Aberdeen relishing European return - Niall McGinn

ABERDEEN forward Niall McGinn says the Dons are desperate to get on their travels again after this season’s European adventure.

Niall McGinn says he relishes big games. Picture: John Devlin

The Pittodrie side enjoyed trips to Latvian outfit Daugava Riga and Dutch side FC Groningen before crashing out of the Europa League after a 5-2 aggregate defeat by Spanish giants Real Sociedad.

But that brief sojourn overseas was enough to whet McGinn’s appetite and he says the lure of another campaign on the continent is firing Aberdeen up for the Scottish Premiership run-in.

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The Reds – who host Partick today – sit second in the table, five points behind Celtic but eight in front of third-placed Inverness.

Niall McGinn says he relishes big games. Picture: John Devlin

“We got that experience and it definitely makes us hungrier,” said Northern Ireland international McGinn.

“We had those trips away to Groningen and Real Sociedad – those are the type of games you want to be involved in.

“It’s always nice to go away to these nice places. We are professional footballers and at the end of the day we want to play in these big games – there is no bigger than these European games.”

Dons boss Derek McInnes was named Scotland’s manager of the year last season by both the PFA and Scottish Football Writers’ Association after ending Aberdeen’s 19-year wait for a major cup success.

The trophy cabinet will lie empty this season but McGinn insists his boss should still be among the contenders for the individual prizes.

He said: “The manager has been brilliant since he came into the club and the progression we have made in terms of the league this year has been unbelievable. The gap at the top has closed down massively. There is no reason why he should not be up for the award – in fact he definitely should be.”

McInnes hopes to welcome Jonny Hayes back from injury today after the Irish winger missed a month of action with a calf strain.

Meanwhile, Scott Paterson believes Partick will go to Aberdeen “with a wee spring in their step” this afternoon following back-to-back wins.

The Jags alleviated relegation fears to an extent before the international break with victories over St Johnstone and Inverness. Two successive top-flight wins for the first time since 1996 moved the Firhill club into ninth place in the Scottish Premiership, 13 points ahead of bottom side St Mirren ahead of their clash with Celtic last night and nine ahead of Motherwell in the relegation play-off spot.

Assistant manager Paterson, a former Aberdeen youth coach, is confident that the Maryhill men can take another stride to safety by securing victory against the second-placed Dons.

He said: “Hopefully we can go up there and put in a performance that we are capable of and if we do that there is no reason why we can’t get three points.

“We know it is going to be really tough but the boys have a bit of confidence, a wee spring in their step, so I’m sure we can go up there and cause Aberdeen problems.

“I think we are capable of doing it. What we have to do is make it tight for the first 15-20 minutes because Aberdeen have a lot of quality in their squad, not just the starting eleven.

“But hopefully we can go up there and come away with, if not all three points, then at least a point.

“It is inconsistency that has cost us points, and quite a few points at that. It is something that myself and Alan (Archibald, manager) have been very frustrated about. But when we play we can beat anyone in this league. I think we have shown that in the past.”

Thistle take on Celtic next Wednesday night before facing Motherwell in their final pre-split fixture, by which time survival prospects should be clearer.

Keeper Scott Fox is out of contract at the end of the season and accepts the Glasgow club need to guarantee safety before any new deals are handed out.

He said: “It is about getting safe first. It is hard for clubs to offer something when they don’t know what position they are going to be in. Hopefully we get safe as soon as possible.”

Kallum Higginbotham returns from suspension for Thistle and manager Alan Archibald has no new injury concerns for the trip to Pittodrie.