KILMARNOCK manager Allan Johnston insists his team will adopt a positive approach in Saturday’s final day decider with Hibernian at Easter Road in the battle to avoid the Premiership relegation play-off.
Last night’s 1-0 win over St Mirren at Rugby Park means Kilmarnock only need a point from the match to secure their top-flight status.
With Partick Thistle ensuring their survival with a dramatic 4-2 win over Hearts at Tynecastle, it leaves Hibs occupying 11th place in the table with only victory on Saturday now good enough for Terry Butcher’s men.
But Johnston, delighted with his team’s response after their abject 5-0 defeat at Hearts last Sunday, is adamant the Ayrshire side will not set out simply to avoid defeat. “I think it’s hard to just play for a point,” said Johnston. “We’ve just got to go for it and try to end the season on a high and get the result we need.
“It’s a hard one to approach on Saturday. We know we have to go out there with a similar type of performance, the same sort of tempo we played with tonight, and try to get the three points. We know it’s going to be like a cup final.
“The Hibs fans will know how vital it is as well – they will get right behind them and there will be a big crowd. You could see with our fans tonight, who were fantastic, that it makes a huge difference. I’m sure they’ll be there in their numbers as well.”
Kris Boyd scored the only goal of the match, his 21st of the campaign, with the only sour note for Johnston the late dismissal of James Fowler which rules him out of the Easter Road showdown.
“When you look at the reaction we got from the players tonight, that’s all you can ask for,” added Johnston. “They gave everything they had and more than merited the win. They let the fans down at Tynecastle so they wanted to put that right. We now go into a massive game on Saturday on a bit of a high.
“We are still right in the thick of it but if we play anything like tonight, we won’t be far away. I thought James’ sending off was really harsh.
“I didn’t think his first booking was a foul and the second one didn’t look like a free-kick either. It’s really disappointing to miss someone of his quality for the final game of the season when it’s undeserved.”
St Mirren manager Danny Lennon, who felt his team were guilty of complacency with their top-flight survival already secured, faces fresh speculation about his own future after his chairman Stewart Gilmour revealed in a radio interview before kick-off that it will be on the agenda at a board meeting today. “You know more than me,” shrugged Lennon. “It’s pleasing in this day and age that a manager can see his contract out. I’ve got to thank my directors for that. I’m my own biggest critic – I’ve made mistakes but ones I’ve learned from. I’m a better manager for it today.
“I’m not worried about it at all. My remit was to make sure this club stayed in the top flight of Scottish football and I’ve done that. I’ve held up my end of the bargain and also won a national cup. On the whole, we’ve achieved more than the expectation was.”
Meanwhile, Partick Thistle manager Alan Archibald was clearly emotional on the pitch at the end of his side’s enthralling and successful battle for survival in the Premiership.
“The first emotion was relief, to be honest,” said Archibald. “We’re just glad to get over the line and not be in the play-offs because I don’t envy the managers or players looking forward to Saturday’s game. “It’s massive for everybody at the club. I have been through relegations and it’s horrible because it affects everything you do.”
Hearts manager Gary Locke said he had no preference who joined them in the Championship next season.
He said: “I only concentrate on Heart of Midlothian. We came up a wee bit short tonight but I am really proud of the players and the effort they have put in all season.”