Lewis Ferguson admits the disappointment at Aberdeen’s Europa League elimination to Rijeka was increased because he doesn’t believe there was much between the sides.
The Dons exited at the third qualifying round for the fifth time in six seasons after Thursday’s 2-0 loss to the Croatians sent them out 4-0 on aggregate.
At this stage in the past the Reds have lost to Real Sociedad, Kairat Almaty, Maribor and Apollon Limassol and last year they were defeated a round earlier to Burnley.
This year felt different for the Dons and having beaten Rijeka 5-2 on aggregate in 2015 in the second qualifying round hopes were high of progress.
With Gent of Belgium awaiting in the play-off round it could have been Aberdeen’s time to reach the group stages.
For midfielder Ferguson, not being eliminated by bigger sides like Burnley or Sociedad when there was a realistic route to the groups adds to the frustration.
The 19-year-old said: “Does that add to the frustration? Yes because when you’re going into these ties you feel as if you can go and get through it.
“Even after the first leg I was positive that we would turn it around but it just wasn’t our day.
“We were slack from our set plays. The first one was a corner and the second was a free-kick and both times they’ve broken in the exact same way and killed the game.
“It’s poor from us, it’s naive and it needs to be something that’s stopped at source.
“Everybody was confident in the changing room and once the draws are made all the boys are talking about it.
“Everybody was fairly confident of getting through this tie – I don’t think Rijeka were on a different level from us.
“Both games were pretty even.They were more clinical, they were better in both boxes and that was the difference.
“It could have swung either way in the first leg and they got the penalty and it swings their way and we gave ourselves a mountain to climb.
“We still believed we could turn it around and we came into the game with high hopes.
“But they countered on us from two of our set plays and it killed us – it’s really naive from our point of view.
“It became really slow and laboured. At times we kept possession of the ball reasonably well but it was tough to try to penetrate because they had the extra man.
“When they got the ball they kept it really well and it was a tough one to take.
“In the first game we gave away a slack penalty from slack defending when it was so even.
“It sways in their direction and when they got the late goal over there it killed the first leg.
“We were still believing ad still confident of turning it around and they’ve done us on the counter twice which is so disappointing.”
Ferguson was disappointed to see midfield colleague Funso Ojo sent off for two bookings after just 20 minutes by Austrian referee Harald Lechner.
He added: “He’s started really well for us Funso, he’s come in and been a good player for us.
“It’s so disappointing because he’s made two challenges and been sent off so it’s poor from the referee but that’s something you have to deal with.
“We can blame the referee all we want – it’s down to us to go out there and perform and it just wasn’t our day.”
Ferguson is out of tomorrow’s Betfred Cup last-16 tie with Dundee at Dens Park as the Dons look to halt a run of three defeats.
He said: “The gaffer has spoken about that after the game, about how important it is to go and win this game and put everything into that game to put things right.
“I thought we were flying at the start of the season as we were playing good attacking football.
“Last week in Croatia was disappointing, but there was no getting away from the fact we were poor on Sunday against St Mirren.
“We just weren’t good enough on the day and that was the same on Thursday.
“We need to turn it around very quickly because we could let losing games become a habit, we want to win every game.
“It will be tough for me missing the game because as soon as you suffer a loss you just want to get back out and put things right.
“Hopefully the boys can do the job and win the game.”