Fen­lon wary of fa­mil­iar face

The Herald - Herald Sport - - Football - MARTIN MCMILLAN

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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.