Aberdeen boss hails young guns’ character after Scottish Cup win over Rangers

Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes celebrates
Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes celebrates

Defiant Dons boss Derek McInnes hailed his young guns for proving the doubters wrong and ousting Rangers to reach the Scottish Cup semi-final.

Goals in either half from Niall McGinn and Connor McLennan sealed a 2-0 Aberdeen victory.

It’s the third time the Reds have beaten the Gers in Glasgow this season.

The men from the Granite City won 1-0 at Ibrox in the Premiership in December and by the same score in October’s League Cup semi-final at Hampden.

After a 1-1 draw at Pittodrie last Sunday week many felt Aberdeen had missed their chance to set up a last-four clash with Celtic.

But with a starting 11 with an average age of just over 21 the Dons took care of business.

Aberdeen’s Connor McLennan, left, celebrates with teammate Dean Campbell after his goal

McInnes said: “In terms of the magnitude of the game we were kicking ourselves because we missed an opportunity to win the game at Pittodrie.

“We had the better chances and I’ve listened to all the experts and read all the experts over the last few days and not one tipped us.

“I took strength from having won at Glasgow before this season at Hampden and Ibrox and how good our away form is.

“It doesn’t really matter to me whether it’s home or away because we’ve struggled at times at home and our away form has been as good as anyone.

“For us it was about trying to take on a good team in a certain way because we don’t have the resources and millions to throw at the team.

“What we have got is bucket-loads of character and resilience and we had a great start with McGinn taking advantage of a mistake and it’s a lovely finish from Niall.

Niall McGinn scores to give Aberdeen an early lead.

“It gave us something to hang on to and puts pressure on Rangers. The crowd try to get them into it, but we dealt with it well.

“At half-time we sat them down and said ‘we’ve been in this position 10 days ago where we’ve been 1-0 up and comfortable in the game.’

“We wanted to start the second half right because we didn’t want to play last-minute football for 45 minutes.

“It was difficult with conditions, Rangers having a lot of the ball and players out on their feet by working hard.

“It was a great interchange with Stevie May and a great finish by Connor McLennan for the second goal.

“I’ve maybe had better teams and better players in my time at the club but I’ve never had the resilience and strength of character that these young boys are showing.

“On Saturday the average age of my team was 24 against Celtic and it was even younger for this game.

“It was great to see the young players handle the game like that.”

The Reds won without suspended striker Sam Cosgrove and fellow attackers Gary Mackay-Steven and Greg Stewart, out with knocks.

Skipper Graeme Shinnie will miss the semi-final with Celtic due to picking up two yellow cards in the competition.

Referee Kevin Clancy shows Aberdeen captain Graeme Shinnie a yellow card.

McInnes added: “We’re disappointed to be missing Graeme Shinnie for the semi-final.

“Last year we were without four players for the semi-final through suspension and injury.

“We dealt with missing big players against Rangers. Greg Stewart is struggling with a hip, Gary Mackay-Steven is out and so is Sam Cosgrove.

“That probably would’ve been my front three but McGinn and McLennan play up and score both goals and Stevie May lead the line well.

“It shows we’ve got strength and we can cope so hopefully we have enough when the semi-final comes around.”

Dean Campbell, 17, made his first start for the Dons and was exceptional. McInnes said: “Dean did well and he is a very mature player for a young boy.

“He is only 17 but will have learned a lot from tonight. He’s a technical player who likes to get his foot on the ball.

“I thought it was more about defending well and being smart and if he was going to take a booking he took it in the right area of the pitch before we took him off.

“All that is harnessing experience and makes them more battle-hardened.”