James McPake: Dundee under similar pressure to Kilmarnock in play-offs

Dundee boss James McPake says Killie have it all to lose in their play-off head-to-head
Dundee boss James McPake says Killie have it all to lose in their play-off head-to-head (PA Archive)
15:07pm, Tue 18 May 2021
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Dundee boss James McPake does not buy the theory the pressure is all on Kilmarnock ahead of their play-off battle – but he does agree Tommy Wright’s team have it all to lose.

Killie’s 28-year run in the top flight will be on the line ahead of this week’s make-or-break double header with McPake’s Championship runners-up.

The Rugby Park side made a valiant attempt to scramble clear of the relegation zone but now face a two-legged shoot-out – starting with Thursday’s trip to Dens Park – to save their skin after finishing second bottom of the Premiership.

And McPake has now warned the Ayrshire outfit that their desperation to avoid the drop is matched entirely by his team’s eagerness to reclaim the club’s top-flight status.

The Dark Blues manager – who will be without Jack Hamilton and Finlay Robertson for the first leg – said: “Kilmarnock are in the play-offs and they have a lot to lose. I heard it’s 28 years they’ve been in the top flight.

“It’s a big prize they’ve got that we’re trying to take off them. They’ll be desperate to hang on to it because it means a lot to play in the Premiership.

“But we want to be that club next year involved in the big games. We want the derbies back and to be going to Parkhead and Ibrox.

“It’s up to us to make sure that happens, but is the pressure all on them? No, I wouldn’t say that.

“We are, in my opinion, just as big a football club as they are. Yeah they’ve been in the top flight a lot longer while we’ve had our ups and downs.

“Maybe from the outside the pressure is all on them as they’re the Premiership club.

“But internally we’re building that pressure ourselves as we want to be back in the Premiership and I believe you need that pressure. We perform better under it in my opinion.”

Wright has already identified Charlie Adam as Dundee’s dangerman.

But McPake would be quite content to see Killie putting all their focus on stopping the former Rangers, Liverpool and Scotland midfield ace if it means they take their eyes off his other threats.

“I’m not too interested in who they pick out from us,” he said. “We’ve got loads of quality in our squad.

“There’s been plenty of games we’ve won without Charlie and plenty he’s won for us, almost on his own.

“Charlie is a big-game player – but there’s loads more at this football club who can cause any team problems.

“It’s great if that’s what they want to concentrate on. That suits me.”

Adam proved his class with a couple of stunning assists in last week’s semi-final win over Raith.

But Kilmarnock have been boosted by the arrival of their own talisman, with Adam’s former Rangers team-mate Kyle Lafferty contributing 12 goals in just 11 games to ensure they avoided automatic demotion.

“Laff has shown he enjoys the pressure as he’s kept them in the division with his goals,” said McPake, who also played alongside the 33-year-old for Northern Ireland.

“Of course if we want to get to the Premiership we’re going to have to do a job on Kyle Lafferty – but there’s others too. We need to stop his service first and foremost.

“He can be a matchwinner on his day – but we’ve plenty of matchwinners in our squad too.”

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