Fenlon wary of familiar face
NO top-six finish. No William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final. Hell, there hasn’t even been a win to smile about since Christmas Eve. If this recent good weather lets up then you wouldn’t blame the St Mirren squad for asking tentatively if they couldn’t just call time on their season and duck out a few weeks early.
That run of 11 league matches without victory has become a psychological burden, but it has also afforded the Paisley side an incentive for the remaining weeks of a campaign they started by having to fend off plaudits for their style of play; St Mirren will be eager not to allow their faltering form to undermine the progress that has been made.
Beating Kilmarnock today would be a good way to start. Both sides have been lauded for their devotion to a certain way of playing, but only the Rugby Park side have something to show for it. Lifting the Scottish Communities League Cup has perhaps salved any discontent at the likelihood that they will finish outside the top six, but it will also be regarded as evidence that St Mirren are on the right path, even if the journey has become a little bumpy of late.
“Everybody talks about [our form]; every time we are getting a draw, a draw then a draw,” said Jeroen Tesselaar, the St Mirren full-back who will open talks next week about extending his contract beyond the end of the season. “We are a little bit disappointed about the top six, so we hope now to reach No.7 and to win against Kilmarnock. We hope that we can push it further next year and stay in the top six.”
The main focus this afternoon could be on Liam Kelly once again. There have been suggestions the midfielder may be included in the Kilmarnock squad for the first time since his father died shortly after the League Cup triumph. Danny Lennon is only too aware how difficult it can be to return to football following such a tragedy.
“I was at Hibs when I lost my dad. I was just 20 years old,” said the St Mirren manager. “I didn’t go back again for maybe two weeks. I even remember driving to training having told Alex [Miller, then Hibs’ manager] I would make an effort to come in, and when I got to the roundabout at Broxburn I couldn’t stop thinking about my wee ma’ back at the house. I just burrelled round the roundabout and went back home. But Liam Kelly not only has a good manager there [Kenny Shiels] but a wonderful man who knows the value of family.”
That is most noticeable in Shiels’ management of his son, Dean, who has been Kilmarnock’s most influential player this season.
Signed at first on loan and
“You definitely can’t put five or six youngsters in and think everything will be okay and you’ll be fighting for the title,” said Skacel. “You have to put one or two in and slowly integrate them because youngsters are always inconsistent. You need to find the right mix of experience. When I was at Southampton, for example, then, in January, on a shortterm contract, the 27-year-old playmaker is unsure if he will remain at Rugby Park beyond the summer.
“It’s been a hectic couple of weeks,” said Shiels. “I’m quite tired, but I feel good at the same time. It was a great achievement to win the League Cup, but I wasn’t thinking about trophies when I signed.
“If we hadn’t been in the semis, I would still have decided to stay [in January]. I wanted to remain at the club. I thought of it as more of an added bonus than a reason. I’ve been really happy with my decision, but I’ll need to evaluate things in they were relegated when they tried to play too many youngsters.”
Mark Reynolds, the Aberdeen defender, wants his strikers to find form after back-to-back defeats by Motherwell and Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
Reynolds, who expects to return to parent club Sheffield Wednesday when June. As things stand, I haven’t spoken to Kilmarnock about signing for next year.
“The team is more important than me. That has to take priority. We’re hoping for a successful end to the season, so I’ll just wait and see what happens.”
In order to make the top six, Kilmarnock must win their next two games, and hope that Hearts lose both of theirs, but Shiels promised a competitive run-in, regardless of the stakes.
“We’ve won a cup, and that’s great, but we can’t afford to rest on our laurels. The management won’t allow that for one second.” his loan deal expires at the end of the season, said: “We walk a tightrope. If we lose a goal it can be the difference between a point and three, because we’re not scoring.
“We defend as a team, from the front. It is disappointing when we don’t score goals, but the boys are scoring in training and they’re more than capable.” PAT FENLON is aware of what to expect from Inverness Caledonian Thistle tomorrow. Admittedly anyone who spent time with Richie Foran during his somewhat impudent formative years tended to remember it, and the Hibernian manager was a senior member of the Shelbourne side in which a callow Foran first showed what he was all about.
The pair will be reunited in the Highlands tomorrow afternoon. Fenlon will attempt to arrange his Hibs side to quell his former team-mate’s influence but he knows that will not be easy, with the Inverness striker such a pivotal member of his side.
“He’s a good lad and is probably essential to what they do,” said Fenlon. “Richie is probably the one who Terry Butcher has moulded the team around. That’s the type of character he wants.
“I tried to be an influence on him because, when he was young, he was a real handful. I tried to take him aside a couple of times, but he’s a big lad, Richie. Seriously, you try to give him a little bit of help – I think he was sent off about three times in his first five games.”
Foran would seem likely to retain his place for Inverness, despite Butcher’s assertion that he would look to shuffle his side following a midweek defeat by St Johnstone. “I’ve said I’ll make changes and I will. I want to freshen it up,” said the Inverness manager.
“We always generally get a very good reaction from the players if we’ve lost. Those that play will be the lucky ones because they’ve been selected. It’s up to them to go and prove they’re worth a starting place.”
Jeroen Tesselaar will begin talks with St Mirren over a new contract. Picture: SNS