ABERDEEN manager Derek McInnes has warned his players they will need to repeat Saturday’s stirring performance against Celtic when they take on Hamilton Accies tomorrow night.
Already two points clear at the top of the Scottish Premiership, the Dons have the opportunity to stretch their advantage to five points when Hamilton travel to Pittodrie. Aberdeen opted to postpone the Hamilton match earlier in the season when they felt the Europa League fixtures were piling up. It is a game in hand that McInnes is determined to win.
“That is an opportunity,” said McInnes, whose team set a club record of six successive league wins at the start of the season when they claimed a dramatic 2-1 victory over Celtic. “Saturday was an opportunity to get to the top of the table and beat Celtic and Tuesday is an opportunity to keep that run going and go seven games, hopefully, and that is what we intend to do.”
Hamilton were thumped by St Johnstone at the weekend, while Aberdeen, clearly, are in top form. McInnes, though, is taking nothing for granted. “But it will take a similar level of determination and performance from us to get the job done,” added August’s Premiership manager of the month.
“We are not going to be more determined against Celtic than we will be, hopefully, against Hamilton. People who follow us see the determination in us.
“When you play [and win] against a team of Celtic’s quality – they are a good team who can hurt you with moments of quality – it is good for confidence and you see how the supporters reacted at the end. It was important the supporters saw their team hell-bent on making sure the game went our way.
“To do it in the manner which we did – probably a lot of people didn’t think we were capable of that. Thankfully the staff here and players always felt it was a result we could get and a performance of which we were capable.”
In an action-packed match, defender Paul Quinn scored an 86th-minute winner for Aberdeen after Adam Rooney’s penalty had levelled Leigh Griffiths’ first-half spot-kick and Jonny Hayes had seen red for a challenge on Celtic defender Mikael Lustig.
McInnes continued: “We said to the players at half-time that we were the better team, I thought we had the better opportunities, we looked hungrier in the tackle and we looked half a yard ahead of them today but it was important to transmit that into goals.
“We said that the scripts would already have been getting written, ‘good old Aberdeen having a go but Celtic still manage to win’ but thankfully the 11 players in there didn’t think that and got the job done.
“I said before the match, win lose or draw it wouldn’t derail what we are trying to do. I still think we have got a team that can compete and we just want to compete for as long as we can in each competition we are in.
“As I’ve said before it’s all about improvement. If you are looking for improvement, in six games we have scored more goals than last year and conceded less and we have now got far more points so there is improvement. Nobody gives out anything at this stage of the season. We have still got to try and mirror what we have done over a longer period.”
Match-winner Quinn echoed his manager’s sentiments about the importance of tomorrow evening’s fixture with Hamilton. “We had to show no weakness against Celtic especially as the game was at home,” said the former Motherwell and Ross County defender. “We have done that and now the game on Tuesday is at home so we have to do the same again.
“Just because we beat Celtic does not make it any more special. It is another three points. The game has gone, it is history and now the most important game is Hamilton on Tuesday. That is the way we need to look at it and see where it takes us. We have to be so focused for the game on Tuesday.”
Not many would have backed Quinn to be the man to grab the winning goal but he took advantage of some indecision by Craig Gordon to latch on to a deep Niall McGinn cross and poke the ball into the net from a few yards out. “We felt throughout the game we were getting joy at set-pieces,” he added. “For my goal the ball has travelled a long way and fortunately for me it has landed in a perfect position. Lucky for me it went in.
“I don’t think you will see too many goals from myself this season but it is nice to make a contribution to the goal tally. I was just concentrating on making good contact and it has gone in.
“In the end I felt we probably deserved it. The feeling round about the club is every game we go into we can win. We want to win. That is the mood and that is the direction we are going in. We leave talk of doing more than that to others. We are just looking to bridge the gap that was there last season. That is improvement. That is what every team and every player in the country looks to do. We will see where that takes us but there is a very long season ahead of us.”