Aberdeen: Derek McInnes lauds team effort to make Scottish Cup final
Jubilant manager Derek McInnes hopes his Aberdeen players will reap the benefits of their hard work and ability to learn by winning the Scottish Cup.
The Dons edged past holders Hibernian 3-2 in an entertaining semi-final at Hampden, with Jonny Hayes's late strike deflecting off Hibs' Darren McGregor.
"I want my players to be rewarded for what they give," said McInnes.
"The honesty is screaming out of them. I don't think we can get any more out of them."
McInnes felt his team were "good value" for their two-goal lead, brought about by Adam Rooney's goal after 12 seconds and Ryan Christie's curling free-kick, which caught out Hibs goalkeeper Ofir Marciano midway through the first half.
But the introduction of burly Hibs striker Grant Holt troubled the Dons and his headed goal changed the complexion of the match at half-time.
Dylan McGeouch levelled for Neil Lennon's team and with the game in the balance Hayes sealed a Dons return to Hampden on 27 May when his shot found the net via the luckless McGregor.
"We got a break with the [winning] goal but we earned that, no doubt about it," McInnes told BBC Scotland.
"In the five semi-finals we have been involved in [since 2013], the two we lost I thought we were the dominant team, but semi-finals are all about getting through.
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"Every team needs a break and we got that with Jonny's deflection. But I thought we had rallied and we took the opportunity and I'm delighted for so many people."
Aberdeen will now play their second Hampden cup final this season, having lost 3-0 to Celtic in November's Scottish League Cup.
"Their last memory here at Hampden was a real sobering one and we felt we had a lot of making up to do after that final," continued the Dons boss.
"We take confidence from the improvements we've had. When we lost that semi-final to St Johnstone three years ago we were the better side for 75 minutes and then Stevie May scores two goals and we are out.
"When we lost to Dundee United [in the 2015 League Cup semi-final] I thought we were the better team.
"We may have lost that type of game a couple of seasons ago. We have to show more resilience, show that calmness and confidence and experience and I thought we just managed to show enough of that at a key stage of the game."
Aberdeen will play the winners of Sunday's semi-final between Celtic and Rangers.
"Today's performance, the way the players have reacted since the turn of the year, suggests we are a good side and we are more ready for this final when it comes round," said the manager, who won the 2014 League Cup with Aberdeen.
"We are looking for people to reach their full potential in big games.
"If we do that in the cup final we have every chance of winning it regardless of who we play."