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St Johnstone can’t afford to get consumed by play-off pressure in Inverness, says Jacob Butterfield

St. Johnstone's Jacob Butterfield.
St. Johnstone's Jacob Butterfield.

Play-offs carry a unique type of pressure as a long, gruelling league season transitions into an all-or-nothing cup-style contest.

A year’s work is on the line over two games of football.

As far as Jacob Butterfield is concerned, though, bringing as much normality to the build-up and the matches could be the secret of St Johnstone’s success.

“I’ve been involved in play-off games before,” said the midfielder, who was part of the Derby County team that lost to Hull City in the English Championship’s end-of-season semi-final in 2016.

“You just have to treat them like any other game of football.

“It’s about winning – simple as that.

“You need to simplify your thoughts. If you overthink and put too much pressure on yourself you don’t perform to your best.

“You have to have a clear mind.

“As a group we’ll work on everything we have to do to get ourselves in the right frame of mind and to be ready for Inverness.

“We’ve got a very experienced group, with thousands of games between us.

“If we perform to the level we’re capable of I’m confident we’ll get the job done.”

Inverness demand respect

Butterfield can’t claim to be an expert on Scottish second tier football but he does know that any side winning with a two-man handicap, as Inverness did in Arbroath, will provide formidable opposition to Saints.

“I watched the Inverness game,” said the former Norwich City and Luton Town man.

“It was hard to gauge it but we’ll certainly give them total respect because they’ve been at the top end of their league all year.

“And they’ve come through two rounds of play-off games.

“Any team that can win with nine men has to be respected.

“They’ve got momentum.

“We’ll need to do the right things and be at our best.

“A lot can happen over two legs but it’s one game at a time and we’ll be looking to put our stamp on the play-off right from the off and win the first leg.

“Physically, mentally we need to be ready to stand up to the task and play our football.”

‘Poor goals at poor times’

Butterfield has started Saints’ last two matches, the most recent of which at Easter Road didn’t carry any jeopardy or real meaning.

“Obviously for us the focus is the play-offs, and the result (4-0 to Hibs) maybe doesn’t matter in that regard,” he said.

“The game gave the manager the opportunity to rest the players he wanted to rest and get some minutes into lads who haven’t played as much.

“That was the right thing to do.

“It’s about getting us prepared for the play-offs in the best possible way.

“We actually started the game well. The first half-hour was very good.

Ryan Porteous knocks the ball down to Paul McGinn for the opening goal.
Ryan Porteous knocks the ball down to Paul McGinn for the opening goal.

“But we conceded poor goals at poor times – just before and just after half-time.

“All of the goals were cheap from our point of view.

“At the end you could tell some of the players hadn’t played much recently and fitness levels told.”

3 St Johnstone talking points: A timely play-off warning, Callum Davidson’s 2 Inverness selection dilemmas and a summer of goalkeeper change

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