Robson hails Dons' staying power
Aberdeen midfielder Barry Robson claims Derek McInnes' summer fitness regime can propel them to their targets as their season of promise enters the final chapter.
The League Cup winners go into their Scottish Premiership clash with Hibernian at Easter Road on Monday night in second place and then have a William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final against St Johnstone to prepare for on Sunday.
But Robson has not noticed any signs of fatigue in the squad - and he credits McInnes and his backroom staff for a pre-season programme unlike anything he has experienced.
The training has helped the former Celtic midfielder and fellow 35-year-old Russell Anderson play crucial roles throughout a challenging campaign.
"Great teams always fight on every front for the whole season," Robson said. "That's what we need to do as a team.
"But I think a big factor for me was the pre-season we got. It was a pre-season I had never seen before but it was very, very good.
"You can see the players are in tip-top shape.
"Guys like Russell and myself at our age are still feeling fresh. That's credit to the staff for getting us in great shape.
"We are really confident as a team in how fit we are. We have youth in there and experience, we have a great mix.
"I'm very confident for us going into the last six with the pace, power and fitness that we have got."
Robson pointed to the recent 1-1 draw with Ross County as evidence as Aberdeen pushed for a winner after Andrew Considine's red card.
"I don't think we look jaded as a team," Robson said. "We have had hard games a had a lot mentally taken out of us in the cups but you saw at Ross County how we fought to the very end, still running, still putting pressure on teams.
"That's credit to the coaching staff we have and how fit they have got us, and we are really looking forward to it."
No fitness regime could save Robson from his unusual experience at Tynecastle last week, when a stomach upset forced him off the pitch.
The Scotland international sprinted down the tunnel to the toilet 10 minutes before being substituted.
"I just had a bit of a bug," he said. "I came in halfway through the second half to be sick. I must have eaten something pre-match or something like that. I felt a bit light-headed and heavy-legged."
Robson will be in the squad against Hibernian and Aberdeen have no fresh injury concerns. Jonny Hayes (collarbone) is still out and Clark Robertson is yet to return to the squad after recovering from a knee injury.
Hibs midfielder Lewis Stevenson cannot wait to see the back of the Leith outfit's miserable season.
The Easter Road side's nightmare campaign started with the club's worst ever European display as they suffered a record 9-0 hammering by Malmo in the Europa League qualifiers.
They were then put through two morale-sapping defeats to administration-hit city rivals Hearts before boss Pat Fenlon quit.
Terry Butcher arrived from Inverness as the Irishman's replacement but, despite a positive start, including a New Year derby win, things have got steadily worse for the former England captain.
That victory over the Jambos was one of just two wins registered in 2014 so far, and there was fresh humiliation heaped on the Hibs faithful when their team blew the chance to relegate Hearts from the Scottish Premiership last week by losing 2-0 at Tynecastle.
It could yet get worse - defeat against Aberdeen on Monday night will leave the Edinburgh club just four points above the relegation play-off spot with five games remaining.
Now Stevenson admits he is praying the club survive the drop so he and his team-mates can start afresh next term.
He told Press Association Sport: "It's been a long season. We only had a few weeks off during the summer and then we were straight back into it for the European qualifiers.
"We've had a few ups and downs along the way, but we need to now galvanise our position in the league this year and then look to build on it next year.
"Will I be glad when this season is over? Probably, yes.
"It's strange how it has all turned around. A few weeks ago we were hoping to sneak into the top six and now we're just hoping to avoid the relegation play-off.
"We want to finish seventh, though. That's where we are now and we want to stay there."
The body language being displayed by Hibs could not been in more stark contrast to Monday night's opponents.
While the Dons have a confident strut about them having claimed the League Cup, the Leith side look thoroughly dejected.
"That's just the way I always look," Stevenson joked. "In the changing room, we don't feel too down. Maybe that's just how it looks on a Saturday during games.
"We have only got ourselves to blame for the position we are in, though, and it is down to us to get ourselves out of it."
Hibs boss Butcher has no fresh injury worries. Defender Paul Hanlon will miss the rest of the season after damaging knee cartilage, while James McPake (back) will also sit out the remainder of the campaign.
But Butcher has not given up hope that fellow long-term absentee Scott Robertson (knee) could feature again before the season closes on May 10.