Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes said his side “showed how important” getting into Europe is to them after they put their home league hoodoo to bed by beating Motherwell 3-1.
The first half saw the Dons take an early lead via a Max Lowe cross which found the net, but frustratingly they went in level despite dominating. Jake Hastie equalised for Well.
However, after the break, two goals from Niall McGinn – the second of which was a spectacular curled strike seven minutes into added time after visiting keeper Mark Gillespie was stretchered off – secured the three points at Pittodrie for the first time this year.
A delighted McInnes, who wants his team to continue to build towards the post-split and next weekend’s Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic at Hampden, said: “Getting the second goal was important and I thought we looked the most likely to get it.
“Joe (Lewis) didn’t have a lot to do, apart from Hastie’s goal.
“It was brilliant pass from (Richard) Tait, but we should see that off defensively.
“It was a good run and shot.
“Other than that Joe (Lewis) has not had a lot to do.
“We felt the second goal was in us and we said to the boys keep working against the ball, play against your man and if we get the right press at the right time …
“I thought we passed up a lot of opportunities to get the second goal, but it was great to see Greg (Stewart) and Niall combining to get the second.”
The Reds have pegged back Kilmarnock in the Premiership standings.
Killie are now only third on goal difference after drawing with Hibs, while Hearts’ loss to Rangers means they’ve also put daylight between themselves and the Tynecastle outfit.
McInnes described the Reds’ late third as the “icing on the cake” on a man of the match display from McGinn, saying: “Stephen (Robinson, Well manager) makes changes to try and force something, but the icing on the cake was McGinn’s finish at the end.
“It summed up his performance. Niall’s in good goalscoring form with his country and us.
“But his second goal was top drawer.
“His performance from open play and set-play delivery was very strong.
“Really pleasing Greg’s had an impact off the bench and really pleasing with the honesty and endeavour of my team.
“It was clear from the team how important it is to get the club into Europe and hopefully we can build some momentum now going into Saturday and get three points.
“That’s the intention, then we’ll look forward to the semi-final.”
McInnes admitted there was an element of luck in Aberdeen’s early opener, but thinks it’s something his team were due after a run which saw them last win in the league at Pittodrie against Hearts on December 22.
In the drought have been dropped points against Hamilton and St Mirren, with an undefeated away run of nine matches – which came to an end with a 2-0 loss at Tynecastle on Saturday – adding to the mystery of the home performances.
He said: “It was so important to win for loads of reason.
“We were up against a good side. I’ve got a real high regard for what Steve’s done with the team.
“He’s changed from last season’s team. He started off with a diamond and now he’s changed to that system.
“They’ve had some good results. They’re a real honest team, but they’ve got good speed.
“I thought the honesty of my team was really good to go compete with them.
“We started well and got a fortuitous goal with Max.
“We’ve not had a lot of luck of late and it was a great start for us.”