Livingston boss David Martindale has challenged his European hopefuls to keep their cool amid the top-six fire.
The Lions recorded a fifth-place finish last term but were denied the chance to slug it out with the Premiership’s best performers after the split as Covid-19 brought the campaign to a premature halt.
The year before, Livi were the top flight’s shock troops, finishing in the bottom half but well clear of relegation trouble.
This season, they will be required to fight all the way to the wire to hold off St Johnstone’s charge for a possible European slot.
Martindale’s team currently sit four points ahead of the Perth men in fifth place – which might be good enough for a place in next season’s inaugural Europa Conference League if either Rangers, Hibernian or Aberdeen go on to lift the Scottish Cup and they get dispensation from UEFA for not having a youth academy in place.
“We’re speaking a lot about sporting integrity right now with this Super League row but everyone loves to see an underdog doing well so Livingston having the opportunity to get into Europe would be incredible,” he said.
“The boys deserve massive, massive credit for that as we still have the opportunity of Europe.
“We finished fifth last year but Covid hit and we didn’t actually get the opportunity to participate in the top six.
“The previous year we finished ninth but we were in no-man’s land as we weren’t under threat of relegation.
“It was difficult. We were coming to the end of the season, boys were coming out of contract, others were thinking about getting married or getting away with their families.
“This time it’s fantastic that we will actually have a wee bit of pressure on us and have something to play for.
“I think we will use that as fuel going into the last four games of the season.”
Livi journey along the M8 to face Hibs at Easter Road on Wednesday night for the first of those four clashes.
And Martindale hopes his side do not suffer another bump in the road after Saturday’s eventful return home after crashing out of the Scottish Cup to Aberdeen on penalties.
He explained: “This week’s preparations have been very slow to be honest. We gave the boys a day off and we did very little on Monday and Tuesday.
“There were roadworks and a diversion on the motorway coming back from Aberdeen. We ended up going through Perth and the back of beyond. I live in Edinburgh and I didn’t get home until 12.30am.
“Some of the boys never got home until the early hours of Sunday morning.
“The wee kitman got lost and ended up heading to St Andrews. He never got home until half past three in the morning.
“That wasn’t great so we made the decision to give the boys Sunday off.
“They put a lot into Saturday’s game with their sprint and running data, so we’ve been very careful and we’re ready to go again.
“We won 3-0 the last time we went to Easter Road but we caught Hibs on the hop, everything fell our way.
“It will be a totally different game this time. Hibs are in a very good place and we’ll treat them with the utmost respect.”