Hibernian V Kilmarnock at Easter Road Stadium : Match Preview

09 May 2014 05:01
Hibernian V Kilmarnock - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.

Craig counting on Killie indecision

Kilmarnock head into their survival showdown with Hibernian needing just a draw but the Leith side's skipper Liam Craig insists that makes his side favourites.

The race to avoid the Scottish Premiership relegation play-offs will come down to Saturday's early-afternoon clash in Edinburgh.

Killie have a point advantage and know anything other than defeat will extend their 21-year stay in the top-flight.

But the Rugby Park men must wrestle with whether to push on for a win and leave themselves open at the back or sit back and invite pressure.

And midfielder Craig believes that indecision will play into Hibs' hands.

The 27-year-old said: "We don't know how the game is going to go but if we are drawing going into the last half hour, I can guarantee they are going to get deeper and deeper - they won't be going all out for a goal, that's for sure.

"So from that point of view it is advantage us.

"With the fans at Easter Road, who have been excellent all season and especially over the last few weeks, behind us we really believe we can do it."

Twelve games without a win has not done much to inspire confidence among the Hibs faithful but the club does at least have recent experience when it comes to nerve-shredding demotion deciders.

They spared themselves from dropping down a division two years ago by beating relegation rivals Dunfermline 4-0 in their penultimate game of the season.

Matt Doherty, Eoin Doyle and Garry O'Connor all netted inside the first quarter of an hour at Easter Road as Pat Fenlon's team got off to the perfect start against the shell-shocked Pars, with Paul Hanlon then adding a fourth late on.

Now Craig revealed the club's current line-up have been busy asking the three remaining members of that squad for their memories as they psyche themselves up for Killie's visit.

"We've spoken about that game already this week," said Craig. "Lewis Stevenson, Paul Hanlon and James McPake all played that night and said the crowd that night was amazing - one of the best atmospheres they have played in.

"It would be nice if we were 3-0 up after 15 minutes like they were that night.

"But the fans did make a difference that night and I know that you do react to the fans and the noise they make, so hopefully we can get a full house tomorrow and get the result they are looking for."

Hibs will have Michael Nelson available after suspension but Kevin Thomson is struggling for the match with a thigh strain.

Kilmarnock striker Kris Boyd has netted 21 goals this season but admits none were as vital as his winner against St Mirren on Wednesday.

The Scotland striker grabbed the only goal of a nervy Rugby Park clash with the Buddies to edge Allan Johnston's team above Hibernian ahead of their last-day survival shoot-out.

Killie now have their future in their own hands and anything better than a loss at Easter Road will ensure they extend their 21-year stay in the Scottish Premiership for another 12 months and rule them safe from the relegation play-offs.

Boyd said: "That goal against St Mirren is probably the most important goal I've scored all season because it gives us the best opportunity going into Saturday.

"We've got the win so now Hibs have to beat us. That is the best position we could put ourselves in."

But Boyd does not believe his side are favourites just because they managed to scrape past the Buddies.

Hibs have gone 12 matches since they last tasted victory but Killie's luck is only marginally better.

Their midweek triumph was just their second win in the last two months, a spell that has seen them end up second best in their six other contests.

"We can't look too much at their form of late because they will be doing exactly the same to us," said the 31-year-old.

"Apart from the win on Wednesday, we have been on the same kind of run as Hibs have.

"The two of us have struggled to win games but it is a massive boost for us that we managed to beat St Mirren and keep a clean sheet.

"If we do that again on Saturday we will be safe."

Killie looked destined to finish second-bottom after they surrendered shamefully at Tynecastle last Sunday, going down 5-0.

But a gritty display against Saints gives them one last chance to save their skin.

Boyd is out of contract at the end of the season and has been heavily linked with a return to former club Rangers.

He is keeping quiet on his plans for now but insists he will do his best to repay Killie for the faith shown in him after failed spells in Turkey and the United States.

Boyd said: "I owe this club because they gave me my chance after a difficult couple of years and that's why Saturday is so important to me.

"Wednesday was an important result for the club too. We knew we had to put on a better performance than we did on Sunday."

Boyd will be fit despite limping off against St Mirren with a swollen ankle. However, Rugby Park boss Allan Johnston will be without the suspended James Fowler after he was dismissed during the 1-0 win over the Buddies.

Source: PA

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