Aberdeen attacker Adam Rooney knows more than most his club’s Europa League opponents KF Shkendija present a far sterner test than the victory stroll of 12 months ago.
The Dons forward got his campaign off to a flying start against Latvians Daugava Riga, scoring five goals in an 8-0 aggregate win, including a hat-trick in the away leg.
But Macedonians Shkendija are a far tougher nut to crack with the match finely balanced at 1-1 following last week’s first leg in Skopje.
Rooney can understand supporters expecting a goals rush at Pittodrie tonight, but does not expect that to happen.
He said: “The Riga game turned out to be an easy tie for us last year.
“We won 8-0 on aggregate so maybe some people expected a similar outcome at this stage again this time.
“But Shkandija are a different side. They have a lot of international players who play at a decent level.
“Anyone at the game last week would have seen how technical they are and how well they work the ball. We know it will be difficult, so we have to be on our game.”
Despite failing to get off the mark in the first leg Rooney hopes Europe can provide another springboard for a successful campaign.
He scored six goals in the six European matches the Dons played a year ago which helped him end the season as the country’s leading goalscorer with 28 goals.
It was a feat he would love to emulate again in the new campaign and said: “It’s obviously nice to score early on, whether it’s in pre-season matches or competitive games.
“It gives confidence so hopefully I can get up and running quickly again.
“It was a good season for me last year. There were no complaints and it would be nice to do it again this time around.
“For me, and for everyone, the aim is to always improve and that’s going to be the target again this year.”
The Dubliner is respectful of the opposition, but still expects his team to progress to a second round meeting and with it, a trip to Croatia next week to face HNK Rijeka.
He said: “They are a good side. It’s difficult to tell beforehand. We get reports and watch clips but it’s hard to judge.
“We knew they would be tough and it turned out that way, but we are confident if we play the way we can we can get through.
“It’ll be a similarly difficult game. They are good technically and they move the ball well. They caused us a few problems so we will be well aware of them.
“But hopefully with the away goal and the crowd behind us we can take care of them.”
The Dons reached the third qualifying round last summer before exiting at the hands of Spanish La Liga side Real Sociedad.
The challenge for Derek McInnes and his players is to at least match last season’s run, but Rooney knows better than to look any further than tonight’s opponents.
He said: “We want to go as far as we can. That’s the aim in every competition, whether it’s Europe, the cups or the league.
“Sometimes it is own to the luck of the draw. Last year we got a tough one in Groningen and then got Real Sociedad, who are a top side.
“All we can do is focus on getting through this round first of all and then go from there.
“I’m sure they will be happy getting the late goal last week. It would have been difficult coming here a goal down.
“It wasn’t a bad result for us. of course 1-0 would have been better but we have the away goal.
“There was some good play last week but we can step up another level.”