Aberdeen’s McLean: This is the biggest challenge we’ve faced to secure second place in Premiership

Aberdeen's Kenny McLean at full-time on Saturday.

Midfielder Kenny McLean accepts Aberdeen now face their toughest battle for second spot.

Aberdeen were leapfrogged in second by Rangers on goal difference at the weekend following a damaging 2-0 loss to Hibs at Easter Road.

The Edinburgh side are now just five points behind Aberdeen.

Next up for the Reds is a home clash against the Premiership leaders and defending champions at Pittodrie on Sunday.

McLean accepts the Dons have to regain their form immediately.

He said: “I’d definitely say this is the biggest challenge we’ve had for second place.

“Across the board all the squads are getting stronger, so it’s up to us to meet the challenge.

“We are challenging for second and we need to remember how hard we have worked to get to this stage in the league.

“We can’t just throw that away.

“We need to channel those positives into the Celtic game.”

McLean, 26, also reckons the Reds can channel the negatives into the Celtic clash – as he doesn’t want to feel as low as he did at Easter Road again.

He said: “We have to come in this week and really use this (the loss to Hibs).

“You like to put results like that to bed but you also have to remember just how bad you felt.

“No one wants to feel like that as the dressing room was deflated.

“We need to use the way we felt and take it into the Celtic game.”

Aberdeen have lost their last eight games to Celtic but McLean reckons there is no better stage to recover from their capital loss.

He said: “We have bounced back from defeats before.

“We have a good bunch of lads who stick together and we are still in a strong position.

“We have no option but to bounce back.

“It is down to us.”

Aberdeen went into the clash with Hibs having racked up four straight victories, scoring 14 goals in the process.

A large 2,300-strong Red Army travelled to Edinburgh to cheer them on.

McLean admits they let the supporters down.

He said: “We travelled to Easter Road expecting to win because we were on a good run.

“The fans came to cheer us on and we let them down.

“Our supporters travelled down looking for a big result and we failed to deliver. That doesn’t happen very often but when it does it is hard to take.”

Hibs dominated the second half in Edinburgh and on-loan Newcastle United keeper Freddie Woodman was forced into a number of saves to keep the score down.

McLean said: “None of us really turned up and it is very uncharacteristic.

“We did not show enough right across the board.

“Freddie was the exception because he pulled off some good saves but that just shows how poor the performance was in the second half especially.”

Hibs faced Aberdeen on a high having defeated Rangers 2-1 at Ibrox in their previous game.

McLean, who signed for Norwich in January but has been loaned back to Aberdeen for the rest of the season, said: “We watched Hibs, so we knew what we were up against.

“However, we still allowed them to dictate the game.

“We were a yard off it all over the pitch and let Hibs enjoy the game far too much.

“We just never got going.”