Greg Leigh hopes there’s more to come from the Dons in the Europa League as they look to break through the glass ceiling of the third qualifying round.
Aberdeen take on Rijeka in Croatia tomorrow in the first leg of the third qualifying round.
The Reds are looking to go further than before under boss Derek McInnes, having been knocked out at this stage on four occasions before last season’s second qualifying round loss to English Premier League Burnley.
After beating RoPS Rovaniemi of Finland 4-2 on aggregate and hammering Georgians Chikhura Sachkhere 5-0 at Pittodrie, and 6-1 overall, confidence is high.
Aberdeen then kept up the momentum with Sunday’s 3-2 win over Hearts in the Premiership curtain-raiser.
Leigh believes they can get beyond Rijeka – who the Dons beat 5-2 on aggregate in 2015 – and move two games away from the Europa League group stages with a tie against either AEK Larnaca of Cyprus or Belgian outfit Gent.
The left-back, 24, said: “We definitely feel we can go further.
“The idea is to keep playing as well as possible and ultimately you want the performances to keep improving.
“There is no point having a good performance and dropping off that and losing confidence.
“We can relax and hopefully not have the pressure that comes with trying to break through that glass ceiling.
“We relaxed against Chikhura and look how we played.
“There was a real feeling around the stadium and among the players to not be on edge.
“We felt, if we play our game then it is good enough. It has definitely given us confidence. We can take a lot of confidence into the game.
“The gaffer mentioned after the Chikhura game that people will look at the scoreline and deduce they weren’t great.
“But we drew 1-1 away and they have scored in every game they have played.
“They are a team that have progressed to the second round and they weren’t coming here to lie down.
“But we dismantled them and did very well.
“It is down to us to keep our standards high and keep playing the same way.
“You are always going to take confidence from beating a team 5-0, especially against a team in European football.
“It wasn’t a pre-season side, it was a team that came to try to get something from the game.”
Gaffer McInnes has made eight new signings of the summer, including Leigh, and with Aberdeen hitting the ground running at the start of the season it seems they have quickly gelled.
Leigh, on loan for the season from Dutch side NAC Breda, added: “I am a little bit surprised as I have been involved in teams before that have brought in a lot of players, especially last year and the year before, and it didn’t work as well.
“The one thing this manager and the club do well is they bring in personalities who want to work hard and do well.
“They are also good people. I am really excited by the fact that a lot of the players are just good people to hang around with outside of football.
“That really helps in bringing the dressing room together to work hard for each other. It has helped with understanding how each other plays and how we can work to our strengths.
“That is the difference to my previous clubs, as at this club they put their egos aside and work as a unit.
“That is really instrumental from the gaffer.”
As things stand, Scott McKenna is still set to feature for the Dons against Rijeka, despite handing in a transfer request on Monday after Aberdeen knocked back bids from Nottingham Forest and Queens Park Rangers last week.
Leigh admires the 22-year-old Scotland centre-back’s abilities and said: “He is a special talent.
“I had heard about him before I had signed so it is really good to play with him. I didn’t get the opportunity to do it in the first game and I thought I might not get the opportunity to do it.
“It was something I was looking forward to as it is great to play next to someone who is so confident on the ball and off the ball.
“He pushes me on to be my best and do what I can do, rather than looking for me to always cover for him.
“He wants me to go do my thing rather than worrying too much. Every full-back wants that.
“He is 22 so the possibilities are endless.
“If he takes that next step it would depend how he develops and who takes him on.
“I have heard a lot about his development physically.
“I work with him every day, so I know he is a tough lad physically.
“The possibilities are endless; he can go as high as he wants.
“In England, it is all about proving yourself at certain levels to move on.
“That is the case for anyone who has moved on to the Championship or the Premier League.”