Derek McInnes targets three Aberdeen wins in a week
Derek McInnes is confident that by around 9:30pm next Tuesday night his Aberdeen team will have proved the level of criticism aimed at them lately will have been shown to have been excessive.
By then the Pittodrie club will have completed a run of three home games, and victory in each will have returned them to second place regardless of the result when Rangers play Hearts on Saturday.
The Dons face St Johnstone that day and Motherwell a week tonight in a sequence that starts with the visit of Kilmarnock whom they have defeated on all 11 meetings since McInnes took charge in March 2013.
Extending that to the round dozen is not something their manager will take for granted but he is understandably confident of a positive result as Celtic are the only away team to leave with maximum points this season.
That was one of three recent losses in the Premiership, the others coming at Hamilton and Ibrox last weekend, while the manner of defeat by Celtic in the recent Betfred Cup final surprised many.
None more so than McInnes himself, but he refuses to overreact to recent events as Aberdeen remain in a strong position when it comes to maintaining a genuine challenge for second place in the league.
“I’m quite relaxed about it,” was his reflection on the criticism levelled at the side. “Sometimes we can get too much praise when things go well and sometimes the criticism can be too strong when things don’t go well. We’ve lost two games in Glasgow in the space of a week when we’ve gone there with high expectations but at least we can say we are going there with those expectations now and that’s why the defeats feel so bad.
“We’ve lost at a team who are unbeaten at home for 45 games and we’ve lost a cup final to Celtic. There’s no huge panic to losing those two games but it is disappointing as we expect more of ourselves and want to do better.
“We’ve only lost once at home this season and that was to Celtic and we haven’t played at home since October.
“We’ve got three home games in a row now and it is important we get back to winning ways. If we win those games, which we are more than capable of doing, we’re back in second spot behind a team who appear to be way ahead of everyone else at the moment.
McInnes is forced to make at least one change from the weekend as captain Ryan Jack is suspended following his red card for two bookable offences at Ibrox, while Adam Rooney is expected to return to the starting line-up after being benched against Rangers.
Graeme Shinnie, meanwhile, is relishing the chance to renew his acquaintance with tKilmarnock.
The versatile Shinnie has arguably been the club’s most consistent performer since signing from Inverness Caley Thistle in the summer last year, leaving many, including his club manager, wondering why he hasn’t made it into the struggling Scotland squad recently, though the player himself admits he needs to add a goal threat to his game.
His only goal for the Dons so far was against Kilmarnock in August 2015, and four of the seven league goals scored in his career have been against them.
“I’m definitely due a goal and, it’s funny, but when I was at Inverness I used to love scoring against Kilmarnock,” revealed Shinnie.
“My first goal for Aberdeen was against Kilmarnock as well so the pressure is on me to deliver tonight.
“It’s not great to think that I haven’t scored since then but I do want to add goals especially with the manager playing me a lot in midfield.
“I’ve been pleased with the way I’ve been playing but that is maybe the one thing that has been lacking so far for me at Aberdeen.”
Meanwhile, Lee Clark will take no notice of Aberdeen’s recent Old Firm woes as he prepares his Kilmarnock side for the trip to Pittodrie.
The Killie boss, believes the Granite City club’s recent status as second only to champions Celtic means they have different targets and goals than most others in the league, in which Killie sit sixth after their 2-0 home win over Dundee on Saturday.
He said: “We are confident after the weekend but not complacent and we know it is going to be an unbelievably tough game.
“Aberdeen are a good side, they showed that when they beat us [4-0] earlier in the season. They have some terrific attacking players who can open you up at will.
“I know they have lost their last two games but we are not taking any interest in that. They have set such high standards, they have been the closest challengers to Celtic.
“They will be looking to bounce back which is even more motivation for them and I don’t think it would have affected their confidence.
“But we know if we go there with a good game plan, we stick to it, we are strong, physical and play for each other we give ourselves a chance to get a result.”