Derek McInnes’ side looked for much of the season like they were ready to topple Celtic from Scottish football’s summit. But a number of disappointing results allowed Ronny Deila’s stuttering side to regain the initiative at the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership.
Celtic – who hold a nine-point advantage and massive goal difference with four games to play – can all but seal their fifth straight crown if they beat Hearts at Tynecastle in today’s early kick-off.
But Hayes rejected suggestions the Pittodrie men will come to view this season as an opportunity missed after being forced to settle for second place.
Asked if Aberdeen had shot themselves in the foot, Hayes hit back, saying: “Not at all. We’ve said from the start we can’t affect other teams’ results. We’ve just got to go out and do the best that we can do. Where we are at the minute is obviously the best that we can do. There were performances and games that we would like to have improved upon but there’s no point [in saying] what could have been or what should have been. We can’t affect that now so all we can do is look forward to the next game.”
Third-placed Hearts can still catch Aberdeen – who are eight points ahead – but Hayes hopes his side can cement their position with victory at home to Motherwell today.
The visitors have been in excellent form and midfielder Stephen Pearson is determined to make the most of a pressure-free run-in by finishing the season on a high.
This time last year Motherwell were embroiled in an ultimately unsuccessful battle to avoid a relegation play-off, before thrashing Rangers 6-1 over two legs. Pearson admits he did not enjoy the stressful period but this season Motherwell’s only concern is holding on to fourth spot.
The 33-year-old said: “We don’t want the season just to peter out, we want to finish as high up the table as we can, and that gives us some momentum going into next season.
“When you compare the situation to last season, it was a horrible situation to be in. Albeit we managed to stay up, I didn’t enjoy that at all.
“The pressure was huge, for everybody. Livelihoods were at stake and you don’t want to let anyone down, let alone the supporters and everyone connected with the club. Now we are in the top half, the freedom is there to go and express ourselves and I think you are seeing that. The players are playing with a lot of confidence and have high energy.”