Aberdeen defender Mikey Devlin reckons the flat performance against Rangers was just a blip –but is still confident of a “special” season.
The Dons needed a goal from teenage substitute Bruce Anderson three minutes into injury time to salvage a 1-1 draw against 10-man Rangers in the league opener.
Centre-back Devlin admits the Dons were flat but reckons that is no indication of what is ahead in the upcoming campaign.
Instead, the 24-year-old insists boss Derek McInnes’s rebuilding, which is ongoing with new signings expected this week, and the emergence of teen talents like Anderson and Turf Moor goal hero Lewis Ferguson can deliver a memorable campaign.
He said: “There are signs there, certainly as a squad, that for the fans this can be another special season. All the players are highly motivated to go out and prove that.
“Although we are out of the Europa League, the two games against Burnley showed we are well placed.
“Although we have lost some vital players, the manager has brought in some real quality.
“Players are prepared to step up now and take responsibility for themselves.
“Aberdeen is a special club and a massive club. We always want to push forward and be the best we can be.”
In the aftermath of the draw Rangers boss Steven Gerrard slated Aberdeen. The rookie Ibrox boss claimed his side were “a class above Aberdeen” and that they “didn’t have an idea”.
Showing the same composure and calmness he produces within the Reds’ back-line, Devlin refused to be drawn on the Liverpool legend’s comments.
He said: “The Rangers manager is entitled to an opinion and I am not going to comment on that.
“He can say what he wants about the game. We will analyse the game and where we think we are.”
Aberdeen pushed Premier League Burnley to extra-time before losing 3-1, less than 72 hours before facing Rangers. Devlin insists that is no excuse for the flat performance.
He said: “We spoke before the game and the gaffer made sure that would not be an excuse.
“We are professional athletes and trained hard over pre-season to make sure that if it went into extra-time on Thursday, we were still ready to play at the weekend.
“Rangers played on Thursday night as well so it is not really an excuse, to be honest.
“We looked a bit lethargic and lacklustre in the opening 45 minutes. We got marginally better, although our use of the ball wasn’t quite good enough in the middle of the park; and from the back-line, we moved it too slowly and were a bit predictable with our passes.
“We should have got the lift when Rangers went down to 10 men and taken the impetus to drive on and try to get the goal.
“It didn’t happen for us and it was Rangers that got the goal.
“But we dug deep and showed a lot of desire and fight to get that goal through Bruce, which was brilliant for him. Although a draw is not what we wanted before the game, we will take the point and move on to the next one.”
Devlin has forged a strong centre-back partnership with Scotland cap Scott McKenna who suffered a hamstring tear against Rangers and is expected to be out for a number of weeks.
Devlin said: “It is always a blow, whether short term or long term, when Scott has to come off. He is a huge influence to the team and a great player for us.
“However, we had Andy (Considine) to step in from left back and then we could move Shinnie to left back.
“We showed our versatility and were able to adapt to that.”