THERE are now five clubs involved in a stand-off to avoid the relegation play-off place in the SPFL Premiership.
It was left to Marc McAusland to make the first move, one which took him out on to the motorway and far from the scrutiny of his St Mirren side's position towards the bottom of the league table. At a time of the season when any action is treated as significant, the defender appeared to have done a runner.
He had only skipped over an obligation at a PR event, McAusland having been recruited to meet kids at The Topps Swap and Play Tour at Hampden, but neglecting to then chat to the big weans in the media. His recall to the national stadium was followed by an insistence that it had all been an honest mistake. The 25-year-old would illustrate as much conviction in claiming that his side have little to run from during the final matches of the season; a sequence of fixtures he does not expect to comprise a play-off.
This was not just the defiance of a player whose team have relied on the inefficiencies of Partick Thistle to fend off an uncomfortable reality. McAusland was quick to predict that nine points will be sufficient to consolidate a place in the top flight next season, albeit his urgency would later be qualified. "But we will just need to take every game as it comes and see where we are," he added.
The defender's faith in one figure was undiminished, though. That is Steven Thompson, a striker who is counted on for more than simply scoring goals. He has 16 so far but his aim has been just as true in the dressing room given the 35-year-old has been responsible for inciting St Mirren to moments of conviction. He scored twice in a win over Motherwell at the weekend and has led the way after that match too.
"He knows how to get the boys going and he has great experience," said McAusland of a player who earned 16 caps for Scotland. "He is encouraging us and is telling us not to let the heads go down. He is confident that if we keep playing, we will play our way out of the situation. We have been playing well and it is all about having the confidence and not letting the heads go down. We need to keep believing we will get out of it and I believe we will."
That is a collective pursuit, but one which might still lead to a prominent individual leaving Paisley, since Danny Lennon is out of contract next month and has yet to be offered an extension. Yet McAusland, for one, is hopeful that he will still be playing under the manager next term. "Danny brought me back to the club from Queen of the South, so it would be disappointing to see him go," he said. "I would like to see him stay."
It was a sincere wish, although it is not for the defender to make the first move.