Scott McKenna says Aberdeen’s Scottish Cup semi-final defeat to Motherwell “will never be put right”.
But he insists the Dons need to finish the season strongly to try to make things better.
The Reds were beaten 3-0 by the Steelmen at Hampden on Saturday, ending their hopes of lifting the Scottish Cup for the first time since 1990.
With five league games remaining, Derek McInnes’ team are in a battle with Rangers , Hibs and in-form Kilmarnock to finish second in the Premiership.
McKenna doesn’t think claiming that runners-up spot will make up for their semi-final defeat.
But the centre-back insists they need to finish the season in positive fashion to start to pay back the Red Army, who were 12,000-strong at the weekend.
The 21-year-old said: “We need to show the real Aberdeen because we know we have performances in us.
“We’ve got the last five games of the season now.
“Saturday will never be put right, but we have these games to at least try to make the end of the season a bit better.
“We let the fans down, the club down, the manager and all the staff down with our performance on Saturday.
“The only thing we can do to try to put it right is to finish in second place.”
Reflecting on a dismal afternoon in Glasgow, McKenna branded their defending “criminal”.
All three Motherwell goals came from Aberdeen errors.
While the first should have been disallowed for handball by Richard Tait, Dominic Ball stopped to appeal and allowed Tait to get clear and set up Curtis Main.
For the second, McKenna – who captained the Dons on the day – sliced his clearance and Kari Arnason went to ground under pressure from Ryan Bowman, which allowed the striker to finish at the second attempt.
The third goal came when Arnason played his clearance off Main and the striker ran through to finish.
McKenna added: “Too many of us didn’t turn up on the big occasion and Motherwell out-fought and out-battled us.
“It looked like they wanted it more.
“It was criminal defending from us. We should have got ourselves in better positions and dealt with the danger at the start.
“For the second goal I should go with my right foot and clear it.
“But I tried to stretch with my left foot and put it up in the air and it caused a panic which led to them getting the second goal.
“At 2-0 if we had got a goal back it might have caused them to wobble a bit and caused some uncertainty. But when they get the third one it was more or less over.
“It is disappointing when we had beaten them (two weeks ago 2-0 in the league at Fir Park).
“We knew what we had to do to nullify their threat and we didn’t do it well enough, and ultimately they capitalised on their chances.”
For Dons fans this defeat was another big-game disappointment. In six league matches against Celtic and Rangers, Aberdeen have failed to take any points.
While the League Cup campaign was ended at the quarter-final stage by Motherwell at Fir Park.
Asked about the Dons’ record in big games, McKenna said: “Maybe there is something, but I think we need to try to get this out of our system.
“We all need to try to bring our best performances into these remaining five games.
“We have to get over Saturday because we know how much the teams we face will be up for it.
“But it is up to us to show how much we want it.”
Aberdeen were without captain Graeme Shinnie, Kenny McLean and Shay Logan for the semi-final due to suspension. However, McKenna insists they can’t use that as an excuse.
He said: “They were losses, but we should have been able to cope without them with the quality we have in the squad. But I don’t think we coped well enough without them on Saturday.”
This weekend Aberdeen face in-form Kilmarnock at Rugby Park. The Ayrshire side are fifth in the Premiership and haven’t given up on a European place.
The Dons are the only side to have beaten Killie since Steve Clarke took over in October.
McKenna insists this has been a soul-searching week for the Reds
“Well, we’re hurting and we will be all this week,” the Scotland cap said.
“It’s going to be a hard one for us to get out of the system.
“But we still have second place to play for and we’ve got to make sure we’re ready for Kilmarnock on Saturday and the last five games.
“We need to win the rest of our games this season to give us a chance of finishing second.
“That won’t be easy given our record against the teams round about us. But that is a challenge that we will need to overcome.
“Our performances will certainly need to be better.”