KILMARNOCK manager Gary Locke is praying his side can finally secure Premiership survival tonight – so he does not become known as the boss who presided over back-to-back relegations.
The former Hearts manager was in charge of the administration-hit Tynecastle side when they slid out of the top flight on the back of a 15-point penalty last season.
But his new Rugby Park troops could suffer a similar fate if they allow Motherwell to close the six-point gap currently separating Killie from the play-offs.
Victory at Fir Park, though, will be enough to prolong their 22-year stay in the top division for another 12 months.
Locke said: “The relegation with Hearts last year is different to the situation facing us here because there was a lot of circumstances that contributed to us going down.
“But even so, you don’t want that on your CV at any time. And you definitely don’t want two relegations back-to-back on there either.
“We are working ever so hard to try to turn it around. If you go back four or five weeks we showed what we are capable of. We’re more than capable of doing that again and it’s important the boys believe in themselves. We know if we get a result tomorrow [Friday] though, we will be okay.”
Last week’s 3-2 loss at home to Hamilton was the sixth defeat on the spin for Killie under new boss Locke.
Having spent much of the campaign aiming for a top-six slot, they are now desperately looking down hoping not to be caught. It is a similar situation to the one Hibernian faced last year.
The Easter Road outfit sat seventh on New Year’s Day but won just one of their last 19 games as they slid down the table before Accies pinched their Premiership slot in a dramatic play-off final.
“We don’t want what happened to Hibs to happen to us here,” said Locke. “We are working hard to make sure we are not branded with the same brush as Hibs were last year.
“What happened to them could happen to us. There is no doubt about it. But I’d still rather be in our position than Motherwell’s. We know what we have to do so it’s important we get that win tomorrow. At the end of the day we’ve not got time to feel sorry for ourselves.
“There were spells in last week’s game where I felt we played well. If you score two goals at home that should be enough to get something out of the game, so we have to eradicate some of the goals we have been losing. We’ve been making mistakes and that has cost us. But a lot of that is down to confidence. When you are on a good run, everybody wants the ball. When you are having a difficult time some players don’t do that as much as they can.
“The only way to get through it is to dig in but the boys are doing that to be fair.”
Motherwell go into tonight’s game knowing defeat would all but consign them to the play-offs but manager Ian Baraclough is aiming to play on their opponents’ vulnerability. The Fir Park side have only taken one point from three games but Baraclough’s men can still get out of second-bottom spot – mainly because of Kilmarnock’s poor form. Another defeat for Killie tonight would leave them just three points ahead with two matches remaining.
Baraclough said: “We’re in a good place at the moment. I think we have played better than what the last two results have yielded. It is about taking those chances and making sure we move the ball well, everything we have got in that squad, we make sure we bring it to the party.
“We’ve got good players and we are in there fighting and battling. The players are in the mindset that they can go and win the next three games and put pressure on the teams above us. We will hopefully play on the fact that they [Kilmarnock] are on a poor run themselves.”