Aberdeen players challenged to defy the sceptics and finish second

Graeme Shinnie watched last week's Scottish Cup semi-final defeat in the stands along with Shay Logan and Kenny McLean.

Boss Derek McInnes has challenged his Aberdeen players to defy the sceptics by finishing second in the Premiership.

The Dons have come in for widespread criticism following their 3-0 Scottish Cup semi-final defeat by Motherwell at Hampden Park on Saturday.

With five league games remaining – and leaders Celtic sure to clinch their seventh successive league title – McInnes’ side are behind second-placed Rangers on goal difference as they prepare to play Kilmarnock at Rugby Park on Saturday.

McInnes is looking for his side to finish best of the rest after letting the supporters down at the weekend.

He said: “I hope the determination and resilience which will be needed in the next five games to finish second, hopefully that will be some sort of scant consolation for everyone if we can go and do that.

“It will be a big task. We have huge games ahead of us and there will be a lot of people doubting if we are capable of doing that.

“So it is important that everyone finds that determination to do exactly that and finish second.”

McInnes is looking for immediate improvement against in-form Killie with what will be a strengthened squad.

Shay Logan, Graeme Shinnie and Kenny McLean were suspended for the semi-final and will return while Gary Mackay-Steven and Niall McGinn were only fit to start on the bench against the Steelmen, although both got on.

He said: “We owe to ourselves but certainly we owe it to the supporters over the next five games to show a better level of performances than we did on Saturday.

“Hopefully Gary and Niall will be available for next week.

“At the start of the week we knew both would not be available to start the game and hopefully with the three players back – Kenny, Graeme and Shay – we can have a better level of performances from the team in general.

“But the next five games are very important to us.

“We missed a real opportunity on Saturday.

“I am absolutely gutted for the supporters and I mean that sincerely because I thought they were brilliant in terms of giving us backing.”