Liam Craig has targeted finishing best of the rest after St Johnstone missed out on top-six football for the first season in seven years.
The Perth club’s bottom tier fate was sealed on a disappointing Saturday afternoon at Pittodrie where Aberdeen ran out comfortable winners.
Goals from Ryan Christie and former Saint Stevie May left Tommy Wright’s men with a mountain to climb heading into the second half.
Substitute Matty Willock did bag his first goal since joining on loan from Manchester United but his header was sandwiched between a Greg Stewart double.
Craig, who teed-up Willock for the goal, said: “It pretty much sums it up today. For half an hour there was nothing in the game really.
“We tried to get the first goal in the second half and we didn’t do that either. We’ve got to stop the cross better for the third. It’s disappointing because we usually come up here and give a good account of ourselves. The three games against Aberdeen this season haven’t been good enough.
“The last six or seven years have been great at the club. So we are massively disappointed not to be in the top six but now we want to go and finish seventh.
“The league is tougher, and that’s not making an excuse. It’s showed us that we can’t just turn up, we’ve got to be at it week in, week out. People speak about how well other teams have done and they’re not that far ahead of us.
“If we’d won today we would have kept top six alive, so we’ve taken it down to the second last game of the season, pre-split.
“We’re disappointed but we want to go finish seventh now and that starts next week. We need to win as many games as we can.
“If we can finish seventh, then we can reflect on the season and look where we can do better. But it’s not going to be easy, everybody’s going to be fighting for their lives in the bottom six.”
Craig and Co were well in the game early doors and the Perth midfielder watched a long-distance free-kick edge over the cross bar on 13 minutes.
He then directed a set-piece at defender Jason Kerr whose header back across goal only required a Perth boot to turn it goalwards.
But seconds later Aberdeen were in front when Gary Mackay-Steven took advantage of large gaps in the visiting defence to send Christie racing through on goal.
The Celtic loan man rounded Alan Mannus, stepped inside the desperate attempts of Joe Shaughnessy and then slotted into an empty net.
That opener came in the 35th minute and was perhaps harsh on Wright’s players. But as half-time approached Saints’ afternoon would worsen.
This time Christie turned architect to navigate into the path of former Perth fans’ favourite May. He did little to endear himself to the travelling support by firing low beyond Mannus to double the home advantage.
Wright acted at the break by replacing central midfield pair Murray Davidson and Chris Millar with Willock and Blair Alston.
The switch didn’t have the required impact and, instead, Aberdeen increased their lead to three.
Andrew Considine’s deep delivery from the left flank was headed back across goal by Shay Logan, allowing Stewart to tap home from a couple of yards out.
Saints, to their credit, dug in and were rewarded with the smallest of lifelines in the 68th minute of the game.
Quick-thinking Chris Kane nudged an early corner to Craig whose delivery was perfect for Willock.
His header was goalbound but a deflection off May helped the ball into the back of the net. It did prove to be a mere consolation when Aberdeen netted their fourth of the afternoon with 82 minutes on the clock.
Shaughnessy’s weak headed clearance fell for May who shifted the ball into the path of Stewart.
The former Dundee forward’s first time, left-footed strike was powerful and accurate to find the bottom corner.
For McDiarmid midfielder Craig, he believes this season will benefit the club’s younger players.
He said: “We’ve had a group of players here over the last few years who go toe to toe with everyone in the league.
“This year, there has been a transition in terms of we’ve lost a few players and there are younger boys coming in.
“But it’s up to the senior players to get that mentality into everyone that comes in the door that we’re hard to beat and we earn the right to play.
“Looking forward, there are a lot of younger boys who have come in the door and there’s a lot of quality there. They’re going to gain a lot of experience with the amount of minutes they’ve had.”