The pain of missing out on last season’s League Cup final is driving Peter Pawlett on to help Aberdeen to this season’s Hampden showpiece.
The 23-year-old played a pivotal part in helping the Dons to the cup final and scored in the 4-0 win against St Johnstone in the semis.
But a hip injury meant the attacking midfielder had to watch from the sidelines as the Dons ended a 19-year wait for silverware with a penalty shootout win against Caley Thistle.
The Dons are only 90 minutes away from another League Cup final thanks to last week’s 1-0 quarter-final win against Hamilton Accies.
There will be no one in the Aberdeen squad more desperate than Pawlett to book a place at the Hampden final on March 15.
He said: “Last season the League Cup was a great thing for us so we’re delighted to still be in the competition now.
“I missed the final last season, which was a huge disappointment even though it was a great day for the club.
“I want to live that moment myself so it’s something I really want to do.
“I’ve got a medal from last season, the manager got me one, but I’ve put it away.
“I know I played a big part in getting to the final but you want to play in that game yourself.
“You want to feel you contributed on the day, I think you’d feel it a lot more.
“We have always been confident in the competition, we’ve not conceded a goal since the manager came here.
“There’s a steel about us in this competition, it brings the best out in us.
“There are four very good teams left in the semis so it was always going to be difficult.
“We have beat good teams in the past, we beat St Johnstone last season and they won the Scottish Cup.
“We knocked Celtic out as well, so we know we’re capable of doing it on these big occasions.
“It’s difficult to block it out entirely because it will be in the back of our minds, but I’m sure the manager will keep us focused.”
Pawlett’s reward for an excellent 2013-14 was a first international call-up to the Scotland squad for the end of the season friendly against Nigeria.
The Aberdeen player accepts he has not emulated last season’s heroics in the current campaign, although he looked much more lively against Accies in last week’s quarter-final before limping off with a slight calf strain in the second half.
Pawlett said: “I don’t think I’ve been at my best so far this season.
“I’ve not hit form like I did last season, but I’m starting to feel sharper and I’m getting there.
“I have been playing a wider position so maybe not involved as much as I could be.
“But in the central role I feel I get involved more. You get marked more when people know about you. In the Motherwell game a couple of weeks ago, every time I looked round Craig Reid was there following me around.
“He went everywhere I went and I’ve had that a few times this season.
“But that means I have to adapt, I have to be clever in my movement and create space to get on the ball.
“The manager spoke to me about it, he told me I’m going to have to add that to my game.
“Last season maybe people didn’t think of me as much of a threat, but this season they are and I have to deal with that.
“It’s a compliment, of course it is.
“There will be games when I’m not the main threat, I won’t get on the ball as much – but I have to adapt.”
Pawlett is expected to recover from his calf injury in time for tonight’s Premiership match at Dingwall against Ross County.
Victoria Park has not been a happy hunting ground for Aberdeen, with the Dons yet to win there in three attempts.
Pawlett said: “Jim McIntyre has come in at Ross County and done a good job so far.
“When a new manager comes in it energises a club, people want to kick on and impress him.
“So, they are benefiting from that at the moment and it’s going to be a tough game up there for us.
“Our record at Dingwall hasn’t been the best in recent seasons and I don’t know why that is.
“It’s a small pitch and a hard place to go, but I can’t put my finger on why we’ve not had the results we’ve had.”
The Dons midfielder added: “Playing on a Monday night doesn’t bother us. We will prepare the same way we always do for a normal night game. It has been a while since our last Saturday game and we’ve not got one for a few weeks yet.
“As players it doesn’t affect us as much because we have our routine but it’s hard for the fans.
“They’ve had to go down to Hamilton and then across to Dingwall on Friday and Monday nights, so it’s bound to be hard for them.
“Everyone would prefer Saturday games at 3pm because that’s what the supporters’ live for.
“But that is what has been decided, it’s the way the fixtures have fallen and there’s nothing you can do about it.”