ANDREW Considine has heard it all before. The suggestion that Aberdeen players are ‘too nice’, a bit of a soft touch. It is a claim which dates back to Jimmy Calderwood’s days in Pittodrie. So the club’s veteran defender couldn’t resist a smile when he saw the likes of Lewis Ferguson and others standing his ground against Mikael Lustig and Scott Brown in those feisty closing stages of the Betfred Cup final on Sunday.

With substitute Connor McLennan also standing up to be counted in relief of Gary Mackay Steven, not to mention the brawny presence of Scott McKenna alongside him at the back, Considine feels the club now have a group of streetwise youngsters who play with no fear and can put this notion of Aberdeen teams being wet behind the ears to bed for good. And what better chance to display it than on their second trip to Glasgow in a week, the small matter of a visit to Ibrox to take on historic rivals Rangers tomorrow night.

“It was just handbags at the end, just boys winding each other up,” said Considine. “But it was great to see the likes of Lewis Ferguson standing his ground against Lustig and Scott Brown near the end. That’s a great sign.

“Aberdeen Football Club has often been branded as soft, over the years it’s always been thrown at us,” he added. “But these days we have some tough little boys – well, not so little, because Lewis is already my size. They can really handle themselves so on that front, I have no worries about how we recover from this.

“Young Connor McLennan’s just signed a new contract, which is brilliant for him, and when he came on for Gaz he was brilliant. Not many attackers go at and go past Lustig like this. We’re talking a World Cup defender here, but Connor showed no fear, which is great to see in a young guy.

“We’ve got a great bunch of young players here just now – Connor, Scotty Wright, Frank Ross and more – and if we can get them all fit and in the squad it can only be good for us. It’s a mark of the confidence the manager has in those youngsters that he’s happy to put the likes of Connor and Lewis Ferguson into a game like this. Like I say, these boys have no fear.”

Having said all that, three Hampden showpieces against Celtic; three demoralising defeats, the margins as fine here as any in the series.“The past two or three years we’ve got closer and closer to the Old Firm,” said Considine. “So when we lose games as close as this one it not only hurts, it hurts more than it used to. It feels like we’re within touching distance compared to years gone by. Yes, Celtic are still ahead of everyone else, but when we go toe to toe with them there’s so little in it.

“We know we gave a good account of ourselves. All that cost us was one lapse of concentration at the goal. But as a team, overall, we restricted them to very little. Was the concentration part a result of what just happened to Gaz? Well, we had six added minutes and had got down to about the last 30 seconds, so it was just one of those things that happens in games.

“But we’ll pick ourselves up though and we’ll come back stronger. Ibrox is probably the one place you’d want to go after a defeat like this, it is a chance to put it right. The supporters were fantastic on Sunday, they came down in serious numbers and were right behind us, they sang all game, so they deserve a result come the Rangers game.”

His defensive partner McKenna, playing in his first major final, agreed with that assessment. “I try to stay away from that [incidents like the one at the end],” he said. “There will be cocky ones who try to show off a wee bit when they know they’re comfortable and waiting on the final whistle but we just need to try and not get involveds. It’s disappointing, they’ve maybe lacked a wee bit of class. But we’ll get over it.

“The manager said after the game that he knows this squad of players will be back and will learn from this. There were a few other young boys, as well as me, playing in their first final today so hopefully we learn from that and it’ll stand us in good stead if we get back.”