ABERDEEN manager Derek McInnes believes tomorrow’s second-spot shoot-out with Motherwell at Pittodrie is a fitting climax to a season acknowledged as one of the best since the club’s glory days in the 1980s.
The Dons won their first piece of silverware in 19 years with a League Cup final penalty shoot-out victory over Inverness at Celtic Park in March. The Granite City men also handed Celtic their only league defeat of the campaign so far as well as knocking the champions out of the Scottish Cup.
Sitting one point ahead of the Fir Park men ahead of the last Premiership fixture of the season, McInnes said: “We are at that stage, it is down to the one game. We have had a lot of big games and high profile games to deal with his season and more often than not we have dealt with them and come through.
“It is great to finish with another exciting game, it has to be said. I fully expected it to come down to this game.
“I expected Motherwell to win (against Inverness) and I think both teams deserve the opportunity to get second spot and, as I said, it is very exciting stuff.”
McInnes expects a big crowd to turn up for the league finale but is hoping to send the Red Army into the summer on a high. He added: “I would anticipate the Aberdeen fans to turn up in good numbers and Motherwell fans will come up here no doubt expecting to see their team finish second so it has all the makings of a tasty game.
“We know what’s at stake for both teams, winner gets second spot. It will be the last time the fans will get to see our team for a while and I am sure they will want to pay tribute to them for the efforts of this season. It is nice to finish with a home fixture and hopefully a home win.”
Although a draw will suit Aberdeen, McInnes has no intentions of setting his side out for with that purpose in mind.
“We will try to win the game,” he said. “It is dangerous to try to do anything else.
“If it is a stalemate with half an hour to go I would expect Motherwell to go for it, but I’m not convinced they will do that from the off.
“We have had a good campaign and we want to finish it off by finishing in second spot.
“The consistency has been so pleasing, that has allowed us to have 68 points and the chance to break the 70-point mark which is fantastic.”
Meanwhile, Motherwell manager Stuart McCall hopes he is not moaning about another controversial decision after his side’s second-place decider against Aberdeen.
Motherwell won at Pittodrie on Boxing Day but have not beaten the Dons in three matches at Fir Park and McCall has felt on the end of an injustice each time.
McCall was unhappy with the award of a penalty for a pull by Stephen McManus in Aberdeen’s 3-1 victory in August and John Sutton had an opening goal ruled out during the visitors’ League Cup triumph.
Aberdeen also snatched an injury-time equaliser in January when the ball hit off Russell Anderson’s arm as he threw himself at Jack Leitch’s goal-line clearance.
McCall, whose side need to win to claim the runners-up spot, said: “I have probably two wishes. Obviously I want to win the game but I just hope at the end of it I’m not having to whinge about a decision that’s cost us.
“The first game here at home, Aberdeen deserved to win and played really well, (but) two penalties, one was a stone-waller and the other, I still don’t know why it was given. The League Cup still rankles with me, Sutton is a yard onside and scores and it doesn’t count. And obviously the last-minute goal, when Russell forearm-smashed it and took Leitch out by his midriff. But again, they deserved that point.
“Things haven’t gone for us at the right times but I just don’t want to be like a broken record come Sunday afternoon. If they beat us, then fair enough, and we’ll just give it a good crack.”
McCall’s team already have four points more than they finished with last season, when they had second place wrapped up with several games to spare. And he admits that keeping in touch with the Dons has exceeded his expectations.
“If we look back to our first home game, funnily enough against Aberdeen, and a 3-1 defeat that day, if somebody said we were going to go into the last game against them still on their coat tails, I’d have been absolutely delighted,” he said.
“We’ve probably been like a little terrier who you try to shake off, and we have just hung in there. I can’t give the lads any more credit. After every big setback and being written off, the lads have shown what desire and character they have got. Seven of our first-team squad have had operations, it’s been one of those seasons, and that’s why for me the character and togetherness of the players has shone brighter than any other season.”