KILMARNOCK striker Josh Magennis has admitted it would be “morally wrong” for his club to try to contrive a draw against Ross County on the last day of the regular season which could consign Motherwell to the relegation play-off place.
That potential scenario will occur if Kilmarnock and Ross County both maintain their current three-point advantage over 11th placed Motherwell in the Scottish Premiership basement battle after this weekend’s penultimate round of fixtures.
You are in football to win games. I want to score as many goals as I canJosh Magennis
There have been several cases through the years of teams transparently playing out mutually-beneficial results at the expense of rivals, most notoriously at the 1982 World Cup finals in Spain when West Germany’s 1-0 win over Austria took both countries through to the next round and eliminated Algeria.
More recently, Hibs and Rangers were content to expend minimal attacking effort in the closing stages of their match at Easter Road on the final day of the 2004-05 season. The 1-0 win for Rangers earned them the SPL title ahead of Celtic, while the scoreline was also sufficient to ensure Hibs qualified for Europe at the expense of Aberdeen.
But while there is nothing illegitimate about such an approach, Magennis is adamant it will not figure in the mindset of a Kilmarnock side who have slipped into relegation trouble after a run of seven successive defeats.
“I think it would be morally wrong for the game,” said the Northern Ireland international. “It would be very, very disappointing if you just had two teams playing out a draw.
“At the end of the day, you are in football to win games. Especially as a striker, I want to score as many goals as I can. Defenders also want to keep clean sheets. You don’t want to be up 2-0, then chuck away two penalties or anything like that.
“I think Jim McIntyre and Billy Dodds at Ross County will be telling their players the same thing that our gaffer is telling us – you are out to win your last two games, regardless of the situation.
“We want to finish the season on a high note. We don’t want to be known as a team who stayed up by pussy-footing a 1-1 or 0-0 draw on the last day, or something stupid like that.
“We are in it to win it and that’s what is being bred from the changing room all the way through the club.”
Kilmarnock’s alarming slump in form, which has coincided with Gary Locke’s permanent appointment as manager, has left them in danger of emulating Hibs’ late-season collapse into the relegation play-off spot 12 months ago.
But Magennis, who helped St Mirren stay up last season while on loan from Aberdeen, is confident his first season with Kilmarnock will not end in making the drop to the Championship.
“We have a lot of strong characters in our changing room,” said the 24-year-old. “Guys like Manu Pascali, Jamie Hamill and myself all went through the relegation battle last year with our different teams at the time.
“So we all know what’s at stake and it’s the more senior ones who are trying to get through to the younger players in order to steady the ship.
“Regardless of what happens, we all need to stay together. After seven defeats in a row it would be very easy for us all to jump ship and for everyone to fall apart. Fortunately, that’s not the case. We’re still trying to do the same things at training and get our confidence back, which is one of the main factors in football.
“I’m not going to lie, it is hard.
At one stage of the season, we were even second in the league. Then we plateaued out, which was expected because our squad isn’t the biggest and we got a few injuries.
“But we never expected to be in this situation. We thought we would be home and dry by now. When you get into this position, you look back at some results and think that a goal there, a clean sheet there or maybe even a couple of draws and we wouldn’t be where we are.
“You need to keep a level head and not get carried away when you’re doing well. Equally, you can’t beat yourself up when you have a low spell.
“I think we’ve handled it well so far. We haven’t got involved in anything rash yet – we’ve kept it together and the boys haven’t started arguing with each other. There’s been no fisticuffs, there’s just been a calmness and an acknowledgement that we are up against it and the only way out of this is to win. It’s still in our hands and we don’t need to wait on anyone else getting results or doing us favours.”
An added motivation for Magennis is protecting his place in Michael O’Neill’s Northern Ireland squad who are firmly on course to reach next year’s Euro 2016 finals. Kilmarnock team-mate Sammy Clingan is in the same position.