Derek McInnes today praised the Dons for strengthening their bid to finish Premiership runners-up after a week of soul-searching.
McInnes reckons his squad took a “kicking” from critics in the aftermath of the 3-0 Scottish Cup semi-final exit to Motherwell.
However there was no Hampden hangover as the Reds defeated Scotland’s in-form team Kilmarnock 2-0 away in the first post-split game.
McInnes reckons that victory delivered a huge confidence boost which will strengthen their bid to finish second in the league for a fourth straight season.
However, the Reds boss was frustrated at the yellow card for Kenny McLean that will rule the midfielder out of the clash against Hibs at Pittodrie on Saturday, May 5.
It was McLean’s sixth booking and pushed him over the points threshold.
McInnes said: “ I am delighted for my players because the boys took a bit of a kicking during the week. It is a different competition, so it does not dilute the disappointment from last week.
“We were hugely disappointed.
“However, the togetherness that they showed was brilliant and it was great for them to get the reward of the three points.
“When you lose a game of that magnitude (semi-final) there is a lot of soul searching and work that needs to be done both physically and mentally to get the players ready.
“What was clear in the game was the attitude and motivation which really pleased me.
“The win at Kilmarnock will do everybody the world of good and will give the players that extra confidence and spring in their step.
“It has all the makings for a top finish and we just want to make sure we are right at the heart of it.”
The pressure had ramped up on Aberdeen prior to kick-off as Hibs had defeated champions elect Celtic 2-1 in the early kick-off.
That leap-frogged Hibs above the Dons who then dropped down into fourth place – albeit only for a couple of hours.
“It is in our own hands to finish second, as it is Rangers, as it is Hibs,” said McInnes.
“So we don’t look too far ahead.
“I did think Hibs might get something (against Celtic) as they are a very good side.
“I believe they were good value for the win.
“There will be a few twists and turns in the top six yet.”
A sizeable Aberdeen support were at Rugby Park to see the Reds end Killie’s six-game league winning streak.
McInnes said: “It was good for the supporters to see a winning team again.
“Hopefully it sets us up for another good game against Hearts at Pittodrie on Friday.
“It is the first three points after the split, but we are going to need a lot more of them if we are going to get second spot.”
Aberdeen will have influential midfielder McLean suspended for the home clash against Hibs on May 5.
McLean was booked along with Kilmarnock’s Stephen O’Donnell in the aftermath of a flash point where a number of players confronted one another.
It stemmed from an incident where O’Donnell appeared to catch Ryan Christie.
It was McLean’s sixth booking which pushed him over the points threshold.
McInnes said: “I am pretty angry about that because I don’t think it was worthy of a yellow card.
“We are without an important player for a very important game.
“We will deal with Hearts first and then see how we go for HIbs.”
Aberdeen are the only team to have beaten Kilmarnock since October, and have overcome Steve Clarke’s side four times since then.
As well as knocking Killie out of the Scottish Cup at the quarter-final stage the Reds have also inflicted three league defeats.
McInnes said: “Although it was a 2-0 scoreline, I don’t think there was much of a margin between the two teams.
“Kilmarnock were every bit as competitive as us and every bit as good as us. It was a tight game but the goals came at the right time and it gave us something to hold on to.
“When they kept continuing to put front player on after front player, and while Kris Boyd is still on the pitch, you have always to keep your concentration levels.
“Kilmarnock played the ball forward often enough and we had to try to deal with that.
“It was a tough venue to go to and play against a team who are very much in form, so we will take it.”