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Davidson eyes chase for European spot by Saints

Callum Davidson, right, and Alex Cleland take charge again. Picture: SNS

Callum Davidson, right, and Alex Cleland take charge again. Picture: SNS

  • by ANGUS WRIGHT
 

ST JOHNSTONE assistant manager Callum Davidson is certain his players have the commitment and motivation to maintain winning ways after qualifying for the SPFL Premiership top six.

Saints clinched the final top-half place with a 2-0 win over Hibs on Saturday but are seven points off fifth-placed Inverness and a further two behind Dundee United.

However, Saints now play three teams below them in the league ahead of the split, starting with a trip to St Mirren Park tonight.

The Perth side pipped Inverness to a Europa League place last season after taking ten points from their final five matches and fourth place could be enough for a European spot this term.

They have the added incentive of staying on form ahead of their William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final against Aberdeen on 13 April.

Davidson, who will again deputise for manager Tommy Wright in Paisley, said: “With the semi-final coming up, you need to win the games going into it. You don’t want to go into it on a couple of poor performances.

“It’s key that you stay at that level of intensity right to the end of the season. Two years ago we didn’t win a game in the top six and last year we won three games. So I think we have learned from experience.”

The former Scotland left-back added: “We have three games now against teams below us, but these guys are fighting for their lives. I have watched St Mirren and they play some really good football and they have been pretty unlucky not to get the results their performances have shown. So it’s going to be a really tough game. But we are going there wanting to win the game because we want to put pressure on Inverness. If we can get as close to them before the split, then it gives us a great chance.”

Davidson was in charge on Saturday as Wright recovered from surgery in hospital, although the Northern Irishman is regularly in contact.

“It was certainly different,” Davidson said. “Normally my work is done when it comes to Saturday morning and Tommy does all the work on Saturday.It was slightly different but it made it easier that we won.

“Tommy is always in contact. We have the same discussions as if he was in, about team selection and who is training well. He will pick the team for tonight after we discuss how training went.”

For their part, St Mirren must start to put points on the board if they are to haul themselves away from the Scottish Premiership relegation play-off spot. The 3-0 defeat by Celtic at Parkhead on Saturday was comprehensive but the collateral damage could have been worse. With all their bottom-half rivals losing, the Paisley side remain in 11th spot but only three points behind eighth-placed Kilmarnock who have played a game more.

Their manager Danny Lennon said: “The margin for error is slim. Now is the time for big hearts and big performances. We can’t afford to let opportunities pass us by, we have to give everything for the cause.”

The St Mirren boss, however, concedes that there is no great secret to escaping trouble. He said: “It is about winning, scoring goals and keeping the back door shut. It is as simple as that. The key message is to get that extra one or two per cent in application. We took a few positives from the Celtic game despite the final score, especially with our first-half performance where I thought we were unlucky to come in a goal down.”

 

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