As the Aberdeen injury list continues to grow, Scott McKenna insists the Dons won’t buckle in the race for Europe.
More and more key players are on the sidelines, but the the centre-back says the Reds still have enough within the ranks to clinch a sixth successive Europa League qualification.
Sunday’s 2-0 defeat to Rangers at Ibrox means Derek McInnes’ side are now in a battle for third spot – which would guarantee European football for next term.
Home games against Celtic and Hearts, followed by a trip to Easter Road to face Hibs, are still ahead for Aberdeen as the Pittodrie squad becomes increasingly stretched.
Niall McGinn (ankle) and Tommie Hoban (knee) are out for the rest of the season, while Graeme Shinnie, Gary Mackay-Steven (both ankle) and Connor McLennan (hamstring after coming off after 15 minutes against Rangers) are in a race against time to feature again this term.
Shay Logan (ankle) has been out since early February, but is closing in on a return.
However, McKenna insists the injury problems can’t be used as an excuse by the Dons.
The 22-year-old Scotland international said: “It is disappointing to have players out – but it was almost the same team that was good enough to win at Kilmarnock.
“We had Shinnie out but Lewis Ferguson came back in (James Wilson also came into the side for Mikey Devlin). Although to lose Connor so early was a blow for us in the game.
“We are starting to get down to the bare bones of the squad – but we have been here before and coped with it and we’ll do the same again this time.
“We have a big enough squad and enough good young players to come in and fill the places of the players that are absent.
“We are still chasing that European spot of third and that task continues against Celtic on Saturday.
“Last season it went to the final game and we won against Celtic to finish second.
“This year will be the same – we just need to take care of the next three games and hopefully that will get us third spot.”
Although the Dons’ squad is down to the bare bones, they are still three points clear of fourth-placed Kilmarnock.
McKenna believes the experience gained at the end of last season, when Aberdeen won at Parkhead on the last day of the season, can stand them in good stead this term as they again look to secure Europe.
He added: “The experience of last season can help because in last season’s run-in we were very strong.
“We need to be much the same again this year. Last season we didn’t lose after the split.
“Unfortunately this year we have lost after the split so it means we need to win an extra game.
“We’ve beaten Hibs and Hearts at home this season and we’ve run Celtic close getting beat 4-3 at home.
“At Parkhead we’ve been narrowly beaten 1-0 and drawn 0-0, but we’ll look to change that in the next game. ”
McKenna was disappointed to lose to Rangers on Sunday. Although the Gers did control proceedings, the stopper was frustrated by the goals Aberdeen conceded.
Both were penalties from James Tavernier, but McKenna felt they were both soft awards by referee Don Robertson.
The first was when Nikola Katic hit the deck after a tangle of legs with Lewis Ferguson, and for the second the same player went down holding his face when jumping with Andy Considine at a corner, with the Dons defender receiving a second yellow card following the incident.
McKenna said: “It was obviously a very disappointing result for us.
“We went to Ibrox with the intention of getting three points and we’re leaving with nothing.
“They had a lot of possession as they usually do in games at Ibrox. But we have managed to deal with that in previous games.
“On Sunday, Joe Lewis pulled off a couple of unbelievable saves to keep us at 0-0 at half-time.
“Then to come out at the start of the second half and concede a goal so early was tough because it looked like a soft penalty. I thought Fergie was maybe pushed a bit and then Katic just throws himself to the ground.
“And with the second one I turned round and saw Andy had his hands up and Katic has his hands up.
“Then Katic throws himself to the ground again and wins the penalty.
“I felt it was another soft decision, but they didn’t go for us.”