 22-year-old made nine appearances for St Johnstone in a five-month loan spell in the first half of last season and Wright, who was assistant manager at the time, feels the Perth club can take some credit for his recent progress.
Wright, whose team face Aberdeen in the Scottish Premiership on Saturday, told Press Association Sport: "Peter is a very good young player and someone I really like.
"He had injury problems here but we have to take some credit because we helped diagnose and get him on a programme which has helped him.
"And I think Peter Pawlett is a real handful and a top player. They are seeing the benefits.
"Derek has done the right thing, he probably gave him the confidence to go and play as well, which I think to be fair we did when he was here. When he was fit he played most of the games.
"He's got pace, he is someone who has had a very good season so far."
Both sides go into the game on a high with Saints having won five of their last six matches and Aberdeen getting back on track with a cup win at Partick Thistle following defeats by Hearts and Celtic.
St Johnstone have the incentive of jumping above Aberdeen in the top six if they win.
Wright said: "They are a massive club, a club that is crying out for success.
"I think Derek has assembled a really good squad, a strong squad, and they are the type of club that could probably go and strengthen in the window because of the supporter base they have got.
"Everybody is expecting them to do really well this season and I'd be one of those people because I think they have a really good squad.
"They are strong at the back and don't give much away. They are a real force up front, (Niall) McGinn seems to be coming into a bit of form and Peter Pawlett has had an excellent season.
"It's going to be a difficult game but Derek could say the same about us, that we will be difficult opponents, and let's hope that's the case because we do believe that we can beat anybody on any given day."
Aberdeen striker Calvin Zola admits he may need to change his style of play if he is to keep himself on the right side of Scotland's referees.
The Burton Albion frontman has cut a frustrated figure for much of his six-month stint with the Dons having netted just three times in 17 appearances.
And Pittodrie boss McInnes admits the burly striker's mood has hardly been helped by his continual run-ins with the match officials who have taken issue with his combative style.
Zola, 28, has given away 22 fouls so far but says he may have to tone down his approach if he is to avoid adding to the three bookings he collected this term.
He told Red TV: "The treatment I get from referees up here is new to me. In 10 or 11 years in the game I have never experienced anything like it. My game hasn't changed much in that time and I am what I am.
"I've never had any problems at all with the way I play. But I've come to a new league and new referees and it is different. I'm penalised at times when I'm barely doing anything.
"It makes me think I should change my style of play a little but that isn't easy because I've been playing this way for so many years. It's a different league but maybe I need to adapt."
Aberdeen kicked off a busy festive period by securing a William Hill Scottish Cup fifth-round slot with a 1-0 away win at Partick.
They now face St Johnstone in Perth on Saturday but Zola is not concerned by the heavy workload that will see them contest seven games over the next four weeks.
"The festive schedule is always good," he said. "Any footballer will tell you they would rather play than train so the more games the better.
"Some people may be rested and some others will come in. But with the squad we have we should look forward to it because we want to win every game we play."
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