St Johnstone’s top six hopes have been dealt a blow with the news that Simon Lappin will be out for a month.
Scans have confirmed the former Norwich and St Mirren midfielder suffered knee ligament damage in last weekend’s Tayside derby.
He’s off the crutches that he left Tannadice on, but now faces several weeks on the sidelines.
Manager Tommy Wright reported: “Simon Lappin will be out for about a month. That’s a follow on from Ryan McGowan’s tackle in the United game.
“There’s some damage to the ligaments and there is bone bruising from the contact made in the challenge.
“There was no malice in it and he won the ball. But it was one of those tackles that in this day and age could easily have been a yellow card or worse.
“Twenty years ago it was a clap you on the back tackle. Nowadays I’m not so sure.
“It’s a pity because once he got up to pace Simon has been a regular and done well for us.
“Fortunately we have Murray Davidson coming back from his calf strain and David Wotherspoon wants to play in there as well.
“Longer term I see him in there but he does very well for us on the right hand side. It gives me some food for thought.”
Saints have got a midweek game against Celtic on the horizon, but Wright insisted that the Parkhead clash won’t be a factor when he’s picking his team to face Kilmarnock tomorrow.
“The Celtic game isn’t until Wednesday so that doesn’t enter into my thinking,” he pointed out.
“You just have to focus on the next game and put out your strongest team.
“The game is set up nicely as both teams will want to go and win it.
“Kilmarnock will see it as a chance to peg us back a bit and we would be looking at a seven point cushion with a win.
“More importantly the win will keep us in touch with the teams above us and that is the aim.”
He added: “The players know they have to match the performance level they showed against United. Performance levels in general have been good, taking the Queen of the South game out of it.
“We still have a great opportunity to make the top six again.
“We have Dundee and Hamilton games coming up. We feel we have winnable matches before the split.”
There has been no breakthrough yet regarding contract talks with keeper Alan Mannus.
Wright said: “We are still talking to Alan. You can never be over confident but Alan took his time before signing last year and he will do the same again.
“We will keep talking to him and his agent.
“I would be more than happy for him to see out his career here. But historically Alan has tended to sign short contracts. He likes to keep his options open.
“Everyone is different. I was the opposite as a player. I remember when I signed for Nottingham Forest Frank Clarke asked if I wanted two-and-a-half or three-and-a-half years, and I took the longer option.
“The security worked for me because I spent a lot of the time out injured.”
Wright revealed that he and veteran defender Frazer Wright have agreed to wait until the end of the season before they sit down.
He explained: “When we re-signed Frazer last year we thought he would play more of a bit part this season.
“That was coming from Frazer as well. He had a long season and he is 35. His style has taken its toll on his body.
“But I have spoken to Frazer and we are going to sit down at the end of the season and see where we think things are. Frazer is quite happy with that arrangement.
“It may be the case that Frazer feels this season is enough. But the door certainly isn’t shut on him here. He knows that.
“We are still looking at pre-contracts and bringing people in. But that takes time. Agents feel there might be better offers out there and they hold on. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes and that goes for all clubs at this stage.”
Meanwhile, young striker George Hunter is already making his mark at the club with goals in the under-20s.
He said: “George has hit the ground running. We are keeping an eye on his progress. Hopefully some of the younger ones can get some game time before the end of the season but they have to be earning it. If they aren’t doing well I won’t be giving appearances away.”