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St Johnstone 0 - 0 Kilmarnock: Eremenko backs Shiels as manager after Kilmarnock seal top-six spot

Kilmarnock midfielder Alexei Eremenko has backed Kenny Shiels as the man to replace departed manager Mixu Paatelainen on a permanent basis after he began his interim stint by sealing the club's top-six spot with a 0-0 draw at St Johnstone.

Shiels has stepped up from his post as assistant to take over as caretaker manager at Rugby Park and has already expressed his desire to land the job in the long term.

The Northern Irishman's first game in charge may not have produced the free-flowing performance and victory that Shiels would have wanted to strengthen his case at boardroom level., although he was in no doubt that Paatelainen's defection to the Finland national team had had an "adverse effect" on his players at McDiarmid Park.

Nevertheless Eremenko is convinced that Shiels' shared football philosophy with Paatelainen means there can be no-one better to see out the impressive work already carried out at the Ayrshire club this season.

The Finnish playmaker, who will continue to be coached by Paatelainen at international level, said: "Mentally it was maybe a bit of a strange week for us.

"There were rumours about the manager before that and we were expecting him to leave, but not so fast. But that's football. Players come and players go, and coaches come and coaches go as well.

"The guys here may have wanted him to stay to the end of the season but that's football and I'm sure Kenny Shiels can do the job.

"It's no use getting anybody else now because I don't really know who else could come and do the job. Kenny and Mixu have done an excellent job, and Kenny knows how Mixu is and he's not going to change anything."

Having moved ten points clear of seventh-placed Inverness, who have three games to play before the split, the Perth stalemate was enough to confirm Kilmarnock's top-six qualification and Eremenko added: "Everybody should be happy and now we can concentrate on getting as high as possible without any pressure. We've done more than was asked of us before the season."

It was certainly a point gained for Kilmarnock as St Johnstone squandered a number of chances to win the game. There were only 12 seconds on the clock when Frazer Wright had to head a Collin Samuel effort off the line and Kilmarnock goalkeeper Anssi Jaakkola then kept out a Dave Mackay free-kick and a Danny Invincibile drive as Saints dominated the first-half.

Derek McInnes' men also had strong claims for a penalty turned down by referee Stephen Finnie in the 54th minute when Jaakkola tangled with Peter MacDonald after he had spilled Samuel's volley.

MacDonald then hit the bar with a header and Michael Duberry skied his shot over from 12 yards out before Saints had two more shouts for a penalty waved away in stoppage time.

 
 
 

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