KRIS Boyd believes the Hibernian supporters could handicap their team’s bid to avoid finishing in the Premiership relegation play-off place this afternoon.
The Kilmarnock striker has turned up the heat ahead of the lunchtime showdown at Easter Road by claiming the home fans will get on the backs of Terry Butcher’s team if they fail to make an early breakthrough in a match they must win to escape the two-legged play-off against Championship opposition later this month.
Boyd’s 21st goal of the season earned Kilmarnock a 1-0 win over St Mirren on Wednesday night which leaves Allan Johnston’s men requiring only a point to secure their top-flight status today. The 30-year-old former Rangers and Scotland front man is confident the situation favours his team.
“If you asked Hibs, they would rather be in our position of only needing a draw,” said Boyd. “It can be more difficult when you’re going out saying ‘we need to win this game of football’. There are games where you dominate the opposition but just can’t score, so it’s never a gimme that you’re going to win.
“The big thing is that we know the Hibs fans will come out in force – there will be around 18,000 of them – and I have been in stadiums where they turn up and expect their team to win. If it doesn’t go to plan in the first 20 minutes, they’re not long in turning on you.
“Sometimes fans can be a bonus but sometimes they can be a hindrance so it’s up to us to go there and frustrate them by stopping them from playing. Then if we can try to get the ball in the final third we know we can cause them problems.
“With the crowd that Hibs have, they can turn on you. They can be a 12th man but when things aren’t going their way and they’ve paid a lot of money to watch their team, they will show their displeasure. We’ve had it ourselves this year. When fans are paying that amount of money for tickets they want to be entertained and want to be winning games of football.
“So if we frustrate them, not by sitting in and defending but by getting in their faces and stopping them playing, we can put the pressure on them. We know they are a direct team but it’s up to us as forwards to stop their defenders getting time on the ball to kick the long balls towards our box, where they like to be to get free kicks round about the edge of the box.
“It’s up to us to stop them getting into those areas where they can play to their strengths but it’s going to take a full team performance from us to stop that.”
Kilmarnock supporters will look to Boyd as their saviour today and he is comfortable with the level of expectation surrounding his ability to get the goal or goals which could decide the outcome.
“Scoring in every game is a demand I put on myself anyway,” he shrugged. “When you’ve scored the amount of goals that I have, you do look to go into every game to score.
“I’ve been fortunate this season that a lot of those goals have picked up points for Kilmarnock but that’s my job in the team. There are other players who have contributed just as much as I have in terms of their performances. Hibs have struggled defensively this season, having shipped a lot of goals a bit like ourselves, so it’s up to us forward-thinking players to get into areas where we can cause them problems.
“On a personal note it’s been a great season to get myself back scoring goals at this rate. I have enjoyed every minute of it. But the last thing I want to do is score that amount of goals and be involved in a relegation play-off or to go down.
“The most important thing for this club is that it stays in this division because there’s a few big clubs in that Championship and we don’t want to join them. We are at a crossroads where, if you go down this year, you could be in the Championship for a few seasons.
“We need to stay in the Premiership and we know that, so we need to put on a performance on Saturday that shows everything that this club is about. We need to work our socks off like we did against St Mirren and if we do that we have every chance of winning the game. Hibs are low on confidence, the same as us, but we also know they have some quality players in their team who can turn it on if they want to. But that will be up to them.
“From our point of view, the important thing is we have given ourselves every chance of staying up and we are looking forward to a massive game on Saturday.”