PERCEIVED wisdom may dictate that Scottish sides who only manage a goalless draw at home in the first leg of a European tie to a Dutch team will inevitably get eliminated, but Aberdeen’s Jonny Hayes believes Derek McInnes’s men are ready to prove that theory wrong.
The Dons were held by Groningen at Pittodrie and face the daunting task of trying to squeeze through to the next round at their Euroborg stadium on Thursday. However, many of Aberdeen’s best displays last season came away from home and, with the not inconsiderable carrot of a glamour next round tie against La Liga stalwarts Real Sociedad as an incentive, Hayes insists the first-leg 0-0 score was not the worst outcome.
He said: “I actually think it is a good result because we haven’t conceded. If we go over there and score a goal, then they have to score two. The main objective for us was to keep a clean sheet and we’re happy we did that. It would have been nice for us to score a goal or two, but with a clean sheet going over there and with the threat we have going forward, it’s good.
“If we can nick a goal there, it’s going to be very hard for Groningen to get back into the game. Obviously, they are a good side who are very comfortable on the ball with good technical players, but I thought we handled them really well. Maybe it took 15 minutes for us to find our stride, but after that I thought we played well. It wasn’t a game of many chances. I know at home the onus is on us to attack, but with the pace we have it actually suits us to play on the counter.
“You have to aim for the group stages – there’s no point in thinking we just want to be also-rans going out in the qualifying round.”
Hayes is confident the likes of Adam Rooney, Niall McGinn and Peter Pawlett have more than enough in their locker to trouble the Dutch this week. And with the addition of Scotland international David Goodwillie, the former Caley Thistle man is convinced the Dons have an even stronger squad this season.
He said: “The away goal is now going to be a major factor in how the tie is played out after a goalless draw in the first leg. It wasn’t our game plan to draw 0-0, but I think it was important not to concede. We’ll go to Holland and, with the likes of Adam Rooney and Niall McGinn, we’ve got to be fully confident that we’ll grab a goal and that would put us in the right direction.
“David’s been looking really sharp in training and he’s impressed all of us. Most of us have played against him at some time and we know what an important player he can be. So we definitely have more attacking threat now. Peter Pawlett’s pace is going to cause problems and I’ve yet to see a defender who can live with it. And that’s Peter not fully fit – he did a lot of work with our physio John Sharp to try and get ready for this game. He didn’t play in Riga and he’ll be a bit sharper now for next week’s game too.
“We looked quite fit last season, but this season we are stronger again. With all the additions to the squad, the manager has confidence in us and the fans are turning up in their numbers as well and that gives us a lift because it means we are doing something right.”
Hayes has alternated between left back and left winger this season and he is happy to play either role. He stated: “I think left-back definitely suits me when we play at home because a lot of teams sit in quite deep and that allows me to get a lot of the ball. I have a good understanding with Niall and it allows me to drift in.
“We are lucky in that we have got the type of players that the manager wants and we can switch it about. There are a number of reasons why players come in and out of the team – we played Andrew Considine at left-back in Latvia and I don’t know what the manager will do in Holland. I don’t mind because I’m quite enjoying playing left-back. I played there for quite a few games last season and the manager has asked me to do it and I’m comfortable there.”