Peter Leven claims Celtic were 'rattled' by Aberdeen FC fightback as he tells players what is mandatory at Pittodrie

Aberdeen interim manager Peter Leven (right) -Credit:PA
Aberdeen interim manager Peter Leven (right) -Credit:PA

Peter Leven has challenged his Aberdeen squad to lift themselves and finish best of the rest.

The Dons took great credit from their Scottish Cup semi-final performance but then faced the heartbreak of losing on penalties on Saturday. Leven wants their Hampden display to be the benchmark and is looking for a clean sweep of five wins in the bottom six. Aberdeen start with Motherwell this weekend and then take on St Johnstone, Hibs, Livingston and Ross County away.

Leven said: “The challenge is to finish as high up the table as possible. I said to them we go to the league and finish as high as we can, that is the challenge. It is going to be a big push until the end of the season. We have to give more of the same. We are in a position where we don’t want to be. We have five massive games starting on Saturday. Two home games to start so I’m happy with that. Winning every game is mandatory at this club.”

Aberdeen have done well in the cup competitions but struggled in the Premiership, under Barry Robson and Neil Warnock this campaign. Leven has come in and will remain in charge until the summer, when Jimmy Thelin finally steps in.

The interim boss is looking for a continual improvement and not just in the games. “That is the standards that I’ve set and the fans have set,” he said. “So I’ll be making sure the players know that.

“And they do know that, every day. Even in training five-a-sides you need to win so that sets the tempo and standards every day.”

The Aberdeen players gave everything at Hampden and it will take a bit of time to recover both physically and mentally. The team will return to training and to begin their preparations for Motherwell today at Cormack Park.

Leven knows it is his job to get them going again. He said: “The dressing room is a little bit flat but that is my job and that of the staff to lift them up because we have a massive game on Saturday.

Leven consoles a dejected Ester Sokler
Leven consoles a dejected Ester Sokler -Credit:SNS Group

“I said to them that is the standard. In fairness, since I have come in, rest, recover and go again. We have these five huge games in the league.

“The spirit has been there since I have come in. The fans were brilliant and they never gave up and kept pushing us. We were the better team at times. We had Celtic rattled, especially in the second half. I am just gutted for the boys.”

Killian Phillips and Ryan Duncan will be particularly low after missing the penalties in the shout-out but Leven praised every one of his players who stepped up. Duncan wasn’t helped by a long delay after Kelle Roos went down with cramp.

Leven said: “I will never criticise anybody who wants to step up and take a penalty. Two young academy graduates in Jack Milne and Ryan Duncan. They were brave enough to take it and that is good enough.”