ABERDEEN manager Derek McInnes believes the best is yet to come from his players and is confident they will not falter in the second half of the campaign.
A 2-0 win over Motherwell at Fir Park yesterday moved Aberdeen four points clear of Celtic at the top of the Premiership, having played two games more than the defending champions who are in action against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park tonight.
Although McInnes was keen to remain circumspect about the potential of his team’s challenge at the top of the table, he is confident they will not be knocked off course by any heightened expectations placed on them.
After two goals by Adam Rooney secured their seventh consecutive league victory and clean sheet, McInnes was asked if he felt Aberdeen would stutter at any time. “I don’t,” he replied. “We just have to make sure we impose ourselves. I think we have good players and a good squad. I think if we impose ourselves on a game, we are difficult to play against.
“I don’t know [if Celtic will be worried]. We are just enjoying it. There is such a long way to go. The Christmas and New Year period does test your professionalism and your focus. I think we have come through that brilliantly.
“If we start to look too far ahead of ourselves, that can question your focus and concentration and before you know it, you are losing a game and you are getting a slap in the face because you have not approached it right. I think our approach has been spot on. At the minute, we are giving ourselves a chance to win games. Because performances have been good, because there is confidence, because there is a bit of momentum, the job of doing that becomes that bit easier rather than more difficult.
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“We are just pleased because of where we were at the start of December. We were still a good bit behind, sitting about fourth or fifth. We knew we were playing teams in and around us. To have come through with seven wins out of seven and no goals conceded shows what can be done. While I am pleased with what we’ve got, the players are honest enough to recognise that they can dig deep for more in terms of performance. If we can reach that, we’ll be delighted. We’re just looking for that improvement this season. Where that improvement takes us remains to be seen.
“First and foremost, the positive for us is that it was a dominant performance against Motherwell. While the second goal took a long time to come, as it did in the St Johnstone game on New Year’s Day, I don’t think we gave Motherwell too much encouragement in terms of working our goalkeeper.
“Where I do think we gave them a bit of encouragement was in letting them up the pitch at times. It came through us not taking our chances.
“While it’s only 1-0, especially against a team who have just had a heavy defeat, you need that second goal to make the game a bit easier for you.
“We are always striving for improvement and that improvement needs to come in being a bit more clinical in the final third. But it was a very dominant performance from us.
“The players deserve credit for their energy. They had had a tough schedule, they have travelled again today for their third game in a week, To produce another strong performance and get another clean sheet to make it seven wins in a row deserves great credit.
“Yes, we could nit-pick a little in terms of how we can do better. But what should be recognised first and foremost is the effort of the players and I’m delighted with that.
“I think everyone is intelligent enough to know it’s not just about goalkeepers and back fours when you get a run of clean sheets like this. It’s a brilliant reflection on the whole team because it shows how honest and hard-working they are to stop the opposition playing.
“We know we can be a good team when we get the ball and we can create opportunities. But when you have that clean sheet, it does give you confidence going into the next game. I’m not surprised by the level of performance. I was asked after the St Johnstone game how I felt the players handled the pressure of going top of the league but I genuinely hadn’t thought about it.”
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