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The National (Scotland)
The National (Scotland)
Mark Walker

Hayes insists European experience will benefit Aberdeen as he details Hibs challenge

Jonny Hayes insists conditions were so bad for Aberdeen players in their Finnish farce this week he wouldn't have allowed his dogs to go out in it.

And the stand-in Dons skipper revealed his role in ensuring their Europa Conference League tie at HJK Helsinki wasn't abandoned when he had to plead with his own fans to stop hurling snowballs at the home players.

Aberdeen travel to Hibs today as part of a remarkable run that will see them play seven of their last eight games away from home.

They were on the travels in midweek when they picked up a 2-2 draw in Helsinki after a much-changed side battled back from two goals down.

But in moments of high farce in Finland, the 1,528 travelling fans were warned over the tannoy four times that unless they stopped flinging icy missiles at opposition players, the game would be abandoned.

It led to Hayes - who was captain on the night with Graeme Shinnie only on the bench - begging the Dons fans to stop with their arctic assault.

The game was also held up for 10 minutes to allow three tractors to clear the snowbound pitch and Hayes revealed he received some unusual stick...from his own mates.

He said: "I don’t think I would put the dogs out in those conditions.  

"I don’t mind the coldness or the snow, that didn’t bother us at all.  We knew if the opposition cut inside us then it was really difficult to keep your feet.  

"But there was snow coming down and the ice was sticking to our boots.  It was like playing on ice at times for 15 or 20 minutes. It was really difficult to be aggressive with our press because it was slippy.

"I thought we recovered and once we got to 2-2 we didn’t want to let it slip. It was good character from the team to get back from 2-0 and to make sure we didn’t lose it.

"Both sets of players were saying the same that it was probably unplayable. But we have travelled here and our fans have travelled here. It was a bit slippy but we dealt with it to make sure the game went ahead. I am glad we got on with it.

"I asked if there was any doubt during the pitch-clearing break but they said no. Maybe there are lessons to be learned if you try and play in these conditions then there needs to be a rethink.

"When I tried to calm our fans down, I think I saw one of my pals giving me dog’s abuse!  No doubt, I will have a text from him.  

"The referee asked me to go over and it was common sense, but I knew I was going to get stick.   "You just need to smile and take it on the chin.  I did my job.  The boys were brand new and the fans were that cold.  They were also wanting the game finished as quickly as possible to get back to their hotels or bars.  I’m glad the game got finished.”

Now Aberdeen have to reverse their poor form that has followed European nights that have seen them get hammered by Celtic and lose to Kilmarnock and today's opponents Hibs after European games. And he believes there have been mitigating factors for their disappointing league position.

Hayes said: "Look from afar and you look at the table we have maybe underperformed but when you break down the games and I don’t want to make excuses but the league schedule has been tough.   "We have had eight or nine games away. It is tough for a group of players who are doing this for the first time.  

"At times, it is mentally draining but young boys and players from other countries have come in and settled really well. We have to make sure it is not a one-off for us. As a club, we need to be trying to be playing in Europe every year because the rewards are there for the club and players. If we get there next year we will be better for this.”

"It has been a hectic schedule even with the international breaks. It has been frantic and everything blends into the background as you concentrate on the games. We will recover, train, recover and go and try and win the game against a good Hibs side.

"The manager rested a few boys against HJK and it should bring a bit of freshness."

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