Derek McInnes backed his Aberdeen side to keep flying under the radar as they held their nerve in an enthralling penalty-shootout victory over Hibernian in the Betfred Cup quarter-final.
The Dons had been under the cosh for sustained periods at Easter Road but held out against the Hibees, with 120 minutes failing to separate the two sides.
After a pulsating cup-tie that lacked quality finishing, the Dons eventually came out on top in a sudden-death shootout. Niall McGinn and Stevie Mallan both had their spot-kicks saved and it took until the seventh round of efforts before a winner was decided, with Thomas Agyepong crashing his attempt off the underside of the crossbar.
It hands the Dons a semi-final tie next month, with the remaining three quarter-finals to be played this evening. They advance a stage further than in 2017, where they were dumped out following a 3-0 defeat by Motherwell.
McInnes said: “When you’re not at your best, it’s still important to win games and pick up points. That’s where we are at the moment. We’ve stayed quiet – we’ve only lost once and that was playing 87 minutes with 10 men. We’re not where we want to be at the minute but we’ve got a lot going for us. We’re certainly not as bad as one or two people might think.
“Hopefully the added confidence from tonight and the resilience that’s required, bolsters my whole squad and hopefully some players can take some encouragement from the result.”
Hibernian had controlled large spells of the game and had a swathe of chances, with Martin Boyle, Emerson Hyndman and Florian Kamberi the chief tormentors. But gilt-edged opportunities were passing them by, with Boyle seeing two goals chalked off and Oli Shaw wasting a perfect moment to win it in normal time when he screwed wide.
The Dons were not without their own profligacy, with Stevie May and McGinn guilty of spurning big moments, while the closest they came to a goal being Dominic Ball’s first-half free-kick that rebounded off the bar.
McInnes added: “We’ve had some very tight matches against Hibs and there’s not a lot between us. I feel for Neil – there has to be a loser but his side are going the right way. That’s testament to him and his players.
“We’ll deal with the semi-final when it comes round, but it’s another clean sheet for us against good opposition. It’s another step towards where you want to be.”