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St Johnstone winger Matty Kennedy seconds away from joining international ranks

Matty Kennedy.
Matty Kennedy.

Matty Kennedy was seconds away from adding to the list of St Johnstone internationalists.

The in-form Perth winger was set to come off the bench in Northern Ireland’s friendly win over the Czech Republic.

However, national manager Michael O’Neill opted for a change in strategy when a comfortable 3-0 half-time lead was slashed by two swift second-half goals in Prague.

One-time Scotland under-19 and under-21 cap Kennedy (24) is confident his chance will come again.

That means maintaining his impressive early-season form for the Perth club and guiding them away from the foot of the Premiership table.

Saints have a golden opportunity to leapfrog St Mirren and escape the basement if they can post that elusive first win of the campaign in Paisley today.

Kennedy said: “I said the Ross County game before the international was our biggest of the season.

“And here we are again.

“We are both down there and this is the sort of game we have to win.

“We are more than capable of winning there.

“Getting that first league victory would give us the confidence to move on to the next level. Things could snowball from there.

“We have good players in this team and we should never be bottom.

“Hopefully, my international chance will come at some point so I know I have to keep my club form going.

“Confidence is a big thing and even though we are down there at the bottom I am feeling good about my game.

“I feel I’m learning from the gaffer here and also from Michael O’Neill with Northern Ireland.

“I used to look to take on four and five players and try to score.

“I have a better understanding of where I have to be now.

“Hopefully, it is all coming together.”

Kennedy, who is a player boss Tommy Wright is keen to see tied-up on an new deal, was on the bench for a 3-1 Euro qualifier loss to the Netherlands and the friendly win against the Czechs.

“It was disappointing not to get on the pitch,” he admitted.

“Obviously, you want to play.

“I was ready to come on against the Czech Republic when we were 3-1 up but they scored a quick second goal.

“I had been warming up and was even going through the setpieces to come on.

“I was stripped then they scored that second goal. And it was a case of: ‘Sit back down.’ That’s fair enough.”

Kennedy (24) admits he soaked up training sessions alongside experienced internationals like Rangers midfielder Steven Davis and Leicester City defender Jonny Evans.

“Even though I didn’t get off the bench, being part of the international set-up was still a great experience, learning from guys like Steven and Jonny,” he added.

“They are very, very good players. Their standards are so high you try to lift your own.

“They keep their standards, no matter what.”

Wright, meanwhile, is eager to kick-start the campaign by beating the Buddies.

“We know a win will take us off the bottom and that is the aim,” he said.

“The longer the wait for that first win the more we get asked about it and possibly the more the pressure builds on the players.

“I haven’t seen any signs of that in training or in the last performance at Ross County but we aren’t happy with the position we are in.

“We aren’t panicking, though, and we had a good record last year against St Mirren.

“They look a more organised side this season and probably more difficult to beat so it is going to be a tough game.”

On-loan Rangers midfielder Jason Holt will return to the line-up after a calf injury kept him sidelined for the 2-2 draw with County.

“The only one missing is Liam Gordon,” confirmed Wright.

“Ali McCann had two games for Northern Ireland under-21s, which was great experience for him.

“We also had Matty and Madis Vihmann away on international duty with Northern Ireland and Estonia.

“Jason has got over his calf injury. He has been influential since he came in but we didn’t want to risk him at Ross County because he had a similar problem at Rangers.

“Liam Craig trained this week as well. He has got over his groin injury.

“He will be in the squad but there’s a reserve game on Monday against Aberdeen that a few will play in.”

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