Gloves are off for Ibrox battle – Dons goalie Lewis out to prove Aberdeen are simply the best

Aberdeen Football Club goalkeeper Joe Lewis. Picture by Darrell Benns

Joe Lewis says the Dons are determined to prove they are better than Rangers by winning at Ibrox tonight.

Aberdeen are second in the Premiership, three points clear of the Gers and head for Govan tonight looking to extend the gap to six points.

This term the Reds have played Graeme Murty’s team twice and lost on both occasions.

Those matches came back-to-back on November 29 and December 3.

Lewis, 30, believes Derek McInnes’ team are still a better side than Rangers and want to prove that by winning tonight.

The men from the Granite City ended 26 years without a win at Ibrox last May with a 2-1 triumph and Lewis believes they should now be aiming to win regularly in Govan.

The goalkeeper said: “Over the course of a season you deserve to finish where you finish.

“We were the better team last season and we have been better over the course of the season so far, and we want to keep getting another three points – and keep going in the league.

“Having been involved in a win at Ibrox it was a brilliant result for the players, the fans and the club because it hadn’t happened in 26 years.

“It was a great achievement for our group and it’s something that I think gives you more hunger to do the same again.

“I think we are a squad and a team that should be winning there regularly.

“The 20-odd years before that was probably a bit of an embarrassing statistic for the club and we’re glad that’s out of the way now and we can hopefully improve on that.”

Earlier in the campaign Aberdeen were beaten 3-0 at Ibrox and then lost 2-1 at Pittodrie.

Lewis says that the pain of those losses is motivating the Dons to take all three points tonight.

The Englishmen added: “We had a good first half of the season, but they were two standout poor results.

“We need to make sure we put that right and hopefully the lads can use that as an incentive to really go there and put things right.

“The fact the games were so close together as well, but there was other off-the-field stuff going on as well which people were taking about.

“It highlighted it all really, and it was a disappointing week.

“But the good thing about Scotland is that you play each other so often.

“Your next chance to meet a team is not too far away, so this is the opportunity we’ve got to get three points back and hopefully the fans will enjoy it as well.”

Lewis also believes the Reds are stronger than they were when those clashes took place after warm-weather training in Dubai during the winter break.

He said: “We had a good run of results after those defeats.

“Last season as well we had a good series of results after the winter break, we went on a good run (winning 10 of their first 12 games after the shutdown).

“Hopefully, we can have the same again, we had a very similar week in Dubai training and working hard to get our fitness levels back up.

“It wouldn’t have fallen away too much because we were only off for a week and a half, and now we’ve got that freshness in our legs to kick on.”

Ibrox will be packed tonight for the visit of Aberdeen and the atmosphere is sure to be red-hot.

For Lewis and his team-mates, their aim is to keep the home support quiet because they know, if they do that, they can dominate the match.

“You can get carried away with the Aberdeen-Rangers thing,” the former Cardiff City goalie said.

“But I think the players have to treat it like any other game and then on the night the atmosphere and that sort of thing can raise the players’ games.

“Hopefully, the atmosphere can help our players get a result.

“It’s a great stadium and it can be a great atmosphere, but, at the same time, you can make it go the other way for you.

“If you get a good early start and it goes quiet, the fans might start to get on their backs a little bit.

“When you go to these stadiums with large crowds the aim is to keep them quiet and if we can do that we are doing a good job.”

On their last visit to Ibrox the Dons made the worst possible start by conceding a penalty inside seven minutes which James Tavernier scored and they were on the back foot.

Lewis is aiming for a far better start this time and believes Aberdeen playing on Saturday against St Mirren in the Scottish Cup may help them.

Rangers were not in Scottish Cup action with their trip to Highland League Fraserburgh postponed due to a frozen pitch.

Lewis said: “No we don’t want that (a similar start to the 3-0 defeat), we want to be on the front foot and trying to force mistakes from them.

“We’ve had a game to get whatever rustiness we had out of our system and to get back on track.

“Maybe that might work in our favour because they haven’t had that yet, and if that is the case we need to take full advantage of it.”

Tonight’s game presents the Dons with the chance to move six points clear of their rivals.

While Lewis wants to be ahead of rivals such as the Gers, his main focus is on the Reds and his own performance, rather than worrying where they are in relation to sides around them.

Aberdeen are three points better off than they were at this stage last season after the winter break and Lewis is targeting more points than the 76 they accumulated last campaign.

He said: “It would be nice to be six points clear and just keep as close to Celtic for as long as possible.

“We need to make sure we are improving as a club year-on-year.

“But you just need to make sure you concentrate on yourselves, you can’t worry too much about what Celtic, Rangers, Hibs, Hearts or anyone else.

“You just have to concentrate on you own performance as a player and our own club – and I feel like we are definitely heading in the right direction.”