ALLAN JOHNSTON, the Kilmarnock manager, urged the club's supporters to get behind the team as they prepare to face a must-win home game against Hearts tomorrow.

The Rugby Park side's rivals to avoid the relegation play-off place - just a single point separates Partick Thistle, St Mirren, Ross County and Kilmarnock - are out of action this weekend as the William Hill Scottish Cup takes priority. And Johnston wants his players to seize the opportunity to open up a three-point gap, caling for supporters - who voiced their displeasure last week at St Mirren Park - to back the side.

"We need to make sure that everybody is pulling in the right direction and are right behind the team," Johnston insisted. "Because there are a massive few games coming up and with [the fans] behind us we are much stronger. Everybody is playing for their futures and it is up to us to get ourselves out of it."

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Two weeks ago, Johnston was enthusiastic about catching Hibernian in seventh place. Now, his side are back at the wrong end of the table, and the manager admitted that he understood the fans' disappointment. "Rightly so," he said, "because it hasn't been good enough. You have to be realistic, we have to improve, but we haven't been far away."

After tomorrow, Kilmarnock face probably the trickiest run of the fixtures the league could throw at them: Celtic at home, Aberdeen away, then Motherwell away. Three points against Hearts is a must. "They are tough games," Johnston admitted. "But it's the same for everybody; everybody else has got to play these games as well. That's what been disappointing this year, we need to pick up points against teams higher up the table."

Of his own position at the club, after a run of five games without a win, Johnston said: "I have not spoken to [the chairman]. At the end of the day results determine your position. I am not going to say everything is fine when results haven't been good enough so it up to us to improve. Time will tell if I am still in the plans or not."