Neil Lennon said his players had made a “great statement of intent”, after they took a share of the spoils at Pittodrie yesterday. It was a result that left both teams well in the battle for second place as the season reaches its denouement but one that he says could have been even better.
Having rattled in goals for fun in recent weeks, Jamie Maclaren’s missed penalty meant the Easter Road side drew a blank, but Lennon is content that they are still in the mix.
“That’s all you can ask from the players really, it’s seven points out of nine post-split. That’s a tremendous return. There’s another huge game on Wednesday [against capital rivals Hearts], but then Rangers and Aberdeen have to play each other midweek so you expect something to give there. Then Rangers come to us and Aberdeen go to Celtic, so it’s still all to play for. It’s a great statement of intent from the players – not just for the present but for next season – that they can compete at the highest level in this country.”
For Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes, pictured, there was a tinge of disappointment. Gunning for their fifth successive season of European qualification, he didn’t think his men had done enough to win it but believes they will still see the job.
“I thought the players deserve huge credits for their efforts. It’s very unusual that ourselves, Hibs and Rangers can all finish second but it’s in our hands. Hopefully with a win on Tuesday that secures European football which is the first box to try and tick. With the confidence we have, three clean sheets after the split, hopefully we can add that goal threat on Tuesday and try get the job done.
“When the split fixtures came out they were always going to be exciting. To guarantee second I thought we’d have to win four games and I don’t think we can do it without winning on Tuesday. It’s something we have to go and do if we have any ambitions of finishing second, which is exciting for us.”
While he is firmly focused on this season, he has already started adding to the squad ahead of the next, snapping up young Lewis Ferguson from Hamilton Accies on a pre-contract.
The midfielder will move to Pittodrie when his deal expires at the end of the season, despite rumoured interest from Crystal Palace.
The 18-year-old, the son of the former Rangers and Scotland midfielder Derek Ferguson, came through the ranks at Hamilton and has made 14 appearances for the club since making his debut in January, the latest being in the 2-0 win over Ross County.
McInnes said: “We can’t always get ready-made players but we can identify good youngsters – Lewis is one I’ve liked for a while and when it became known to us a few weeks ago that he’d failed to negotiate a deal to re-sign at Hamilton we took advantage of the fact he was moving on.
“We’re satisfied with the amount of training compensation [we have to pay] but he’s 18, six foot, strong and is only going to get better. He plays with an edge to his game, has two good feet and is technically good for one so young.
“He’s only played ten games or so at first-team level but we feel he has potential to be a future Aberdeen player.”