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Callum Davidson wants his players to handle the play-off pressure

St Johnstone manager Callum Davidson wants his players to be positive in the play-offs (Andrew Milligan/PA)
St Johnstone manager Callum Davidson wants his players to be positive in the play-offs (Andrew Milligan/PA)

St Johnstone manager Callum Davidson has urged his players to show again how well they can perform under pressure as their battle for top-flight survival reaches a conclusion.

Saints travel to Inverness on Friday for the first leg of the cinch Premiership play-off final.

It is not the sort of end-of-season showpiece that Saints wanted to be involved in having won the Scottish Cup at this stage last season to add to their earlier League Cup success.

A season which started with the Perth side getting a Europa League draw against Galatasaray in Istanbul took a major turn for the worse and their cup defences ended during a 10-game losing streak.

But they got off the bottom of the table in the second half of the season and beat Aberdeen last week to secure 11th place after Dundee had briefly put them under pressure.

Now Davidson wants his side to brush off the pressure and utilise their experience of playing on big occasions such as their recent Hampden and European encounters.

“I think it will do us well, the ones that played, and know the situation,” he said.

“The European games are very similar with home and away legs. It’s something that players at our level don’t get too much of. I think that proves they can perform at a high level under pressure.

“We had to win against Aberdeen and put a very good performance in. I hope the players take that on board and have a bit of belief in themselves.

“It’s a game of football – you have got to go out there with enthusiasm, passion, a little bit of courage and belief in yourself, and go and try and win the games.

“We have got to play with tempo and energy and just go with that positive mindset.

“We are on the way up from where we were in January, so that’s a positive. We have to finish the job we started in January. We managed to stave off finishing 12th and now we have an opportunity to stay up. We will go out and have a go.

“The training session earlier was really good, full of enthusiasm and energy, and a bit of fun as well. It’s basically (about) how we perform under pressure.”

Saints are in their 12th consecutive season in the top flight and staying up would equal their longest stay in Scotland’s top division.

Their previous run of 13 years came to an end immediately after the league reconstruction of 1975 significantly reduced the number of top-flight clubs.

“It’s huge for the club,” Davidson said. “We don’t want to be in this position but St Johnstone don’t have the right to be in the Premiership.

“We work extremely hard to be there and we will do that on Friday night and Monday to make sure we give our supporters, the people of Perth and everyone who works here the chance to enjoy what comes with the Premiership.”

Saints will need to do it without some first-team players, although Davidson did not elaborate on who would be joining long-term absentees Chris Kane, David Wotherspoon and Craig Bryson on the sidelines.

The manager, who rested the likes of Zander Clark, Murray Davidson, Ali Crawford, Theo Bair, Liam Gordon, Callum Hendry and James Brown against Hibernian on Sunday, said: “I don’t have as many back as I wanted. We lost one or two players at the start of the week.”