Aberdeen youngster Connor McLennan says he couldn’t believe it after he sealed a win for his boyhood heroes over Rangers at Ibrox.
With 61 minutes played of the Scottish Cup quarter-final replay at Ibrox and the Dons leading 1-0, winger McLennan sprinted on to a perfect ball inside from team-mate Stevie May and held his nerve to fire past keeper Allan McGregor into the far corner.
The surreal moment – the latest in a breakthrough campaign for the Peterhead native – was made more special by his family being there to celebrate it.
McLennan said: “It was brilliant – I was speechless.
“I’ve got my mum and dad, who come to every game, in the crowd, and my brother.
“It was just brilliant to get that goal and get a cushion to see out the rest of the game.
“I celebrated with Stevie after it went in.
“I appreciate what he does, he works tirelessly and provided me with that goal – I can’t thank him enough.”
The strike was McLennan’s third of the campaign. His goal, as well as Niall McGinn’s early, gifted opener in the 2-0 win, have set up a second Hampden meeting of the season with Celtic.
McLennan came on as a substitute in the 1-0 Betfred Cup final loss and hopes he can take revenge on the Hoops by reaching the showpiece against either Hearts or Inverness Caley.
In the meantime, the win over Rangers in one to savour.
McLennan only knows victory in Govan, with two wins from two this season, and is part of an increasingly youthful and uninhibited crop of Reds.
— William Hill Scottish Cup (@ScottishCup) March 13, 2019
Derek McInnes’ side’s average age was around 21 on Tuesday.
McLennan said: “It was some experience.
“It was obviously my second time being there. My first was in December.
“We beat them 1-0 then and it was good to get another win on Tuesday. That’s twice I’ve been there and won.
“Sometimes when you’re young you play with no fear.
“The gaffer mentioned how many young boys there are in the squad and it’s good to see that from an Aberdeen side.
“Max (Lowe) is young, Mikey (Devlin) and Scott (McKenna).
“But we get the help from the older boys – (Graeme) Shinnie and Andy (Considine) – day in, day out in training and it helps massively when you come to places like this.”
In addition to those mentioned by McLennan, the Aberdeen starting line-up also featured 17-year-old Dean Campbell and 19-year-old Lewis Ferguson.
Sam Cosgrove, at 22, is the Dons’ top scorer this term, but was suspended for the cup replay.
McLennan thinks the youngsters have only hinted at their potential.
“We’ve held our own and the gaffer will hope we keep progressing and can only get better,” he said.
Aberdeen had to play without the ball for long spells at Ibrox, with McInnes’ gameplan to hit the home side ruthlessly on the break. The Reds had two clear cut chances – and took them both. McLennan said they’d been “clinical”.
Quick and powerful going forward, the attacker also had to spend long periods helping defend.
He enjoys pitching in for the good of the team, saying: “It’s a tough place to go against a really good side.
“We’ve played them enough times and we knew what type of game it would be.
“When you’ve got the back four that were playing, you’re always confident you can come away with a clean sheet.
“But us attacking players need to do our bit and we did that. It’s maybe pushing it to say I enjoy it (defending) – but I know I’ve got to do it, and helping the team does give you a little boost.”
McLennan knows a semi-final at Hampden against Celtic will require another brilliant Aberdeen performance, but thinks the rest of the Dons’ campaign could be positively affected by a third win of the season over Rangers in Glasgow.
He said: “When you go to Ibrox and win it can only give you a lift.
“We’ve now got a few league games where we need to rack up points and get as far up the table as we can.”