The St Johnstone players are in no doubt about the importance of keeping Michael O’Halloran for Saturday’s League Cup semi-final.
But, Tam Scobbie insisted, taking the field at Tynecastle without him wouldn’t be a fatal blow to their hopes.
On his return to the team after being stood down by manager Tommy Wright the week before, O’Halloran showed against Celtic just why Rangers are trying to take him to Ibrox.
The former Hoops and Bolton player set up Steven MacLean for the visitors’ goal with a trademark sprint to the byeline and inch perfect cross, and was a constant menace to the league leaders’ defence.
Scobbie is in no doubt what the best case scenario is for Saints.
However, the possibility of a worst case one isn’t cause for panic.
“We know that when Mick plays he’ll create chances,” Scobbie said. “He picked out Macca today with a fantastic ball and caused them problems all day with his pace.
“He showed why he’s in high demand.
“Hopefully he’ll be here to help take us into the final. He’s invaluable to us.
“The club have got to put a value on him from a financial point of view. That’s their decision. It’s up to the clubs and the gaffer to sort that out.
“But for us, as players, he’s had some performances that have been extraordinary.
“If we can keep a hold of him for the semi that would be great but if not, we’ll wish him all the best.”
Scobbie added: “It would be a huge blow if he goes but we’ve got other guys in the squad who can come in and do well in that position. There’s Graham Cummins, Craig Thomson and David Wotherspoon who can all play wide. Chris Millar could be back too.
“And the manager might be looking to do some transfer business.
“We’re a squad who come together when people don’t expect us to do well.
“That’s what we would do. It would galvanise the team. We wouldn’t look at it from a bad point of view.”
And Saints fans need not worry that going into the week of a cup semi-final with the O’Halloran issue unresolved will impact on the focus of the McDiarmid Park squad
“I don’t think it will affect us at all,” Scobbie pointed out.
“We’ll prepare properly. I think we’re going away to a hotel in a few days as we did for the Scottish Cup semi and the final.
“We won’t be reading the papers. We’ll just be concentrating on our training and know that this is another massive opportunity to get to a cup final.
“This week could define our season.
“If we win it will give us another final to look forward to and could help us kick on in the league for the remainder of the year.”
Saints got off to the worst possible start at Parkhead when Gary Mackay-Steven put Celtic ahead early on, but they were back on level terms moments later through MacLean.
A Stuart Armstrong volley made it 2-1 just before the break, and Mackay-Steven was back on the scoresheet not long after the re-start.
Scobbie, who replaced captain Dave Mackay in the side, was in no doubt about the game’s defining moment.
He explained: “At one each we were in the match and it was a bad time to lose the second goal just before half-time. We were chasing the game a bit after the break.
“Celtic showed what a good side they are with the chances they created but we created a few of our own. There was one cleared off the line and Liam Craig’s shot was saved.
“It’s those moments that define the game. Celtic were more clinical than we were.”
No wins in six games wouldn’t strike you as an ideal run-up to such an important match as Saturday’s but Scobbie believes the team are in decent shape.
He said: “That definitely wasn’t the sort of performance to send us into the week of a cup semi-final on a downer.
“The commitment and desire to get something from the game was there for everybody to see.
“We kept pushing and I think we gave it a real go.
“We wanted to make sure we were going into the semi with real confidence and I’m sure we’ll go to Tynecastle on Saturday and put on a good show against Hibs.”
On O’Halloran, manager Tommy Wright said: “I was really pleased with his performance.
“I didn’t have to speak to him because he’s been in good form all week.
“It was difficult the previous week because the speculation became an interest and that snowballed in the press, and he just wasn’t right mentally. But he certainly was this week.”
Celtic are also in League Cup semi-final action at the weekend, against Ross County.
Their next league game is at Pittodrie, an opportunity to put nine points between themselves and Aberdeen.
Callum McGregor said: “We seem to be in good form in front of goal and hopefully we can take that into the coming weeks. We have a big few weeks with the two cup games and the Aberdeen game.”