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Season's end can be easier on the eye . . .

PEOPLE were slouched in despair, ragged in their seats with heads in hands, taking in the odd roar of the crowd but keeping their eyes averted from the action.

Rory McKenzie believes that the battle to avoid the relegation play-off place will not be decided until the final day of the season. Picture: SNS
Rory McKenzie believes that the battle to avoid the relegation play-off place will not be decided until the final day of the season. Picture: SNS

For some, it was too painful to watch. "They were just listening, just sitting there slumped," recalled Rory McKenzie. "We don't want to go there again."

The Kilmarnock forward was part of the club's under-17 squad when Falkirk arrived at Rugby Park on the final day of the 2009/10 season needing a win to send their hosts down and secure top-flight safety themselves. At the final whistle, after the most nerve-shattering of goalless draws, the home fans spilled out on to the turf in reckless joy.

"I was on the pitch," McKenzie admitted, with a grin. "I'd been to a few games when there were only four or five thousand. But that day it was full. It was me, my mate and others from the youth team. It was mad."

There was a lot at stake. "I was at the age where if we'd have gone down I don't know whether I'd have been full-time," McKenzie continued. "I didn't know what was happening with the club, so it was a relief to me."

Worst of all was the late chance for Falkirk which left thousands of blue and white hearts in mouths. "Aye it was that Ryan Flynn, who's at Sheffield United," recalled McKenzie, with a bit of a smirk. "Where I was sitting in the stands there were those big steel things and when the ball went in the box I couldn't see it, just the ball rising over the bar."

Kilmarnock are three points ahead of St Mirren at the moment, with the Paisley side currently sitting in the corner facing the wall with the relegation play-off hat on. But with five post-split "cup finals" to come against their closest rivals, McKenzie believes that the four-way scrap for safety - with Partick Thistle and Ross County also involved - could again be resolved on the final day.

"I think it's going to go right down the wire," he said. "Over Christmas we got a few good results and seemed to be edging away from it, but then we went through a wee dip again, just dragged back, and now we can see how tight it is. [Today] is a big, big game and I think we can do it."

The odds are stacked against them at Fir Park. Kilmarnock have an atrocious record against the top-six clubs, and Motherwell's against the bottom half is near unblemished.

Stuart McCall, the club's manager, is a tough man to surprise with a stat. He was told that his side has only dropped two points against teams in the lower end of the table. "Hibs," he said, in a flash. "Yeah."

McCall admitted he has been surprised by the numbers of points his side have managed to pick up. At the same stage last season - when he was about to be crowned manager of the year - Motherwell had 10 points fewer than they do at the moment. The unfortunate difference is, of course, that the competition has improved.

"The amount of wins and points we've got exceeds what I thought we would get," McCall admitted. "Last season, at times, we were terrific. But then you look at the league table today and see we've got 57 points and think 'ooft, the guys have been doing something right'.

"We've just got to make sure we come off the park and do our bit. Kilmarnock are capable of causing us problems, no doubt about that."

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