Aberdeen skipper Graeme Shinnie has warned they need to shed the inconsistencies that have dogged their season – or risk being “crucified” against Rangers on Sunday.
Shinnie felt Saturday’s 2-1 defeat by Hearts typified their stuttering start to the campaign, which sees them in seventh spot in the Ladbrokes Premiership after recording four wins from 13 competitive matches.
But the Scotland international is eyeing lift-off from Sunday’s Betfred Cup semi-final at Hampden.
The midfielder said: “The real thing for us is that we need to make sure we’re at the top of our game because Saturday showed that if we have a first half like we had there then we’ll get crucified.
“The second half was a lot better, but we gave ourselves too much to do with a terrible first-half performance.
“We know that our game needs to be right at the top from the start and then the whole way through the game.”
The Dons have been Hampden regulars in recent years but have not claimed a trophy since winning the League Cup in 2014, during Derek McInnes’s first full season in charge.
Shinnie said: “It would be massive for us (to reach a final), it’s somewhere we always want to be.
“We’ve always done well getting into these sort of positions, but we want to go one step further. We can only do that if we get ourselves into the final and give ourselves that opportunity. So it’s a massive game for us.
“We’d love it to give us that bit of momentum and I think Saturday probably summed up our season so far. It was such a bad performance in the first half, yet we turned it around in the second half and were a lot better. You can’t be that way because we gave ourselves a mountain to climb.
“It’s been frustrating, but we’ve got a chance to get to a final and give ourselves a real chance to build some momentum for the season.”
Aberdeen have Scott McKenna back from a two-match ban, with a mixture of suspension and injury having prevented McInnes from pairing the Scotland international with Michael Devlin in central defence for all but four games since the domestic campaign began.
Niall McGinn also hit form when he came off the bench at Tynecastle last weekend after recent fitness issues and Shinnie is encouraged by the stronger squad available to his manager.
“We need a massive team performance and we know we’ve got it in us,” the former Inverness player said.
“We have had a lot of injuries to deal with, but we’ve got a full squad for the gaffer to pick and choose from.
“It’ll take a collective effort from everyone to try and get the job done, but it’s a job we know we can do.”