Aberdeen’s Jonny Hayes says confidence is low at the club as the Dons try to overcome a damaging goal drought.
The Dons, who have won just two of their last 10 games and failed to score in their last four, are now five points behind third-placed Hibs in the Premiership table, although they have a game in hand.
They went down 2-0 to the Hibees in the capital on Saturday, only managing one shot on target in the game.
There had been reports the defeat would cost boss Derek McInnes his job, as fans grow more frustrated with the slide in performances, however, it is understood the manager retains the backing of the Dons board.
Hayes thinks the players must shoulder responsibility for the run of results, saying “we need to perform better, simple as.”
The Irishman, who is in his second spell at Pittodrie, believes the current run is a combination of season-long issues with their attacking play and defensive errors starting to creep in.
He added: “Confidence looks a little bit low. That comes with not scoring goals.
“Earlier in the season, we weren’t scoring much, but we were a lot more solid at the back.
“In the last few games, small individual errors have crept in and they’ve cost us.
“It’s like the second goal, not tracking the runner, whatever it might be … small, little mistakes have cost us a helluva lot of points.”
Hayes thinks Aberdeen started well enough at Easter Road in a game which was significant in the race for third – a position which could guarantee UEFA Conference League group stage football after Christmas next term.
However, the Dons found themselves behind from Martin Boyle’s penalty, with Hayes labelling the spot-kick – given for Lewis Ferguson’s collision with Jamie Murphy – as “soft”.
Although the lightning quick Boyle was then denied more than once by Aberdeen keeper and captain Joe Lewis, his movement saw him lose the Reds defence time and again.
The former Northfield Academy pupil eventually got Hibs’ second with a finish through Lewis’ legs after the interval.
Hayes said: “We’re disappointed. We knew it was going to be a tough game on a pitch that’s not ideal, but we got our head around that.
“The gameplan started off OK then it looked like a soft penalty that’s gone against us.
“We tried to regroup, but in the second half we probably left it too late to have a go.
“What has cost us over the last few weeks is that we’re not carrying that threat going forward and errors have led to goals for the opposition. And it’s cost us.
“It’s disappointing and we need to react fast.”
Aberdeen welcome sixth-placed St Mirren to Pittodrie on Saturday in their next Premiership fixture, and former Celtic player Hayes insists the Dons squad need to lift their game quickly to prevent McInnes “carrying the faults for his players”.
Hayes said: “We know as a group – and we’ve had talks about it – that we’ve not been good enough. Simple as.
“Players have to bear the responsibility. So does everybody.
“You can’t just say ‘it’s the manager’.
“I’ve been in the game long enough to know that as a team we are not performing well enough.
“That’s the be all and end all for me. We’re not playing well enough as a team and we need to rectify that fast.”
Hayes wants Aberdeen to treat St Mirren and the 10 league games afterwards like cup finals in order to save a season where the financial pressures of the Covid pandemic and the supporter lock-out have threatened to overwhelm the club.
The attacker, who has also been utilised at wing-back this term, said: “It’s important to finish as high up as possible, whatever that may be.
“I know the league looked a little bit tighter a few weeks ago. But now, we’re five points behind Hibs and our battle is to try and catch them.
“We’ve only got 11 games left. We have to treat every single one of them as a cup final, because we know how important European football is to the club and how much it impacts budgets at the club.
“We know how much the manager and the club want to achieve that, but the buck stops with the player group.”