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McInnes proud despite missing out on third

Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes admits he is proud of his players’ efforts despite missing out on an automatic Europa League place.

After watching the Dons come from behind to beat Hibernian in Sunday’s final Premiership match of the season, McInnes congratulated Kilmarnock on finishing third on goal difference ahead of his team.

And he concedes he will now be hoping for a Celtic victory over Hearts in next weekend’s Scottish Cup final so that his side can earn the final European spot.

McInnes said: “We’ve beaten a good team, picked up three points and done what we wanted to do but ultimately it’s not been enough.

“I thought nine (post-split) points might have been enough potentially, 10 certainly.

“Kilmarnock have managed to beat Rangers and that’s ultimately got them their 67 points and I think we have to congratulate that, that’s good shooting from them.

“Those three home games against Livingston, St Mirren and Hamilton when we only took two from nine, that creativity and the cheapness of losing poor goals has stopped us getting to our 70 points.

“If we had go to 70 points plus, we’d have got our European spot and now we’re dependent on Celtic doing the job next week and getting into Europe that way.

“Ultimately we have to congratulate Kilmarnock but I’m still proud of my players’ efforts throughout the season.”

Hibs took the lead on Sunday through Marc McNulty’s 26th-minute strike but Aberdeen levelled through Sam Cosgrove two minutes before the break.

James Wilson struck a 63rd-minute winner from close range before Cosgrove missed an injury-time penalty.

Hibs finished the season in fifth place, some 13 points worse off than a year ago.

But manager Paul Heckingbottom, who replaced Neil Lennon in February, insists his side are capable of challenging for European football next term.

He said: “Can we compete with these boys at the top? Yeah, but we haven’t beaten one of them.

“We want to beat these guys because you’re not telling me they’re a better team than us.

“They deserve to be where they are because they were clinical, strong, dogged and that’s why they were pushing for European places. That’s where we want to be.

“We’ve got nothing to fear, nothing at all. But we got punished for two errors so let’s not make any. We have to be clinical at the other end.”