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Kilmarnock sharpen up in attack in an effort to cut out the mistakes and avoid the relegation play-off place

MICHAEL GARDYNE was first asked about the bizarre, baffling forgery allegations aimed at his club over the past couple of days.

He sighed, before grinning and shaking his head.

He has been in this game long enough to know not to bite. "We don't have a clue what is going on," the Kilmarnock midfielder said, with an expression that made it clear that was all he was going to say. "We can't control that. We're just concentrating on the game on Saturday."

And well they might. A loss to Partick Thistle at home last weekend has banished any notion of Allan Johnston's side getting a couple of quick wins to avoid the relegation play-off then popping open a cold one. A victory would have opened up a six-point gap on their Firhill rivals, instead it is just a thin sliver of goal difference which separates the teams.

That result led to Kilmarnock working on their shooting in training this week, with a three-game 'goal drought' from Kris Boyd contributing to their struggles. That doesn't worry many at Rugby Park. All it means, probably, is that he will score today.

Gardyne raised an eyebrow when asked it the play-offs had made the league more exciting - "For the fans maybe" - but agreed that two victories in their last four games ought to be enough to secure their place in the SPFL Premiership next season.

"Aye, probably two wins would be enough," he said. "Obviously, it's the old cliche, one game at a time, Saturday is massive, we can't think too much beyond that. We'll go into the game on Saturday with confidence."

Most disappointing last week was the fact Kilmarnock had led - briefly - in that match before going on to finish without even a point. It is the hope that hurts you. "It is frustrating when you go ahead and then you're pegged back and you end up losing," Gardyne said.

"Things go for you, things go against you. But we just need to buckle down and get on with it. We have been working on shooting and attacking this week in training so hopefully we can get that into the game. Training's been upbeat, we're looking forward to the game."

Remarkably, as the season tightens and the games grow fewer, the gap between 11th place and seventh is still closing. Hearts fans might even have cause now to gaze at the table and sigh; at 15 points behind County they have now earned as many points as the Dingwall side, who occupy that dreaded play-off place.

Gardyne spent some time up at County, four years in fact, so knows how difficult the trip today will be. "It's hard to go up there," he said. "They've got a good record over the years there, I know from playing up there myself, it was great. But I'll be trying my hardest to score and hopefully we can get the win."

Trying to stop him this afternoon will be Evangelos Oikonomou, the County defender, who yesterday hinted he wanted to remain a part of the Ross County "family" if top-flight safety is assured. The gifted Greek left-back, now in his second spell in Dingwall, spoke warmly of his time at the club, but he knows their only focus right now is the fraught battle for Premiership survival.

"I returned to Greece after my first spell in Scotland but wanted to come back because I feel very at home here," said the 26-year-old, who played Greek top-flight football with Ionikos and Atromitos before joining County last season.

"The first time I came here, everyone who works at the club made me feel very welcome. They have become like family to me. I feel good here. I know the people and know how the manager works. It's a good club. That's why I came back. As for whether I stay beyond this season, we will see. First of all, we have to make sure we stay in the league."

Oikonomou knows the pressure on the Dingwall team rose a notch after a costly and controversial defeat at Tynecastle last weekend. County now approach today's match as the favourites to finish 11th; the stakes for the club could hardly be greater.

Oikonomou, though, has faith in his and his team-mates' ability to hold their nerve and dig a route to safety. "We are professional players and we can handle the situation we are in," he insisted. "We accept what happened against Hearts - and will seek to put that right against Kilmarnock. We lost the last game and now we have four very important games to play.

"We must forget about Hearts. Now we work hard for the next game on Saturday against Kilmarnock. The only focus is on winning this one and then moving to the next match."

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