Kilmarnock manager Derek McInnes praised his players’ efforts and attitude as he called for fans to put their cup frustrations behind them and back the team’s survival fight.
McInnes admitted that Inverness “wanted it more than us” immediately after his side fell to a Scottish Cup quarter-final defeat in the Highlands last Friday.
The former St Johnstone manager has rowed back on that instant analysis and claimed his team had been “spooked” by losing soft goals at key moments in the 2-1 defeat and did not react well enough.
He fully expects a positive reaction when St Johnstone visit Rugby Park on Saturday as Killie eye the chance to cut a seven-point deficit on the Perth side and drag them back into the cinch Premiership relegation battle.
When asked whether he had addressed his comments about desire with the players, McInnes said: “It wasn’t an attitude. I looked at the stats and the first port of call is you want to see how hard your team is working and running, and we were above average from where we normally are. Even compared to games we have won this season, the running stats were absolutely fine.
“I know the team want to win and there is a real effort there but we have got to help ourselves in certain situations. I just thought they were brighter, more alive to second balls, I thought they played forward more and ran forward more and and I just thought we were a little unsure of ourselves.
“We had our hands full and I just felt we needed to show more composure and calmness than anything, and just deliver a better performance overall.
“When you say things after the game…. I stand by the fact that I thought Inverness played the game more like a cup tie, but it wasn’t through a lack of effort from my players.”
McInnes, who will be without the injured Liam Polworth on Saturday, added: “I have got a great group of players here, they are brilliant lads. You could not question them one iota for their attitude and work-rate.
“We have got a brilliant spirit and we are going to have have to lean on that.”
Killie have won 22 of their 24 points from home games this season and McInnes is keen for the fans to help maintain that form.
“Last season we had a squad built to get out the Championship and the majority of that squad was under contract for this season,” he said.
“We have now got to show we have a squad here that is good enough to stay in the Premiership. We don’t get trophies and medals at the end of the season but it’s the same outcome.
“When you are top of the league and you bring that support with you, it’s great, and we tapped into that last season.
“It’s important we now have that again, there is a recognition that everybody has their part to play, stay behind the team, have that belief with the players.
“The home form has been good and the home fans have seen a lot of our better performances this season, and that is going to be key for us.
“I appeal that any frustration or anger towards results recently, particularly the Inverness game, they would channel that towards Saturday’s game and getting right behind the lads.
“Because the one thing you can’t aim at them is lack of effort.
“There is a real willingness to make sure we get the job done. We all feel the responsibility of that and I feel, like last season, we will meet that responsibility.”