Tommy Wright believes Perth defender Jason Kerr should be included in the top bracket of defensive talents at the disposal of the national coach.
So the St Johnstone manager welcomed the presence of Alex McLeish, himself a defender of distinction in his day, at McDiarmid Park to assess Kerr’s quality at close quarters.
While Aberdeen’s influential captain Graeme Shinnie did his own call-up prospects no harm with an all-action performance topped off by goals in either half, Kerr barely put a foot wrong.
The intelligent 22-year-old produced a series of well-timed interventions and stood up impressively to the threat posed by prolific Dons target man Sam Cosgrove and his partner Greg Stewart.
Skipper Joe Shaughnessy also showed the form which has enticed pre-contract interest from the Granite City.
But hopes of reclaiming that coveted sixth place at the expense of Wednesday’s opponents Hibs foundered with lapses in the middle of the park, which were seized upon by Shinnie.
The Dons leader paved the way to equalling a club record seven successive away wins, leaving Wright’s men without a win in a similar number of matches.
Murray Davidson, making his 200th Premiership appearance and the last Perth player to get game time for Scotland, has watched Kerr mature at close quarters.
“Jason had an extremely good game and he’s been excellent all season,” he said.
“We come to expect it from him now. Since Christmas, he has grown and is starting to lead. He’s got everything he needs to be a top player and, put it this way, if he is in the next Scotland squad I would not be surprised.”
On the match itself, Davidson admitted Saints played a role in their own downfall.
“There wasn’t a lot in it and that’s the disappointing thing when you lose.
“We’ve helped them with their two goals with two mistakes.
“I thought we started the game really well, had a couple of very good chances and against any team in this league, the first goal is crucial.
“Shinnie did well and it was a great finish, but cheap from us. We hit the post at 1-0 and feel as though we played a part in handing them the victory.
“We need all of us to stand up as we have a huge run of games coming up which is going to define our season.”
The Dons’ opener came against the run of play. Only a superbly-timed block from Andrew Considine prevented Matty Kennedy cashing in on a fifth minute opportunity and Liam Craig was unable to force home a shot on the turn from Davidson’s header into the six-yard box.
Kennedy then carved his way into the Dons penalty area and warmed the hands of keeper Joe Lewis with a stinging snapshot minutes before Shinnie’s classy strike at the other end.
The Dons skipper deceived Sean Goss and planted a 16-yard shot low into the far corner beyond the reach of keeper Cammy Bell from 16 yards.
Saints were clearly stung but regained some momentum before the break.
Lone striker Chris Kane figured prominently, claiming in vain for a push in the penalty area seeking out David Wotherspoon’s teasing delivery.
The centre was released by a well-weighted Goss pass in the 32nd minute and while he left Considine stranded on the turf, back-tracking Shinnie produced a crucial intervention. Kane was cautioned, rather harshly, for clipping the midfielder.
Keeper Bell fended off a stinging Gary Mackay-Steven volley but Lewis had to tip over a Davidson header from a Richard Foster cross before the interval.
A rare misplaced Kerr pass was pounced on by Shinnie and while he picked out Connor McLennan, the attacker shot high over the bar six minutes into the second period.
In the 57th minute Saints were denied by the woodwork, when Kennedy zipped past Dominic Ball and his low strike clipped defender Mikey Devlin only to cannon back off the post.
With 15 minutes remaining Perth substitute Danny Swanson lost possession, encouraging Shinnie to make ground and drill a low 25-yarder past a helpless keeper.
Wright insists his players will pick themselves up for the crucial clash looming with Hibs.
“I’d be more worried if the performance was poor. They have to respond though.
“Maybe they should go out and pick me up on Wednesday night rather than me having to pick them up,” he said.
Dons boss Derek McInnes hasn’t given up hope of retaining talisman Shinnie after pitching a big money deal.
He said: “Graeme has a lot to consider and what is clear is his pride at being Aberdeen captain and he has a connection with the fans.
“He has a lot to consider and hopefully he will continue to be an Aberdeen player.”