Definitely a penalty, says Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes

Derek McInnes believes his Aberdeen side will need at least a draw against Celtic on Sunday to secure second place in the Premiership.

Aberdeen's Sam Cosgrove jousts with Rangers' David Bates during a hard fought draw at Pittodrie. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS

The Dons ended a run of three successive defeats to Rangers when they drew 1-1 at Pittodrie last night. It leaves McInnes’ men a point clear of the third-placed Ibrox side, with Hibs a further three points behind ahead of tonight’s Edinburgh derby.

It takes the race for runners-up spot to the final weekend of the season when Aberdeen travel to Celtic Park, having already lost three times to the champions in the campaign.

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“We are going to have to do something similar on Sunday to what we did tonight to have a fighting chance of second place,” said McInnes. “We haven’t managed to get anything from Celtic either so far this season.”

Aberdeen took the lead with Kenny McLean’s disputed 14th minute penalty but Rangers hit back through Ross McCrorie in the second half.

“I was delighted with the performance of my team in the first half,” McInnes said. “I thought we were fantastic. We knocked Rangers out of their stride, played with thought and energy. We deservedly got a goal and it was definitely a penalty, it doesn’t matter what anyone else says.

“Half-time came at a good time for Rangers. We couldn’t have been any better in that first half. We were fine at the start of the second half but the energy went out of our game and it became stretched. The better players were wearing Rangers jerseys in the last 20 minutes. We ran out of steam and legs in the second half. Rangers deserved their point.”

Rangers caretaker manager Jimmy Nicholl felt referee Steven McLean blundered with the spot-kick decision, for a foul on scorer McLean by Alfredo Morelos, but was more upset by the reaction of his players to going behind.

“We were on top of the game in the first 15 minutes with fast flowing football,” said Nicholl. “Then the decision came for the penalty kick. Right away you could see it – it’s never a penalty kick.

“I can see it right away but the boys on the pitch don’t know it. They have to get on with it but they didn’t. They lost their way because they were frustrated with the referee’s decision. We had to win a game of football. So the message was to forget what happened and start doing what they had done in the first 15 minutes. They really did that in the second half and put in a great 45 minutes.

“You can’t defend the two Celtic defeats recently. But that’s gone and all they are trying to do now is restore a wee bit of pride – win on Sunday, get into Europe and hopefully finish second.”