Derek McInnes insists Kilmarnock won’t allow the double blow of losing Scott Robinson and Dylan Tait for the title run-in to derail their promotion charge.
Robinson had hoped to return from a heel injury that has sidelined him since January in the coming weeks.
But he was given the bad news his season is over by a specialist this week while Tait was also told he won’t play a part in the final six matches having been playing through the pain barrier in recent weeks with a knee complaint.
The Hibs loanee could return should Killie miss out on automatic promotion and be involved in the Premiership play-offs.
But McInnes is preparing for the Championship title shoot out without the pair.
Partick Thistle are up next on Saturday and a Kilmarnock win would move them 14 points clear of the Jags with five games remaining.
McInnes, who will also be without Brandon Haunstrup who is nursing a calf injury, said: “With Robbo, we’d been thinking more in hope than expectation. I’d lost him – along with Calum Hendry, who returned to St Johnstone – after my first game here.
“They were two boys who had quality and who we felt would do well for us in this division but we’ve had to deal without Robbo for a long time.
“Young Dylan came in and did well initially, often coming off the bench to bring composure and energy to the team, but the fact he’s carried this knee injury and never complained about it reflects well on him.
“However, once we had it scanned it became obvious he was struggling with it. He probably won’t be fit for the remaining league games and that’s a blow.
“We’ve had to deal with five or six players at a time being out since coming here, whether that was down to injury, illness, suspensions or Covid so you never know what’s round the corner.
“At the moment we’ve been able to cope without those players and we hope to have them back before too long.”
The end of two games a week for Killie, allowing more time on the training ground, should help to reduce any further injuries. Or so McInnes hopes.
He continued: “At this stage it’s about trying to fine-tune things. Players aren’t going to become any fitter as you go into the home straight. There are just six games left so most of the work we’re doing is trying to reinforce the good stuff from previous matches.
“We’ve had a settled team for a while now and we seem to be benefiting from that. Our job is to help the lads who haven’t been starting because every time we win that chance must seem even further away from them but everyone is important and everyone has a part to play.
“They need to be ready to come in and do a job.”
McInnes admits Killie have been had a target on their back since day one of the season.
Now they’re in the driving seat heading into the final straight that’s not going to change.
Two points separate the Ayrshire side from second placed Arbroath.
And McInnes said: “That target’s probably been here all season, even though I wasn’t here at the start.
“Being the biggest club and having the biggest support in the division isn’t something we can shy away from but it counts for nothing if you don’t perform.
“I’ve been pleased by the attitude and the effort the players have shown in my 11 league games. We’ve taken 23 points from them and if we can continue in that form we’ll be there or thereabouts.”
Killie head into the Thistle clash having won three on the spin while the Jags are on a downward spiral on the back of three defeats.
But McInnes said: “Each time you get a positive result at this point you believe you can achieve your goal but it’s only one step. Equally, when you drop points it all seems further away. That’s just how it is.
“Right now there is no room for error from us. We’re up against a very good team on Saturday. They aren’t too far away from us and there’s a reason for that.
“They have good players and we’ll need to be fully aware of their threat and try to be better than them on the day because that’s all that matters.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.