Joe Shaughnessy’s last game in an Aberdeen shirt was as awkward an occasion as you can get as a professional footballer.
The Irishman had just signed a pre-contract agreement with St Johnstone for the following season but was given an unexpected last hurrah for the Dons. The only problem was, he could have helped deny his new club a place in Europe.
And, with Saints battling it out with Dundee United on the last day of that 2014/15 campaign, had Shaughnessy’s long-range shot late in the game gone in, he may well have done just that.
With the Perth men seeking to take a big step towards a return to the Europa League, the McDiarmid Park defender’s mind will be a lot clearer this time round.
“It was a weird one for me,” he recalled.
“I’d come down a couple of weeks before and signed for St Johnstone.
“I hadn’t played for Aberdeen at all that season and then I was starting against the team I was going to.
“The likes of Ando (Steven Anderson) and Muzz (Murray Davidson) were telling me that I’d better think about what I was doing. It was a strange situation to be in – not one you ever think you’re going to face.
“I don’t really know what the thinking of Derek McInnes was in playing me. I just got on with it. I don’t really have it in me to not give 100%.
“Kano (Chris Kane) came on and scored a good late goal and I was kind of like, ‘oh well, I guess I’m in Europe next season!’”
Shaughnessy’s Europa campaign with Saints a couple of months later was all too brief. The round-trip to Armenia was a long one but Saints exited the competition after just one tie.
Making more of a mark will be the aim if Saints can finish fourth this season.
“It was really disappointing to go out so quickly,” he said. “We felt we should have got through that round at the very least.
“It would be nice to get the opportunity to put that right if we get in this year.
“That’s been my only taste of European football with St Johnstone.
“There were a few new players – me, Brad McKay and John Sutton. We were all settling in.
“This time, I’d like to think we would give a better account of ourselves if we get there.”
A four-point lead over fifth-placed Hearts certainly puts Saints in a strong position, though Ian Cathro’s men will feel there is an opportunity to cut it back given the Perth side’s first two post-split fixtures.
Shaughnessy said: “At the start of the season if somebody had said we’ll be four points clear in fourth with five games to go we’d have bitten your hand off for that.
“It’s in our hands to make sure we finish the job off.
“Maybe it’s a good thing we’ve got two hard away games up first (Aberdeen then Celtic). We’ll be confident we can get something from them.
“Then it will be nice to finish with three home games in a week.
“We’d back ourselves to get enough points to keep us in fourth.”
Saints lost to the Reds a fortnight ago and Shaughnessy is happy that they have been given a chance to put that right so quickly.
“I think it’s a good thing,” he said.
“We’ve got the chance to put things right after losing to them a couple of weeks ago.
“We were a bit more like ourselves in the second half and could even have deserved to get something out of the game but the first half wasn’t acceptable at all really.
“None of us were at it. We got over-run.
“The wounds are still fresh. It was disappointing to start a game like that after we’d been on a good run and picked up some results.”
Shaughnessy added: “We’ve had two draws against Aberdeen this season but haven’t beaten them yet.
“The games have been a lot closer this season than they were last.
“Last season they were all high-scoring matches. Both sides have maybe sorted out their defending a bit.
“Maybe we’ve cancelled each other out. It seems to have been that way.”
Manager Tommy Wright, who has Steven Anderson and Graham Cummins available but is without Steven MacLean due to suspension, said: “Over a season they are always going to be ahead of us with the quality and depth they have in their squad. But head to head we can be more than a match for them.
“We can go up there and get a result. We have proved that in the past and I remember we won there in the last game of the season to get us fourth and into Europe when Inverness won the cup.”