Aberdeen defender Mark Reynolds admitted the Pittodrie side “plumbed the depths” in their desperate defeat in Luxembourg, but they are desperate to redeem themselves by getting to the Europa League Group Stages for the first time in nine years.
The Premiership runners-up were perilously close to crashing out at the first hurdle after an embarrassing 1-0 defeat in Luxembourg to minnows Fola Esch last week.
They had to survive a second-half onslaught as their part-time opponents came agonisingly close to netting a second goal that would have sent them through on the away goals rule.
Aberdeen had more than 500 fans in Luxembourg and they booed their own side off and stayed to applaud the home team instead.
And Reynolds admitted the display was a long way from acceptable for a club like Aberdeen and vowed to make it up to the supporters. He said: “We haven’t plumbed those depths before and, hopefully, we won’t ever again.
“You are always going to get those type of games which creep in somewhere. There is no warning that it’s going to come.
“We’ve done well in training, we’ve done well in the pre-season games and the first leg, where we came right into a game in the second half. Then that display in Luxembourg comes right out of the blue.
“It’s not something we want to get used to or get comfortable with, but it is something that we can learn from. I don’t think we reacted well to the game going against us. But it was a one-off. It was a horrible journey back and I don’t think anyone can wait to get out on to the pitch again and put it right.”
Reynolds insists the high expectations demanded by the Dons fans are not a burden to the team.
He pointed out: “At Aberdeen, there is always pressure. You are always expected to perform and we have had a rich history of success.
“There are supporters going to Pittodrie now who have been to see their team win European Finals and win big trophies at home. They’ve known success their entire lives. We want to get back to that.
“Obviously, with the financial climate of football these days, we are never going to get back to winning a European trophy. But we do want to go as far as we can and the group stages would be massive for us.
“There is a lot of pressure to go and do that, but we have got players in our squad who thrive on pressure. They feed off it.
“You come to Aberdeen knowing you have to win week in and week out and you have to be mounting a challenge for silverware. This team has slowly grown into those expectations.”
Dons boss Derek McInnes has stated reaching the Europa League group stages would be akin to getting to a cup final for Aberdeen.
The Dons still have three more qualifying rounds to negotiate, starting with the first leg of a tie against Latvia’s FK Ventspils at Pittodrie on Thursday, if they are to reach the group stage for the first time since the competition was the UEFA Cup. But Reynolds is convinced they can do it.
And he added: “Once you get there, as you have seen in the Euros, who knows what can happen with the way the groups pan out.
“There were teams in the Euros who reached the quarter-finals without winning a game in 90 minutes.
“It’s a massive ask and a massive achievement, but we have performed in Europe in the past and it’s just about stringing some of those performances together at the right time and getting over the finishing line.”
Ventspils, managed by former Norwich City player and Skonto Riga boss Paul Ashworth, cruised through 4-0 on aggregate against Faroes team Víkingur and sit in third place in their league, where they play Rigas FS today.
Ashworth is convinced they can give the Dons another fright.
He said: “At this stage of the competition for us, all opponents are strong, no matter what country they come from.
“I think there will be two good games.
“Aberdeen are a club with a famous name who are powerful and familiar because they always play in European football.
“And of course for me, as a British coach, it will be particularly interesting to play against a Scottish team.
“We’ve been told Aberdeen could get 15,000 for their game and that will be great for my players to perform in an atmosphere like that.
“Who are the favourites? It doesn’t matter, what is important is who wins the two legs.
“I watched Aberdeen win the first leg against Fola and although I didn’t expect them to lose 1-0 in Luxembourg, everyone is allowed a bad game.
“But nothing is impossible for my team and we go in full of confidence.”