Rory McKenzie insists Kilmarnock must rediscover the form which made them the team that opponents hated playing against.
Kilmarnock have made a disappointing start to life under new manager Angelo Alessio, with Europa League humiliation against Connah’s Quay Nomads and defeats in their opening two Ladbrokes Premiership games.
Now they face Hamilton, who beat them 2-0 last Saturday, in the last 16 of the Betfred Cup and McKenzie claims they have to display the qualities that allowed them to enjoy success under previous manager Steve Clarke by, first and foremost, being hard to beat.
McKenzie said: “We found out last year winning breeds confidence and we need that first win.
“We’d probably rather it had been a league game this Saturday just to get points on the board, but it’s the cup and let’s just win the game.
“We need to get back to doing what we were good at last year, being tough to beat.
“We need to have a better shape and not be so easy to play against. That was the biggest thing. We spoke to boys last year that we played against and they hated playing against us and we need to get back to that.
“Teams hated coming here, which wasn’t the case in years past. When teams hate coming to play you that’s a really good thing, so we need to find that again.
“It was the opposite last year, we got off to a flyer by picking up early points. Football is all about confidence and right now we are probably a bit low, but the game on Saturday gives us a great chance to build.
“Although I’ve said I’d rather it was a league game the cup is massive for the players and the fans.
“It’s probably what was missing last year, a decent cup run. So anything to lift the mood a bit, lift the fans and the players is only good for us.”
McKenzie insists it is too early to press the panic button.
He said: “Confidence wise, there’s been a big change at the club and we didn’t get off to the best start in Europe, which has maybe had a bit of an effect on the last couple of games.
“But we’re only two games in and I think people are talking as though we’ve got three games to go and we’re on zero points.
“I think we’ll be absolutely fine. We’ve the same core as last year and all we need is a result and hopefully that’ll come on Saturday.”
Alessio is keen to bring in new signings and McKenzie agrees they require more strength in depth in the squad.
He said: “Even last year the manager was still looking for more players as you need that competition for places.
“(Eamonn) Brophy is up front himself just now. We’ve got young Innes (Cameron), who did really well on loan last year, but you need more experience.
“We need two players for each position and right now we’ve not got that. But we’ve still got time and Kilmarnock normally do their business late on with loan deals and seeing if there are free agents out there.
“We’ve still got time to get players in but we do definitely need a few.”
Killie have no fresh injuries for the second-round tie, with Adam Frizzell continuing his recovery from a broken foot.