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Joe Harper: Aberdeen should be encouraged by European campaign – now the focus is getting back there next season

The Dons have taken two points from four games in Europa Conference League Group G but Dons legend Joe Harper believes there are plenty of positives from the experience.

Aberdeen's Jack Mackenzie celebrates after Duk scores to make it 1-0 against PAOK. Image: SNS
Aberdeen's Jack Mackenzie celebrates after Duk scores to make it 1-0 against PAOK. Image: SNS

Barry Robson and his players should be really encouraged by their performance against PAOK in Greece.

They may not have got the win they required to keep their hopes of progressing from the group alive but there are so many positives they can take from the 2-2 draw.

They were excellent and they could have won that match which would have been a major result.

I don’t think anyone could criticise that performance and I’m sure the fans who travelled to Greece were happy with what they saw.

Hopefully getting the goal in Greece is a turning point for Duk.

He hasn’t really got going this season and hasn’t looked as sharp as he was last season when he was Aberdeen’s top performer.

Aberdeen’s Duk celebrates scoring to make it 1-0. Image: SNS.

He played really well against PAOK and he looked a lot fitter.

His goal against PAOK was excellent. The way he held off the defender and made space for himself was brilliant.

Hopefully he is back to his best and he will take confidence from the goal.

The other goalscorer, Jamie McGrath, has proven to be a really good acquisition.

There may have been some doubts when he joined but he has already chipped in with a few important goals but the free kick in Greece is the best so far. It was a sublime strike.

Aberdeen have played well in their group games and they deserve to have more than two points to show for it.

It was always going to be difficult against Eintracht Frankfurt, PAOK and HJK Helsinki but the Dons have given them all a decent game – and there are still two games left to try to pick up a win.

If Aberdeen had beaten PAOK at home then the group would look totally different and it would have been all to play for in the final games.

But the priority for Aberdeen now is to focus on the league and the cups and get back into Europe next season.

The fans have loved being in Europe and playing in European matches were some of the best moments of my career.

The Aberdeen supporters inside the Toumba Stadium for the match against PAOK. Image: SNS.

We want to experience this on a regular basis.

I expect Barry will use his squad a bit more for the final two games now that Aberdeen can’t qualify, especially for the home game against Eintracht Frankfurt on December 14 which is only three days before the League Cup final against Rangers.

The focus now is Sunday’s trip to Celtic.

I fully expect Bojan Miovski to come back into the starting line-up for that one, probably in place of Duk.

I know there were suggestions that Miovski was left out of the side after picking up a knock against Hibs in the semi-final last weekend but he looked very sharp when he came on.

He has been Aberdeen’s best player this season so if he is fit then he will start against Celtic.

Ester Sokler also looked pretty good when he came on so Barry has options in attack.

The Dons have struggled on the back of European games and they will come up against a Celtic side determined to bounce back after their 6-0 defeat by Atletico Madrid.

But if Aberdeen can start well then Celtic might get nervy and their supporters could get a bit restless.

Dons right to lodge Uefa complaint

Aberdeen, meanwhile, were right to lodge a complaint over the alleged racist abuse directed at Dons substitute Pape Gueye by PAOK supporters.

If that is what has happened, it is totally unacceptable and the Dons were right to take action quickly.

We are seeing an increasing amount of bad behaviour from supporters which is hugely disappointing.

Jamie McGrath said if Aberdeen had known what had happened they might have walked off the park.

Perhaps that is what is required to really bring it to the attention of Uefa and ensure that teams do everything they can to ensure their supporters behave, although football clubs can only do so much.

It is a really disappointing incident and it overshadowed what was a hugely entertaining match between the two teams.

I’m sure Aberdeen will be doing all they can to support Pape.

It’s time to ditch VAR

It has been another week of VAR frustrations – north and south of the border.

I would quite happily see VAR scrapped and go back to the referee on the pitch making the decisions.

There is far too much interference in games – as was highlighted by the Tottenham against Chelsea game on Monday night which had nine VAR checks, five disallowed goals and two red cards.

The breaks in play are too long and fans and players aren’t able to celebrate goals because they are worried it is going to be chalked off for a marginal offside or a slight foul.

VAR has been causing plenty of controversy.

It is ruining the game and it needs scrapped or changed in a way that doesn’t interfere with games so much as soon as possible.

North-east teams in good form

Hopefully Cove Rangers and Peterhead can keep the momentum going this weekend.

Cove have won three on the spin ahead of going to Kelty Hearts, while the Blue Toon are flying high at the top of League Two.

It was also a good week for the Aberdeen youth team and Banks o’ Dee who both reached the final of the Morrison Motors (Turriff) Aberdeenshire Shield after their respective wins against Buckie Thistle and Huntly.