Kilmarnock V Hearts at Rugby Park : Match Preview
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McKenzie: Killie must stay focused
Rory McKenzie has refuted any suggestions that Kilmarnock have nothing to play for as they face up to the remainder of the season in the bottom half of the Clydesdale Bank Premier League.
Defeat at the hands of Dundee - combined with Dundee United's own last-gasp victory over Aberdeen - saw Killie fail to book their place in the top six ahead of the league split.
Every team who did make the cut - other than champions in waiting Celtic - are now vying for a European spot.
But, despite their own ambitions being limited to seventh place at best, McKenzie insists Kilmarnock's players will be motivated for the visit of Hearts.
The forward said: "It was a tough few days after the game against Dundee but we've had a break since then. It's not forgotten about but we are just focusing on the Hearts game now.
"A lot of people are saying there is nothing to play for but I don't see it that way at all.
"We've got players playing for contracts and there is still a lot of money to play for in terms of places in the bottom six. So I see the game against Hearts as a big game."
Kilmarnock will be without Rory McKeown after the defender underwent knee surgery.
He is likely to join Manuel Pascali and James Dayton on the sidelines for the rest of the campaign.
Teenager Kevin McHattie remains optimistic that his fellow Hearts youngsters can begin the rebuilding job at Tynecastle next season.
The Gorgie club remain mired in financial worries just months after they were forced to turn to their supporters for help following a winding-up order launched by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs over an outstanding #1.75million tax bill.
Around 4,000 fans raised just over #1million to stave off disaster then but the collapse of owner Vladimir Romanov's Lithuanian bank Ukio Bankas has raised further fears.
And after missing out on the Clydesdale Bank Premier League top six, boss Gary Locke has now been informed he will have to trim his squad yet further following the January departures of Ryan McGowan and Andrew Driver.
On Thursday night the club announced the contracts of Darren Barr and Gordon Smith will not be renewed. Skipper Marius Zaliukas also looks to be on the way out of the capital club, while left-back Danny Grainger has been informed his time is up too.
But 19-year-old left-back McHattie - the heir apparent to Grainger's defensive slot - insists it does not all have to be doom and gloom where Hearts are concerned.
Speaking ahead of the Rugby Park showdown - where the 10th-placed Jambos will hope to rein in Kenny Shiels' men, who are five points ahead in seventh.
McHattie said: "With all the things going on off the pitch, that is obviously going to have an effect on it. It's been hard on us as players but we did the best we could.
"But hopefully we can now rebuild. That is the idea with all the younger kids coming through. For the youths it has been great but we want to keep the most experienced players and get better next season.
"The top six is still the target for next year and hopefully we can look forward to a brighter future.
"For the time being, we have five games left and hopefully we can win them all and finish seventh. That's what the manager's expectations are."
Locke has been handed good news after defenders Andy Webster (thigh) and Darren Barr (ankle) were both passed fit but Gordon Smith must be assessed.
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