Aberdeen's Derek McInnes welcomes imminent Joe Lewis return

Aberdeen goalkeeper Joe Lewis
Joe Lewis is back in training with Aberdeen

Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes has described Joe Lewis' imminent return as a major boost, despite understudy Freddie Woodman continuing to impress.

On-loan Newcastle United goalkeeper Woodman made a crucial save in Saturday's 1-0 win over Dundee.

But fellow Englishman Lewis is back training after surgery on a leg injury.

"That's brilliant news for us," McInnes told BBC Scotland. "Having Joe back on the training pitch has been a real bonus and ahead of schedule slightly."

Lewis, 30, has been first choice at Pittodrie since leaving Cardiff City in June 2016.

And he could be vying for a return to the side when they are back in Scottish Premiership action after the international break at home to St Johnstone on 31 March.

"Joe's trained the last couple of days and potentially might play an under-20s game next week," McInnes said.

Woodman, who had a loan spell in the Scottish top-flight last season with Kilmarnock and who turned 21 this month, was signed as cover from Newcastle in January.

He has played eight games in a row, with the Dons only losing to leaders Celtic and in-form Hibernian during that spell.

An Under-20 World Cup winner, Woodman also saved three shootout penalties in Tuesday's Scottish Cup replay win at Kilmarnock.

"Freddie's done very well for us," McInnes said. "For the young boy to come in and show the confidence he has shown, he had a big part to play in the result the other night.

"And, at 0-0, whether the boy A-Jay Leitch-Smith is offside or not, he keeps good concentration.

"He is very good at keeping himself big and getting that timing right and he made a very important save for us.

"If that goes in, it makes our task that much more difficult, we then go up and score and, after that, we were very confident and assured."

The win over Dundee moves Aberdeen to within two points of second-placed Rangers with a game in hand.

Aberdeen goalkeeper Freddie Woodman
Newcastle's Freddie Woodman is in his second spell on loan to a Premiership club

"It has been a good week for us," McInnes suggested. "We look forward to the semi-final, but we want to try to go into it in good form.

"We've got three very challenging games in a week after we come back.

"We've got seven away on international duty, which is as many as we've had in my time here, and hopefully they come back in good nick and ready to attack the back end of the season."

McInnes admits that his side have had their critics after they slipped behind Rangers in the Premiership.

"There were still be question marks, but it was a good solid win today and we've had loads of wins like that in my time here at this time of year - just getting the job done and keeping a clean sheet," he added.

"Once that league split comes and that semi-final comes round, it will be very intense but also very enjoyable hopefully."

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