Micky Mellon used Aberdeen as a barometer of Dundee United’s improvement since their return to the Scottish Premiership following their 1-0 win over the managerless Dons.
A goalless draw between the two sides at Tannadice in October was followed by another blank drawn when they faced each other again at Pittodrie on January 2.
However, on their return to Tayside on Saturday, Adrian Sporle’s second-half strike gave United a narrow 1-0 win to leave them in eighth place, one point behind St Johnstone, who clinched a top-half finish, and St Mirren, who missed out on goal difference.
Mellon told DUTV: “The first game here at Tannadice, Aberdeen showed there was a big gap and there was a lot of work to be done.
“Although we defended brilliantly, there was more that we had to do.
“We went to Pittodrie and I feel we should have won there, in my opinion we should have got something more than a valuable draw.
“And on Saturday, we pushed on again with a well-deserved victory and showed all the qualities you are going to need if we are going to be an ever-improving football club. It was a hard fought victory.”
Pittodrie youth coach Paul Sheerin was in temporary charge of the visitors following the recent departure of Derek McInnes and assistant Tony Docherty.
However, the Dons extended a dismal record to one win and one goal in 10 matches and, with five post-split fixtures remaining, fell seven points behind third-placed Hibernian, who drew 1-1 at Livingston.
Defender Andy Considine remains optimistic and he told REDTV: “There is still a lot to play for.
“Losing was a massive one – with Hibs drawing we could have got a little bit of ground on them.
“But there is still five games to play plus obviously the Scottish Cup, so as I say there is still a lot to play for and anything can happen in football.
“Things are looking up, the boys have been bright and sharp in training, big smiling faces and it showed on Saturday.
“No one hid, they were brave in possession but couldn’t find that final bit of the jigsaw, getting the ball in the back of the net.”