Joe Lewis admits he embraces away trips in European football and can’t wait to experience the new territory of Lapland tomorrow night.

The Aberdeen goalkeeper will lead his team out onto the artificial surface of RoPS’s Keskuskenttä Stadium in Rovaniemi desperate to keep a clean sheet and prevent Finnish opposition from capitalising on their solitary away goal, struck in the 93rd minute in the Europa League first round qualifier at Pittodrie last Thursday.

The new captain recalled the hostile atmosphere he encountered in losing games in Cyprus and Maribor as well as the aggression of a pumped-up home support in the tie against Siroki Brijeg in Bosnia two years ago after which 50 Aberdeen fans were attacked outside a pub in Mostar.

The 31-year-old former Cardiff City shot-stopper, who recently signed a new five-year deal at Aberdeen, is long enough in the tooth not to be worried about potential antagonism from the followers of opposing teams and certainly won’t expect bad behaviour from the locals in Rovaniemi who believe RoPS can produce a win in the second leg on a pitch that will not suit every member of Derek McInnes’s side.


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"We've played on plastic pitches in this country,” Lewis said, “so it's not exactly alien to us and our away form last season was fantastic.

"Hopefully, that means it won't be an issue for us and it's not a massively long journey so we will go out there with confidence.

"The aim is to get into the group stages but we won't get ahead of ourselves as we will only look beyond this round by giving it our full attention.

"I really enjoyed the away leg in Bosnia when we won 2-0 over there in what was a really hostile atmosphere.

"They might not have been a really good team but to go there and keep a clean sheet to get through in the circumstances was really great.

"Away ties in Europe are never easy as the atmosphere can be hostile, intimidating and can be very loud.

"That was certainly the case when we lost in Cyprus and away to Maribor in previous seasons.

"Personally, I enjoy those sorts of occasions and it makes it even more satisfying to get through when you are successful in that sort of environment.”

Flares were twice thrown at Lewis in the 2-0 defeat by Apollon Limassol in Cyprus two years ago with the ref threatening to abandon the tie if it happened again, but the 6ft 5ins tall goalkeeper was unperturbed.


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"That happens in Europe some times and the flares landed right beside me on the pitch,” he said.

"You just have to make sure that you are fully focussed on the game and not what's going on behind you in the stands.”

Meanwhile, McInnes insists his latest signing, Funso Ojo, secured at the weekend when it looked as if the former Scunthorpe midfielder was set to join Hibs, was not motivated by money when he made the decision to join Aberdeen.

He had done his homework on Ojo, unavailable for tomorrow’s tie in Finland, towards the end of last season after which contact was made with the Belgian and his agent when Aberdeen asked to be kept informed.

Ojo had been expected to sign up with Paul Heckingbottom at Easter Road until Aberdeen stepped in and McInnes’s persistence paid-off.


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“We had to be patient,” he said. “We had to make sure we were demanding so we could get him up here so he could see the club for himself and so we could also meet him face to face.

“That is always very important for not only me, but also the player when he has a decision to make.

“Once we got face to face we were pleased that he then took a bit more time in the afternoon to consider his options and thankfully he decided to become an Aberdeen player.”