St Johnstone need a win to stay in top six fight

Murray Davidson.

Murray Davidson has admitted that tonight’s game at Kilmarnock is effectively a must-win if the Perth side are to retain any hope of catching the Rugby Park men.

Saints will close to within four points of Killie with a victory. Defeat, though, would all but end their chances of taking up their traditional top six position after the Premiership split.

Asked if they need to beat Steve Clarke’s side to have a hope of eventually going above them, Davidson said: “Probably.

“It would be a big gap if we lost but we would be dragging them back into the mix if we won.

“The top six isn’t being spoken about – but it was never spoken about all those years that we got into it.

“That’s not how we go about things.

“We just know that at this stage of the season every result is crucial, whatever the target is. We want to get a run of performances and results and see where that takes us.”

Killie are this this year’s St Johnstone in the eyes of many – punching above their weight thanks to common sense management and team unity.

“You can see why they might say that,” said Davidson.

“A lot of the qualities that we’ve had over the years have been talked about with Kilmarnock.

“I don’t know many of the Killie players but the one or two I’ve spoken to seem to be really enjoying their football under Steve Clarke. That’s what happens when you’re winning games.

“You know a team has got something about them when they come from behind with 10 men to win. It was that result against Dundee which really stood out.”

Davidson has declared himself fit and well after twice needing treatment in the Rangers defeat last Tuesday, a game that he didn’t finish.

“The first one was my ribs and my knee,” he explained. “The knee started stiffening up at half-time and that was why I had to come off in the end.

“The swelling has gone down, though, and I should be fine for tomorrow night.

“The second time I went down I thought my teeth had been knocked out. That would have been a new one. Thankfully, they’re all still intact.”

Davidson is confident that no long term damage was inflicted last week.

He said: “We were obviously disappointed to lose but Rangers are a good team and it doesn’t take away from the fact that we’d made progress before that and got a couple of really good results.

“We’ve moved on. This will be a tough game but we can definitely get a result.

“Obviously Kilmarnock played at the weekend and got a good result in the Scottish Cup. But we’ll be ready for the match as well.

“It’s good that we’ve been able to use the facilities at the Oriam. I’d never been there before.

“If the weather’s bad tomorrow night, that won’t be a problem.

“I can remember a game at Rugby Park last winter that we won 1-0 and I scored the winner. The four corner flags were all blowing in different directions that night!

“It’s not the only good result we’ve had at Kilmarnock recently. Mikey (O’Halloran) scored a last minute winner there at the start of the season.”

The Saints players have been sharing training time under the Oriam roof with the Scotland rugby squad. Davidson may be a Borders boy but the oval ball game was never a career option.

“I actually played a bit or rugby at school until I was 15 or 16,” he recalled. “You don’t have any choice when you come from a Borders town (Innerleithen).

“Mind you, I didn’t know the rules then and I still don’t. I know that you have to throw the ball backwards and you’re allowed a hand-ball!

“I soon learned that rugby wasn’t for me. It’s one thing flying into tackles in midfield on a football pitch but these rugby boys are seriously strong. It was far too rough for me.

“The likes of Alan Mannus might be alright but not me.

“I played at full-back and my tactic was to go to the opposite side of the pitch from where the ball was.

“It was brilliant to see Scotland beat England. Like I said, the area where I come from is so big on rugby so you’ve got to have an interest.

“I don’t know if there are many lads in our dressing room who watch it. Joe Shaughnessy speaks about it a bit but that’s probably because Ireland are winning most of the time. Hopefully he’ll be quiet after the weekend.”

Scott Tanser should return and Davidson joked that manager Tommy Wright will “make sure we’re all at Rugby Park by two 0’clock in the afternoon” after several of his squad were stuck on the A9 the last time these teams played.