St. Johnstone take on Aberdeen this weekend at Pittodrie in a match that is a must-win for Tommy Wright's men if they're to have any chance of finishing in the top six this season.
The Perth club has finished in the top half of Scotland's top flight for the past six seasons in a row but the manager admits that they face an uphill task if they're going to achieve that feat for a seventh consecutive campaign.
Speaking on Thursday ahead of Saturday afternoon's match, Tommy said: "It’s a remote chance and the odds are certainly stacked against us. Hearts only really need one point from their last two games due to goal difference.
"What a victory on Saturday does though is put pressure on Hearts ahead of their game with Dundee and that’s what we’re aiming to do.
"Even if we don’t make the top six, we want to finish the season as strongly as possible and that means securing 7th – so either way, we’re going to Aberdeen to try and come back down the road with all three points." What a victory on Saturday does though is put pressure on Hearts ahead of their game with Dundee and that’s what we’re aiming to do.
Saints will welcome their newest international back into the first-team squad, after David Wotherspoon missed the midweek victory over Hamilton Accies through suspension. Wotherspoon made his first appearance for Canada last weekend during a 1-0 victory over New Zealand in Spain.
Also returning to the squad is full-back Richard Foster, who has recovered from a torn hamstring much quicker than expected, much to the delight of his manager.
"It’s been a pleasant surprise to have Richard back so quickly. Different players seem to have knack of recovering quicker and ahead of schedule.
"From the scans when Richard first picked up the injury, we were told twelve weeks which put him out until bang on the 12th May. To get him back involved so quickly is a massive bonus to the squad for the run-in.
"David Wotherspoon also returns from suspension and it's great because as a manager I'm at my happiest when I have as many players fit and available as possible.
"We’ve had difficult spells with injuries this season and at different points we’ve had up to eight first-team outfielders on the sidelines. It’s probably been the worst year for injuries that we’ve had since I’ve been here so to get the guys back involved is a huge plus for us."
An own goal was enough to give Saints a 1-0 victory over Hamilton at McDiarmid Park on Wednesday night, all but putting to bed any fears over any potential relegation battle. It has left the club with an outside chance of pipping Hearts and Motherwell for a place in the top six, although it's very much in the Gorgie side's hands.
Saturday's opponents Aberdeen are still battling with Rangers and Hibs to see who will claim second spot in the Scottish Premiership, and the Pittodrie side inflicted two 3-0 defeats on Saints in the previous meetings between the clubs this season. We’ve had some poor defeats this season but I’d say two of our worst performances we’ve had overall came against Aberdeen home and away.
The defeats hurt Wright and his players, and he's hoping that will spur the squad on to do better this time around.
"We’ve had some poor defeats this season but I’d say two of our worst performances we’ve had overall came against Aberdeen home and away.
"For the first 45 minutes of the away game we were very, very poor and in the home game we started the game badly and gifted them a 2-0 lead before we even got into the game. This season we haven’t nearly done well enough when playing against them and when you don’t perform to your best against good teams you get punished.
"Aberdeen punished us both times we’ve played them this year so we’re hoping we can make it a lot more difficult for them on Saturday. The fact that we’ve had a game this week while they’ve not could work in our favour, and they’ve had a number of players away on international duty which can definitely affect a squad.
"Of all of the defeats we’ve had this season I think the two against Aberdeen have hurt the players the most. We go into the game knowing we have to win to keep any hopes of the top six alive so that in itself is a great incentive. It’s an important game and we’re going up there to try and win it."
Following an SFA Disciplinary hearing yesterday afternoon, Saints 'keeper Zander Clark has been served with a two-match suspension which commences with immediate effect.
The suspension comes after Zander admitted a charge of misconduct following an altercation with Dundee manager Neil McCann after Saints' emphatic 4-0 victory at Dens Park earlier this month.
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