ST JOHNSTONE manager Steve Lomas has no issue with Celtic’s decision to ‘sacrifice’ Clydesdale Bank Premier League games as they focus on their own trophy ambitions.
The Perth side’s win over Inverness last week has put them in the mix for a Europa League qualification slot, with the Highlanders, Lomas’ team and Ross County now set for a three-way fight for third place.
Just two points separate the three teams but Celtic boss Neil Lennon says he is ready to forgo SPL points in favour of keeping his men fresh for the William Hill Scottish Cup final with Hibernian on 26 May, starting with today’s meeting against the Staggies.
That could boost County’s European ambitions but Lomas insists he will not grumble about Celtic resting players. The Northern Irishman, whose side face Dundee United today, said: “I’ll just look after my own house. It’s hard enough managing one club. Neil is within his rights to do what he feels is best for Celtic. We are just going to deal with our side of things. If we can get a result tomorrow, it will be a massive boost.
“Every game is a cup final for us now and for numerous reasons – for qualifying for Europe, for prize money, for re-signing boys. For the lads to be in the mix to qualify for Europe for the second season running is a huge achievement.”
Another European jaunt would strengthen Lomas’ hand when it comes to contract negotiations, but the McDiarmid manager has acted early to sign up midfield duo Chris Millar and Liam Caddis on new deals.
Millar has agreed a two-year extension, while 19-year-old prospect Caddis has been tied down for an extra 12 months. “We want to get the ones signed up that we can,” said Lomas. “Chris has been a good servant to the club and he’s done a good job for us so we are delighted to get him signed up for two years. As for Liam, we’re hoping he can make the breakthrough next season. He’s been knocking on the door for quite a while but, because we have been winning, he’s found it hard to get in.”
Meanwhile, Dundee United assistant manager Simon Donnelly has challenged his side to get back to winning ways.
United have suffered successive post-split defeats to both Motherwell and Ross County to all but dash their hopes of securing a place in Europe. They were pipped by Celtic in their recent Scottish Cup semi-final defeat after extra-time and now have only three SPL games left in which to try and finish the season on a high.
He said: “That’s got to be our aim. We got into the top-six and it was great with the Aberdeen result but since then it has been a wee bit flat which we want to change.
“We had a good performance in the Scottish Cup semi-final against Celtic and we were a wee bit unlucky in the two games since. We didn’t start the Motherwell game well and Ross County was disappointing for us as well.
“But there are three games to go and you want to kick on as much as possible. You’ve got one eye on preparations for next year but we’ve got three games to play and nine points. Our message is let’s go and try and get the nine points.”