Derek McInnes has urged the Dons to play without fear in today’s Scottish Cup tie – despite the mounting pressure.
Aberdeen were today set to face Kilmarnock at home in the fifth round.
The Reds left to boos
from angry supporters at Pittodrie in midweek when losing 1-0 to St Johnstone.
It was the fourth successive match the Dons have failed to score and McInnes believes some are paralysed by fear of making mistakes.
McInnes, pictured, warned Kilmarnock will be looking to exploit any nervousness from the players or frustrations from supporters.
With a quarter-final place up for grabs he has called for supporters, bolstered by the 2,100-strong Red Shed, to stay behind the team.
And he has urged his players to respond to their backing by ending their drastic dip in form.
He said: “There is a responsibility for the players to play without fear. It is so important that we don’t let Kilmarnock come up here and the narrative become that they mugged us off and won a game because they took advantage of us being a bit nervous.
“I just want my players to be more instinctive and play their natural game without other thinking it.
“Without thinking ‘what if’, that if I give the ball away here the crowd might get on my back.
“This isn’t me blaming the crowd, I have to say that. The supporters want what we want. They are desperate for a winning performance and desperate to see us scoring goals.
“We just have to make sure that as professionals we realise that but play our game and not get too hung up on it. That we set about the task of getting us into the next round of the cup.”
Aberdeen supporters have grown increasingly frustrated at not just results and lack of goals but also the lack of entertainment within performances, the 0-0 draw at Ibrox aside.
The Reds have lost their last two games at Pittodrie and McInnes knows Kilmarnock boss Alex Dyer will urge his side to feed off any anxiety from the Dons and the supporters.
He said: “I have been the St Johnstone manager who came up and banged on about trying to play on the crowd’s frustrations and the players’ nervousness at home to win a game at Pittodrie and get away with three points.
“I have been in that movie. We need to get back to enjoying playing at home again and the players being confident and instinctive.
“I can tell you the other guy’s (Dyer) team talk today about how they want to play. It is important we negate that and we stick together.”
The Red Shed initiative will return today to the Merkland Road following the success of the experiment to use introduce unallocated seating for the 1-0 defeat of Dumbarton in the previous round last month.
At a time when the team is struggling and the fans are growing restless and frustrated, McInnes has called for unity.
He said: “I urge the supporters to stay with the team. Everyone has their part to play. I ask that this is a collective effort and the supporters make sure we take full advantage of home advantage and stick with the team.
“I am moaning more myself at the minute than I have ever done. However it is important I am there for my players and it is important the supporters are there for their team.
“The Red Shed initiative will be perfect for us as it was spot on against Dumbarton and helped us.
“It will be even more relevant today. But not just the Red Shed, everybody in the ground should see the importance of negating what Kilmarnock want to do.
“Let’s make the Red Shed not the only ones banging the drums and singing.
“Let’s make the atmosphere really conducive to helping my team perform and make it a good afternoon.
“Hopefully the supporters can do that – and I am sure they will.”
Aberdeen have not won the Scottish Cup since 1990 and McInnes is under no illusions as to the importance of ending that long drought for the club.
Likewise with the current dip in form, and lack of goals, he is realistic about how defining today’s fixture is for the season.
He said: “We are one of the few clubs who come out and say that we want to go out and win the Scottish Cup.
“And we feel that we can win it. We have lost a couple of finals and want to put ourselves in the position to win that.
”I know how special and important it is to players. I won the Scottish Cup as a player and want to win it as a manager. All I am thinking about is having a brilliant cup run and hopefully going all the way and also finishing third in the league.
“We have won a cup once and been to numerous finals and semi-finals. The Scottish Cup is very important to us.”
For McInnes all focus must be on today’s cup tie and the Reds cannot go into the clash with baggage from recent games.
He said: “We have to get over the disappointment and frustration of the other night against St Johnstone.
“Against St Johnstone we had more than double the possession than them. But we are not being effective with that possession.
“We are not laying enough punches at the minute. We need to still be a team that is confident in possession and try to be as confident as we can but we have to be more effective with our work.
“That for me is where the frustration comes.”