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Croft targets 'biggest game of season' - and it's not the final

ST JOHNSTONE have taken care of some business ahead of next week's Scottish Cup final, signing Lee Croft and Steven MacLean on extended contracts.

Winger Croft has signed a one-year deal after impressing following his return to the club midway through the season. Striker MacLean, who has hit 10 goals this season despite four months out with a knee injury, has signed for another two years.

Tommy Wright, the manager, told the club website: "It's great news for the club and the players and a nice boost ahead of cup final week."

For 28-year-old Croft, the contract will come as a relief but he is more concerned with tomorrow's final league game of the campaign against Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

While some players might view the trip up the A9 as an inconvenience with next weekend's Celtic Park decider with local rivals Dundee United getting top priority, Croft is adamant that this will be his most important 90 minutes of the season.

The former Oldham winger has already suffered cup heartache after missing the semi-final win over Aberdeen, with a string of friends and relatives left with a wasted trip north to cheer him on. Because of that he doesn't want to miss out on the biggest game in the club's history.

Croft enjoyed a successful loan spell at Perth under Steve Lomas but found himself left high and dry last year when a planned move to join the Irishman at Millwall fell through. Then he was considering going to America before getting a call from Perth. He said: "The Inverness game could be seen as an inconvenience for some but it's different for me. This is my biggest game of the season.

"Because I've been out of the team through injury and made my first start against Celtic in midweek I want to start again. I picked up a hamstring injury at a really bad time and Sunday is really important for me. When I've been out of the team other lads have done really well, which says a lot about our squad."

Not so long ago, the season promised a treble of sorts for Inverness, with two cup campaigns burning brightly and the prize of European football very much achievable.

Warren insists the near-misses and slender margins of failure will only drive the beaten League Cup finalists on to new heights next season.

"It is all about trying to improve every year you play," he said. "We've got to a cup final this season and finished in the top six for a second year running. Can we go one better next season?

"Can we get into Europe? Can we win a cup? It's all incentives for us as players. When we finish our careers here we want to be known as winners, not just settling for being nearly men."

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