Top line summary

  • Takes encouragement from cup game v Rangers
  • Martin Boyle back in contention
  • Lewis Miller and Dylan Vente still injury doubts

Can you take encouragement from the Scottish Cup game against Rangers?

“The time before that we had a very mixed squad and players coming back from loans. And even on that night we created problems for them. But what we didn’t do was keep the ball out of the net. And when you don’t do that it’s difficult to win a game against a team like that. But in the cup we played some good football, in that second half we had a lot of momentum. And when we were on top we needed to score. We didn’t and the game fell away from us. We into this game and it’s a level playing field. They have gone three weeks without a game since Benfica and we have gone two weeks with the international break. We’ve worked hard in the last couple of weeks to keep momentum going and freshen up a couple of boys who needed that. We go into every game confident we can get a result. But we also know we have a difficult task in front of us."

How are you looking on the injury front?

“Martin Boyle is back in contention. There’s never a good time to get concussed but the international break allowed us to be a bit more cautious with his recovery. Dylan Vente is back in training but probably doubtful for tomorrow. Josh Campbell is getting closer now and Jake Doyle-Hayes is doing more. So we’re looking forward to getting a few more bodies back in the next couple of weeks. Lewis Miller is touch and go, he has been back out on the grass this week. But after what happened the last time we need to be a little more cautious. We’ll make a decision on that tomorrow."

What's your opinion on the Premiership split as a concept?

“Yeah, well it’s something that is new to me, a split in the league at this time. It’s obviously been a format that has been here a long time. The fact is every team wants to make that top six, whether I think it’s the right thing or not is irrelevant. What I have to do is try and get enough points to get in there. And from there you have games where points are available and you can chase a European spot. As a manager that’s all I can affect.”

How does it compare to making the play-offs in Australia?

“The top six is similar, but in Australia you’re fighting for the main prize, which is the grand final. Here, it’s fighting for the opportunity to play in Europe so there’s a fantastic carrot at the end of it. It’s a good opportunity for everybody.”

Do you feel you've been getting closer to Rangers with every game?

“You probably could say that if you look back on the three performances. What we need to do is make sure we’re disciplined tomorrow – they’re a very good team. But we can compete with everybody in the league, I think we’ve shown that. At times, the result probably hasn’t reflected the performance but, ultimately, you can’t concede goals and you have to punish at the other end, which is something we’ve been a little bit sloppy with in big games because we’ve created good chances against the top teams. Those are the opportunities that have gone begging, and if you make one mistake at the back you’re going to get punished because you’re playing against high quality players."

People always talk about being 'brave' when you go to Ibrox or Celtic Park - what does bravery look like to you in these games?

“It means not changing the way we play. We may adapt a little it in terms of formation, but we have players who are comfortable on the ball. Being brave is not being naïve, and wanting the ball. You have to want the ball, because if you give quality opposition possession for large periods they’ve got more chance to hurt you. It’s us doing what we do every week, trying to play the way that we play. You have to adapt to the opposition, as well. Being brave at the back is sometimes sticking your face in front of a shot, out wide blocking a cross. That’s bravery, as well, but it’s also something that should be a fundamental of football."

Could a big result be something that takes this team to another level?

“Look, it’s nine points to play for. The run that we’re on is only going to build confidence. Going to Ibrox, these are the games you want to play in. You want to go there, it’s a fantastic atmosphere but it’s going to be hostile. These are the games you want to play and manage in.

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"Of course, to get a result at a difficult place is something to take confidence from. We’ll go there and take confidence from giving a good account of ourselves and putting in a good performance. The result is never guaranteed but as long we turn up and show the same application we’ve been showing over the last six or seven games, we’ll give ourselves a good chance to get something."