Boss Derek McInnes today warned the stuttering Dons they will have to get their hands dirty to qualify for Europe.
Aberdeen crashed out of the last European qualification spot following a 2-1 loss to Hearts at Tynecastle.
The Reds blew a half-time lead and McInnes reckons some of his team were outmuscled by the Jambos
Kilmarnock leapfrogged Aberdeen into third in the Premiership, which brings a place in the Europa League qualifiers.
McInnes today admitted the Reds will now struggle to reach their points target for the season.
But with seven Premiership games remaining, McInnes insists Europe is still in their own hands – but they will have to scrap for it.
McInnes said: “For the first time this year it is going to be a struggle to meet the points (target) that we set ourselves.
“We set ourselves targets at the start of the season to at least get to cup finals and make sure we qualify for Europe as quickly as possible. It is still in our hands to do that, but we will certainly have to get our hands dirty and work extremely hard to get those victories that guarantee that.”
McInnes added: “To lose that game from a winning position is the most disappointing part of it.
“We have been to tougher venues against better teams and managed to see out a victory once we went in front.
“That is the disappointing thing. “
Aberdeen suffered a first defeat away from home since the 1-0 League Cup final loss to Celtic on December 2.
Asked if his team were out-muscled in the second half, he said: “In certain areas of the pitch, yes – not all throughout.
“I thought Ferguson and Shinnie did brilliant for the whole game.
“Ferguson showed real maturity and got the balance right between protecting his centre-backs and getting us playing.
“If you look at Hearts they have Shaughnessy, Souttar, Berra, Clare, Djoum, Haring and Ikpeazu – they are a huge side.
“To continually match that and deal with that physical presence is tough.
“And sometimes that chipping away, that physicality can cause teams problems.
“We dealt with it well first half, but in the second half we didn’t deal with certain situations as well as we should have.”
Meanwhile, Rangers are reportedly set to launch a summer move to land Greg Stewart, now on loan at Aberdeen.
Stewart’s contract with Birmingham City expires at the end of the season.
Dons boss McInnes is keen to sign Stewart on a permanent deal and it is understood he is set to offer a three-year contract to tempt him.
Aberdeen skipper Graeme Shinnie is also reported to be on the radar of Championship side Bristol City and Sheffield United.
McInnes recently insisted he would like some clarity on Shinnie’s contract situation.
The club captain is out of contract at the end of the season and has been offered a lucrative new deal by the Dons.
He has yet to make a decision on his future and Rangers have also been linked with a move for the Scotland international.
League One leaders Luton Town have also confirmed their interest in the 27-year-old.
It is understood if Shinnie does opt to leave Pittodrie his preference would be to move to England.
The turning point in Edinburgh was a penalty for Hearts awarded by referee John Beaton for a challenge by Andy Considine on Jake Mulraney.
McInnes conceded a spot-kick was probably the right call. What concerned him was that Mulraney was allowed free rein to run 60 yards unchallenged before Considine’s foul.
The manager said: “We went from a really prominent position to get the second goal as McLennan and Stewart look favourite to get the shot away in their six-yard box.
“We go from there to conceding a penalty just inside our box without making a tackle.”