Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes hopes his Reds can “right a few wrongs” in their Scottish Cup semi-final against Motherwell after their Tynecastle horror show.
The Dons met Hearts in Edinburgh on Saturday looking to maintain their three-point lead over Rangers and head into the Premiership post-split fixtures in second place.
However, McInnes’ side lacked their usual competitive edge as the Jambos ran out 2-0 winners, meaning the Pittodrie men are now third on goal difference after the Gers’ 4-0 Ibrox win over Dundee.
The Reds gaffer said: “I’m very disappointed.
“We were lacklustre, played too safe and Hearts didn’t have to do a lot to get their goals.
“We should have been more dynamic in what we were trying to do and in a better gear. We were guilty of poor decision making, laboured and tepid. We were not positive enough and far too safe.
“Both goals were avoidable and Hearts didn’t have to do a lot to win the game. They were the better team hands down, but we beat ourselves. We did ourselves in by playing in the wrong areas and not being sharp enough in our work.”
Hearts, playing five at the back when not in possession, with the wing-backs part of an attacking swarm when they had the ball, were all over the Reds from the start at Tynecastle – the first time Aberdeen have been back to the stadium since its main stand was redeveloped.
The Dons were looking to improve on two 0-0 draws earlier this term, at Murrayfield and in the Granite City, against Craig Levein’s team, who started the day 19 points behind them with very little still to play for.
However, McInnes admitted Hearts, whose goals came from Steven Naismith and David Milinkovic, were the better team all afternoon.
He said: “We’ve hit the woodwork twice, but I’m not kidded – Hearts deserved their win.
“We’re disappointed. We came here 19 points clear of Hearts and with so much to play for, but we didn’t show that gap or that it mattered enough.
“We’ve been competitive, scored a lot of goals and came into this game hoping for more of the same, but we were not good enough in possession of the ball and have taken a belt on the nose and lost the game.”
Aberdeen now have an all-important chance to reach the Scottish Cup final on Saturday at Hampden against Motherwell.
The Dons manager only made one change to the side which beat Well in midweek, bringing in fit-again Niall McGinn.
He said: “I actually toyed with changing the team and gave Niall McGinn some game time ahead of Saturday, but I avoided making too many changes as I didn’t want to give the players any impression the cup semi-final was more important than this game. I was confident we would get a result, but it just shows you if you are not at it then you can take a sore one.
“It’s all in our own hands to finish second and I hope we can. I believe we are good enough, but we have to be more smart with our work than we were.”
McInnes will need to consider what changes he needs to make to a team which will already be missing skipper Graeme Shinnie, Kenny McLean and Shay Logan, after handing the league initiative back to Graeme Murty’s Ibrox men.
He’s certainly looking for a reaction in training this week and on Saturday.
The Dons still have the opportunity to win their first Scottish Cup since 1990 this season and heal the heartache of the 2-1 loss to Celtic in last year’s final.
However, first they need to get to the showpiece and McInnes is desperate for his players to take the opportunity, which he says is “why we signed up for this club”.
He said: “We’ve got a great opportunity to get into the final. We’ll go into this game and try to right a few wrongs. We should be bouncing back into work and focused on getting to a cup final.
“It’s a fantastic experience with Aberdeen and it is why we signed up for this club. We’ve reached three cup finals, won one and lost two, and we want to get back to another final.
“There are not too many who played their way into contention for the game at Tynecastle, but it’s not a pattern we’ve seen and I’m pretty sure whoever is picked next week will be pretty keen to show that was a one-off.”