Aberdeen aim to avoid Rijeka fright night

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DAVID Goodwillie insists the scare Aberdeen gave Real Sociedad last season is all the motivation they need not to let Rijeka back into their Europa League qualifier at Pittodrie tonight.

The Dons go into the second round, second leg tie with a three-goal lead after last week’s mature and accomplished performance in Croatia.

David Goodwillie hopes to get more starts this season as Aberdeen eye a run in Europe. Picture: SNS Group

David Goodwillie hopes to get more starts this season as Aberdeen eye a run in Europe. Picture: SNS Group

That victory was all the more impressive as Rijeka were unbeaten in their previous 12 home matches in continental competition against some top class opposition.

In contrast, they have won just four times in their last 20 matches on the road and those came in Wales, the Faroe Islands, Moldova and Hungary.

If that all adds to the impression that Aberdeen should coast through to a third-round trip to Kazakhstan or Armenia next Thursday then Goodwillie has other ideas.

The former Blackburn Rovers striker remembers this time last year when their La Liga opponents were supposed to cruise through after a 2-0 first leg win in San Sebastian.

We need to take the experience from that Sociedad game that it is never dead and buried

David Goodwillie

Instead, Aberdeen gave them the fright of their lives by edging into a 2-1 lead early in the second half of the return only for Real Sociedad to relieve the pressure with two goals in the last four minutes.

Goodwillie excelled in that game against the Spanish side, just as he did last week in Croatia, and is determined to emerge with the right result this time.

“We need to take the experience from that Sociedad game that it is never dead and buried as we thought we could get through and certainly gave ourselves a chance,” he said.

“We gave them a real scare when we went 2-1 up at Pittodrie but unfortunately they eventually had the quality to shut us out in the end.

“That’s why I don’t think this tie is over and I don’t think any of my team-mates think that way either.

“Rijeka might get frustrated if they don’t score early on but make no mistake, they have got the quality to do that.

“We just need to have the quality to stop it and hopefully we can to make sure we get through to the next round.

“What we need to do is make sure we get the result needed to progress but if I was in their boat I would feel there’s nothing to lose.

“They are a good team. The result from the first leg might not show that but they are and they will get the respect they deserve.

“It’s only half way through the tie and if we can go out there and do the next part of the job we can look forward to a run in the competition.”

Goodwillie’s main priority for the season ahead will be to get more of a run in the starting line-up after spending most of the second half of the previous campaign on the bench.

Not that the striker had grounds for complaint when you contrast his six goals for the Dons with Adam Rooney’s 28 in a season that saw him end up as the Premiership’s top scorer.

Despite that Goodwillie was preferred to the Irishman from the start last week given his superior ability to hold up play and bring others into the action. That was best illustrated with Aberdeen’s third goal in the Stadion Kantrida when he unselfishly set up Kenny McLean for the midfielder’s first for the club.

“It all happened so quickly that I’m just happy I made the right decision and Kenny put it away,” he added.

“I think if it was on my right foot I probably would have taken it on myself but I didn’t trust the old left foot.

“I enjoy the role though as it’s the chance to work hard for the team and help us get a result.

“As long as I’m playing I’m happy but you need to be selfless in the position to help the team get up the pitch. It’s hard in European football to do that against quality opposition so I was happy to get the chance.

“It was a good first six months and a bad second six months for me last season.

“That was obviously frustrating but the aim was just to work even harder to get back into the manager’s plans.

“He changed the system a little bit and Adam was banging in the goals which was great as the team were winning.

“You obviously want to be playing in the side but if you can’t then it’s good to be part of a successful squad as well. You can’t argue with the selection when the team is winning 3-0 every week.”

Mark Reynolds is Derek McInnes’ only injury absentee as experienced midfielder Barry Robson has recovered from the ankle injury that kept him out of the first leg.

By contrast, Rijeka travelled without injured pair Marko Leskovic and Dario Knezevic which leaves them with just two recognised central defenders.

In fact they made five changes to the team beaten by Aberdeen for Sunday’s league match at home to Slaven Belupo but could still only manage a 3-3 draw.