Eyes front as Aberdeen avert their gaze away from Hampden

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Aberdeen midfielder Gavin Rae has refuted suggestions they have taken their eye off their league campaign ahead of their trip to Hampden.

The Dons followed a 13-match unbeaten run, which culminated in a William Hill Scottish Cup quarter-final win at Motherwell, with three successive defeats without scoring a goal.

Dundee United, the form team in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League, visit Pittodrie today in Aberdeen’s last game before their semi-final against Hibernian and Rae insists they are still determined to play for points, despite the importance of the cup clash.

He said: “It is hard to put your finger on why the results have been poor recently. It is disappointing after being so solid for a while. As well as not keeping clean sheets we have not been scoring enough. The performances have not been up to the standards that they should be. People might say the players have one eye on the semi-final but I don’t think that is the case.”

Russell Anderson and Rory Fallon are doubts with illness, with striker Fallon having more of a chance to play.

Meanwhile, United manager Peter Houston faces another rebuilding job this summer, but he is not downbeat about the prospect of having to mould a team with some fresh faces.

Houston expects to lose up to four first-team regulars at the end of the season – with Paul Dixon, Scott Robertson, Garry Kenneth and Dusan Pernis all out of contract – but he has faced this problem before, not least when Scottish Cup winners David Goodwillie, Craig Conway, Morgaro Gomis, David Robertson and Prince Buaben all moved on.

Houston, who was voted manager of the month for March, has still delivered a top-six finish and potentially a place in Europe.

Having signed Michael Gardyne from Ross County and Polish goalkeeper Radislow Cierniak, the transition has begun, and he takes pride in seeing players leave United for better things.

He said: “Players will move on and guys will go with my best wishes. I’m not going to fall out with people because of it. It’s what happens in football now. It’s a short career and people should be looking to do the best for themselves.”

“I look at Morgaro Gomis, Craig Conway and Prince Buaben all playing in England after leaving us last season and I’m proud that we helped them get there. They were great for Dundee United and worked really hard to get a move elsewhere. I was pleased for these boys and I will be the same for the ones who will leave this season.

“It’s rewarding to see these guys – and players like Johnny Russell, who has been here since he was 13 – develop and become the best they can.”

United are likely to have defender Keith Watson back in their squad for the trip to Pittodrie but he may have to wait on the bench as Robbie Neilson impressed against Dunfermline last weekend.