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Play-off with ICT can see St Johnstone recreate cup double spirit, says Melker Hallberg

Melker Hallberg.
Melker Hallberg.

Melker Hallberg knows what it’s like to suffer when St Johnstone produce their big game best.

Now a Perth player, the Swedish midfielder is hoping Saints can once more tap into the double-winning spirit that twice saw off the Hibs side he was a part of in the national stadium last season.

There’s not a League Cup or a Scottish Cup up for grabs this time around but the club’s Premiership status is on the line.

And Hallberg is confident that the team characteristics he so admired and respected at Hampden Park in 2021 will be back to the fore in the two-leg play-off against Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

“You could tell there was a great group of lads here and they were fighting for each other every inch they were on the pitch,” said Hallberg.

“I’ve really noticed that since I’ve been here.

“If we can bring that on Friday then I think we will get a good result.

“We know what’s at stake.

“We’re confident that we’ll go up there and play as the manager wants us to.

“If we do that I believe we’ll get a good result to take into the second leg on Monday.

“It’s down to individuals how they deal with the pressure.

“Everyone needs to deal with it how they usually would.

“Pressure comes with the job and that’s something we’ve all had before.

“What matters is we’re ready on Friday.”

Hallberg is comfortable carrying the ‘favourites’ tag into the contest.

“I think we should be favourites but we know it’s going to be a tough game,” he said.

“We’ve watched videos of their games and Inverness are a good team. We won’t be complacent.

“But we believe in ourselves and how we can play.

“Personally, I think that we’re a better team than one you would expect to see in the play-offs.

“But the table doesn’t lie and showing that on Friday and Monday is what matters now.”

Attacking threats

Scoring goals has been Saints’ biggest issue this season but Hallberg believes Callum Hendry and Glenn Middleton have both in form at the right time.

“Since January, Callum has scored eight goals,” he said. “So that says it all.

“Callum is a super important player for us.

“Glenn is a really, really good player and a great talent. He’s going to be very important as well.

“We need everyone in the squad to be ready and on their toes. It’s two massive games to end the season. We’re going to need to do this as a team.”

What would be a good result to take back to McDiarmid Park?

“We’re going up there to win,” said Hallberg. “But I think they’ll have a go as well.

“We’re going up there with the mindset to win the game like we do in every game.”

‘Nothing worse’

Hallberg had his eyes open to the perilous situation Saints were in when he arrived at the end of the January window – and he also had experience of a relegation battle to inform him about what was in store.

“Before I signed for Hibs, I was with a team in Denmark (Vejle BK),” he recalled.

“We got relegated, unfortunately. There’s nothing worse in football. It’s super tough on you.

“But we’re going to make sure that doesn’t happen and we don’t have those feelings on Monday.”

Hallberg added: “I knew the situation I was coming into.

“I was coming back from a seven-month injury and I really needed to get back playing.

“When I spoke to the gaffer it felt like he really wanted me here.

“When I came here the team had obviously been struggling and I thought heads would maybe be down and things like that.

“But that hasn’t been the case.

“The boys and the staff have taken me in and treated me very well.

“I’ve really enjoyed it and I’m doing my best for this club.

“It’s been great for me and hopefully we can finish the job off and help this club stay in the league.”

ICT defender Danny Devine has red card appeal rejected and will NOT play against St Johnstone in play-off first leg

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