Motherwell may be nine points clear of bottom of the table Dundee, and six above the relegation play-off spot, but it doesn’t take much in this game to have you peering over your shoulder like a jittery member of the public walking down a dimly lit alley and hearing a dustbin lid mysteriously tumble behind them. Saturday’s wretched reversal to St Mirren sooked a fair bit of morale out of the Fir Park men but it also acted as something of reality check. Despite that aforementioned cushion of points, things can quickly change over the festive period with two more games to come before the top flight goes into cold storage for January.

Ahead of today’s encounter with high-flying Kilmarnock, Carl McHugh didn’t dance around the issue of affairs at the wrong end of the table. It may be a trifle premature saying the next couple of fixtures are “must win” but the 25-year-old is still keen to stress the importance of them.

“If we were under any illusions about not being in a relegation battle then we know after the weekend that we are,” he said sternly. “The games start to become bigger because of that. We play Kilmarnock and then Hamilton, who are another team around us. We want to go into the break on a positive note and make sure we bounce back from the St Mirren defeat. That was a huge game for us and we didn’t capitalise on the opportunity we had to pull further clear. This is a big week for us and the St Mirren game was a really bad start. It puts pressure on us and the next two games become huge for us.”

While great swathes of the nation were binging themselves into a gasping, bloated state of excessive torpor yesterday, the Motherwell players were in at training for a limber up before today’s Boxing Day bout. “Losing definitely affects your mood over Christmas,” added McHugh. “If you are training every day then it doesn’t really feel any different to normal, but when you lose a game you just want to get back out there as soon as possible. Whether it’s Christmas or not, it doesn’t make any difference. It was a scrappy game against St Mirren. There wasn’t much quality in it and it was one of those where you have to make sure you don’t concede and don’t lose. But they managed to get us on the break and it was a poor goal to concede. We weren’t good enough all over the pitch.”