It is a long road to Hampden but Aberdeen midfielder Jonny Hayes will go in against Dundee playing as if the Scottish Cup is up for grabs today.
The Dons learned a valuable lesson last season when they were eliminated in the semi-finals by St Johnstone after letting an early lead slip at Ibrox.
Two goals from Stevie May cost Aberdeen in their attempt to make it a cup double campaign and the feeling has not been forgotten by Hayes.
He said: “It’s a one-off and the manager has always told us to treat every cup game as if it were the final because if you don’t win you’re out.
“We don’t prepare any differently but it might be different for the supporters, especially in the later stages of the competition. But we have in the back of our minds that we can’t afford any complacency. If we lose a game in the league we can maybe make up for it whereas in the cup if we don’t perform on the day we’re out.”
Hayes believes the all-or-nothing mentality implemented by the manager has been a successful one with the Saints game the only defeat in domestic cup competition the Dons have suffered under Derek McInnes’ stewardship.
He added: “The winning mentality in the side comes from the manager.
“We’ve played his style since day one and he has brought in several players, experienced players, people like Barry Robson, who are natural winners.
“The manager has created the mentality that even when we’re not playing well we can go and win games, like we did last weekend at Partick.
“We’d take that for the rest of the season. We’ve done all right since he came in and maybe it’s down to him telling us we need to do well. We haven’t conceded a goal in the League Cup since he arrived and things like that stick in the back of your head. We want to transfer that to the Scottish Cup but for us it is just the same, 11 against 11. But the manager maybe sees things differently and sees us as having a good chance of silverware.”
Hayes has the added incentive of trying to reach another final after his League Cup final involvement against Caley Thistle in March lasted all of three minutes before he was forced off with a shoulder injury.
He said: “It wasn’t nice missing out playing in the League Cup final but we won it and it eased the pain at the time, though it makes me want to get back into that kind of occasion again.
“Once you win a trophy it gives you a taste for more success but I think we’re even more determined this season than we were last.
“We had that day out at Celtic Park in the final and we want to add to that.”