St Johnstone want to raise the stakes for Hearts game

Graham Cummins.

St Johnstone want to raise the stakes for Wednesday night’s fourth v fifth clash at McDiarmid Park.

But to turn the pressure up on Hearts another notch, Perth striker Graham Cummins knows they first need to see off Hamilton Accies this afternoon.

“The Hearts game is obviously going to be a big game on Wednesday but we can make it even bigger if we can win on Saturday,” said the Irishman.

“If we win there could be a five-point gap but if results go the other way we would be chasing.

“Every time we’ve played Hamilton they have been a good side. Even when we beat them 3-0 at our place the last time, they played really well. I thought they were a bit unlucky. We were happy to get in 0-0 at half-time that day.

“They won’t be happy with the position they’re in. If we don’t perform well we’ll come away with nothing.”

As well as top six football, Saints had also become accustomed to regular Europa League qualifiers in recent seasons.

That run come to an end last term and getting that back this summer is the goal over the next few weeks.

“Top six was obviously our main aim at the start of the season,” said Cummins.

“Celtic, Rangers, Hearts and Aberdeen were pretty much guaranteed, which only left two spots to go for.

“It is a mini-league below it.

“To finish above Hearts would be a great achievement.

“We’ve got a lot of confidence going into these last nine games and we want to make sure we make Wednesday night a really big game.

“Fourth could have the added bonus of Europe, which is something all the players are talking about.

“We didn’t have it this season. The fans and players missed it.

“We probably benefited from having a rest last summer but we’d love to be back in Europe again.”

Cummins has been a first team starter of late and his presence has coincided with back-to-back victories.

“The whole team is feeling good about itself,” he said.

“We knew how big our last two games were and that if we could win them it would take the pressure off for making the top six,” he said.

“Personally, I’m happy with how things are going, but I’m always happy to be part of a winning team.

“I’ve set up a couple of goals and had a hand in another one.

“The first thing you want is a win, then as a striker you want to score and after that it’s assists.

“I played under a manager who said you either need to stop goals, score goals or create goals.

“So I’m happy with being involved in the goals we’re getting because it does give you confidence.”

The away form that has made Saints the most successful top flight team on the road this season other than Celtic gives Cummins belief that three more points can be earned in Lanarkshire today.

“When I came to the club all the talk was about how good we were at home,” he said.

“Last year I think we broke a club record for consecutive away wins and it’s been really good this season as well.

“Sometimes that just happens.

“Maybe it’s because the pressure is on the home team to perform and we just go in and do a job.

“Against Motherwell we might have been a bit fortunate to be level at half-time again but we got our second half goal and saw the game out well. We’re performing professionally.”

Steven Anderson, David Wotherspoon and Zander Clark could all be available but Steven MacLean won’t play.

With Chris Kane also sidelined, Cummins will probably be leading the line on his own, and he admitted that his strike-partner will be missed.

“Macca is a big leader on the pitch for us so we would want him out there with us,” he said. “It’s not just his goals and his skill.

“He’s very vocal, even in the warm-up. I listen to him a lot. He speaks to me a lot through the game.

“I don’t think people realise how much influence he has.

“When you’re playing as a par up front, communication is really important.

“You know exactly what you’re doing. That’s going to be missed on Saturday.”