It was a fitting venue and date for Lewis Neilson to display the resilience of the younger generation.
The 17-year-old central defender had long resigned himself to sitting on the Dundee United bench at Pittodrie on Saturday, taking part in the warm-up with his fellow subs as the first-team picks worked together elsewhere on the pitch.
Then came the shout. Ryan Edwards was injured.
Neilson looked up, acknowledged the summons, darted back down the tunnel into the away dressing room and steeled himself to face against one of Scottish football’s toughest challenges.
The youngster faced one heck of a mental test getting his mind adjusted to the task, never mind the physical challenge of facing up to tough opponents like Curtis Main and, eventually, Sam Cosgrove in a strong Aberdeen team.
Your mind went back to exactly eight years previously on January 2, 2013 at the same stadium, when John Souttar became the Tangerines’ youngest-ever first team player at the age of just 16 years and 100 days – a record that would stand until Chris Mochrie made his debut against Morton six years later.
Just like Souttar that day, Neilson was outstanding against the Dons and contributed to a share of the spoils. You wouldn’t be surprised if, some time in the future and like Souttar, Neilson develops into a Scotland player.
He, of course, wasn’t making his debut but hadn’t featured in the side since early October following a flurry of appearances early in the campaign.
To step up and play as he did showed that 17-year-olds can be every bit as cool and composed as the older guys.
Praise from Shankland
His teammate Lawrence Shankland, who came closest to scoring for the Tangerines when his strike hit the bar on nine minutes, made a point of praising his young colleague.
The Scotland international said: “We know what Lewis is capable of because he is in the first-team squad for a reason.
“It is important they (the younger players) are ready when the opportunity comes.
“Ryan dropped out in the warm-up and we knew Lewis would be ready.
“He shows his quality every day in training and we had no qualms about throwing him in.
“I thought he was excellent.”
United boss Micky Mellon joined in with his own plaudits for Neilson.
Mellon said: “That’s what we’re all about.
“Part of our big recruitment here is the academy.
“We have to stay strong and true to that.
“When we get opportunities to stick them into the team, we don’t hesitate.
“We try to prepare them mentally and physically so they can come in and do what he did.
“I thought he was fantastic.
“Those are the type of things that we have to have happening in order to keep moving forward to the Dundee United we all want to see.”
Another precious point
Neilson contributed a huge amount to securing yet another precious point for United as they attempt to cling on to their top-six spot.
There is pressure building below them, with Hamilton’s 3-0 victory over Motherwell in particular showing that there are no obvious candidates for relegation this season.
Livingston’s own remarkable three-goal success at Easter Road – their fifth league win in a row – moved them above the Tangerines in the table but sixth spot is still more than acceptable at this stage for United.
Mellon’s men sit on 26 points after 22 games but there is a traffic jam below them. Only five points separate bottom side Ross County from seventh-placed St Mirren on the 22-point mark.
That is worth keeping an eye on, although the Tannadice players will insist they are looking up the way rather than down.
The Pittodrie draw took their points tally on the road after visiting every opposition ground to an impressive 11 – two wins, five draws and four losses.
Mellon felt his side deserved what they took back down the road, adding: “I thought it was a really tough, hard-fought game from two honest teams.
“We certainly played our part in it.
“We have respect for Aberdeen and (their manager) Derek McInnes, and knew we needed to hit a level of performance that we did to get something out of it.”
Bit between his teeth
Mellon quite rightly made a special mention of striker Shankland, who didn’t score but still played very well.
As well as the one that hit the woodwork, he had three other decent attempts at the Dons’ goal.
Mellon said: “He had the bit between his teeth.
“Lawrence is going to keep producing those levels.
“He looked more involved, refreshed and determined.
“He is a cracking lad – very honest.
“He wears the weight of expectation on himself.
“He’s got to get rid of that but remember that he is very young at this (Premiership) level.”
Shankland certainly impressed his former club, with Aberdeen’s Ash Taylor saying: “He has improved a lot. He is a good player.
“He knows what he is. He is a back-to-goal player and he is really good at it.
“I’m pleased he is getting game time and he is flourishing now.
“When he was at Aberdeen as a kid I knew he would be a good player.
“His touch is good and he has the vision to link up play.
“He has done really well and I’m pleased for him. You have to keep a close eye on him.”