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St Johnstone players need to ’embrace’ survival challenge, says Murray Davidson

St Johnstone's Murray Davidson.
St Johnstone's Murray Davidson.

It’s certainly not a predicament of their choosing.

But Murray Davidson believes the St Johnstone players need to “embrace” the challenge and the all-consuming pressure of a Premiership relegation battle now there’s no escape from it.

Straight down or a play-off are almost certainly the two roads open to the Perth side in the wake in the wake of last weekend’s defeat to St Mirren.

There’s only one option to make sure there’s a happy ending to this tortuous season, though.

And it’s fight, not flight.

“The mood in the camp after the St Mirren game was low, probably the lowest I can remember for a while,” said Davidson.

“It has been difficult but you have to show mental strength in these situations. You have to dig in.

“It’s great winning cups, it’s great being in the top six.

“But we are in a completely different position this year.

“This is a challenge we have to take on board to get ourselves out of this situation.

“The next few games are as big as any of those semi-finals and finals.”

Davidson dismisses the idea that talk of battling qualities at McDiarmid isn’t based on any substance.

“I see these boys in training and in spells this season we have beaten some good teams,” he said.

“We won against Hearts and went on a good run.

“We definitely have the mental toughness that is needed.

“I have no doubt we have enough in the squad to get positive results through to the end of the season.

“You have got to embrace the whole challenge we are facing.

“I’m not saying anyone enjoys a relegation battle but you have to find something inside you that says you’re going to do everything in your power to help get us out of this.

“As a squad, as a club, as fans we all want the same thing and we have to pull in the same direction.

“I have no doubt we have enough in the dressing room to get out of it.

“But what really matters is getting positive results from the next three games.

“The players knew we hadn’t been good enough on Saturday.

“We want to improve. We know we have to do better.

“We’ve been working on a few things in training but the biggest thing is we’ve all got to stick together and do things better.

“The players are hurting as much as anyone.”

Words of advice

Davidson believes his role at the moment involves off-pitch contributions as well as on.

“We’ve got some younger ones in the dressing room,” said the veteran midfielder.

“The likes of myself, Liam Craig, Craig Bryson, Zander and David Wotherspoon are important.

“If there are boys looking for a bit of help or advice we’re there for them.

“Whatever the topic may be, I’ve tried to be as much of a support as possible.

“D has been brilliant.

“He’s obviously out with an injury but he’s been brilliant around the place.

“Good characters like him are important, more so now than ever.”

Saints won’t fall into the trap of thinking that a five-point cushion over Dundee is a comfortable one.

“Dundee will be doing everything they can to catch us,” said Davidson.

“We’re aiming to win three huge football games.

“We have to make sure that our worst case scenario is the play-offs.

“If we do go into the play-offs we want to have a bit of momentum. One thing you know is that the Championship team will be coming off a positive result.”

Formation red herring

The Saints manager’s favoured formation – and its effectiveness – has been a running theme/open wound for some fans this season.

Davidson believes that’s a red herring.

“I’ve said my whole career that systems don’t win matches,” the former Scotland international pointed out.

“We lost the game on Saturday because we didn’t work hard enough.

“I don’t go on the internet and I’m not on social media so I don’t see stuff about that.

“But if that’s what people are saying, I don’t agree.

“It’s not rocket science to work out why we lost on Saturday.

“We won two cups playing a similar system.

“Some will say a system was the reason for that. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion – that’s what is great about football.

“But my opinion is we’ve lost too many games this year because we’ve not done the basics well enough.

“I’ve played in a 4-4-2, a 3-5-2, a 4-3-3 and pretty much every formation there is.

“In all of those it’s been a case of doing the basics right to win.

“If you don’t work hard, you don’t win games.”

St Johnstone attacking options assessed as Nadir Ciftci fails to shine again

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