Joe Lewis would swap clean sheets for Aberdeen cup win

Joe Lewis celebrates Aberdeen's quarter-final win over Hibs. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS
Joe Lewis celebrates Aberdeen's quarter-final win over Hibs. Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS
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If Aberdeen lift the Betfred Cup at Hampden Park tomorrow then Joe Lewis will have been a significant figure in that success regardless of the winning margin, which is why the English goalkeeper would happily concede five goals as long as his outfield colleagues score six.

It’s an understandable reaction from someone who has already played a major role in getting both himself and the club to a third final in three seasons against Celtic and is desperate to avoid being a three-time loser.

The Dons thrashed St Mirren in their opening round this season but it was stubborn defending and good goalkeeping that provided the inspiration for defeating Hibernian and Rangers just to get another crack at Brendan Rodgers’ side.

That sees Lewis go into the final without losing a goal in 300 minutes of play in the competition so far and, while the former England squad member would relish maintaining the record tomorrow, it’s not the main priority.

“It would be great to win the cup without losing a goal because goalkeepers pride themselves on clean sheets,” said Lewis. “But if we win 6-5, then I will still be happy as long as we lift the trophy.

“If we win 1-0 that would be great, 3-0 would be better, right enough, but you can have great games and still lose a goal. Clean sheets sometimes don’t mean great performances but it is something that people judge keepers on, rightly or wrongly.

“It would be nice a record to have, going through the competition without losing a goal and it is something that would be talked about for years to come. However the win comes, I will take it.”

Of course it is perfectly possible to keep a clean sheet and still end up on the losing side as Inverness Caledonian Thistle goalkeeper Dean Brill discovered when Aberdeen last lifted the trophy on penalty kicks after a 0-0 draw in 2014.

With that and this season’s quarter-final at Easter Road ending in identical circumstances, it’s no surprise that the Dons manager, Derek McInnes, has covered all bases in training this week. But even if it comes to a penalty shoot-out, Lewis is defending a 100 per cent record in senior football.

That’s not as impressive as it sounds, as Lewis revealed: “I haven’t been involved in too many and Easter Road is the only one I have faced in senior football. I had a few when I was younger, but I have a decent penalty record in my career, which is nice.

“We practised penalties this week but you have to be decisive as a goalkeeper. Much like taking the penalty you have to pick the way you are going and stick to it. You just hope your gut instinct is right.

“I saved one at Hibernian and we got through, so that gives myself, and the boys who scored them confidence. I don’t think a penalty shoot-out is a lottery because you need the bottle to stand up and take them.

“It is about who holds their nerve. If the keeper guesses the way you are going and saves it, then you can say you are unlucky.”

Celtic will have a former Aberdeen goalkeeper between the sticks as their manager is standing by his policy of playing Scott Bain in the Betfred Cup ties and, given the nature of the goalkeepers’ union, it’s no surprise that Lewis can empathise with the situation.

“I was at Cardiff when I was the cup keeper,” he said: “I would play all the cup games as I was the No 2. Every keeper is different and I am sure Scott will have been desperate to play in the final. He has done well for them whenever he has played and Celtic have two good keepers they can call upon.”

McInnes will have decided overnight who he will call on to start the game and will announce it to the players this morning but the Aberdeen manager is acutely aware of the pain those left out will be feeling.

McInnes suffered that fate himself as a player at Rangers as he took part in every round on the way to the 1996 League Cup final, only to find himself dropped for the 4-3 win over Hearts.

“Everybody wants to play their part and it can be tough leaving players out for a final,” admitted the Dons manager. “I try to put myself in the players’ shoes, especially when it comes to cup finals and big games.

“I remember how it felt when I had played in every round and been involved in every league game only to be left out of the squad for a final.

“I had scored in the quarter-final and scored in the semi-final of the League Cup but was left out of that final so I know how it felt.

“Even picking a bench if everybody is fit will be tough as you have to leave out one or two and also pick the team to play. Everyone wants to play in a final.”