GIVEN the weather that has pounded Lanarkshire and the rest of the country of late, it would perhaps only be natural for the minds of the Motherwell players to be wandering towards an opportunity to get away to sunnier climes.

But assistant manager Keith Lasley has warned the Fir Park squad that if they don’t dig in and do the dirty work in the winter, they can forget about a summer reward of European football.

In fact, Lasley has told them they better not be remotely contemplating the prospect of European qualification ahead of tonight’s re-arranged league game against St Mirren, after a collective slip in standards saw them toppled out of the Scottish Cup last week by the same opposition.

“I hope the players aren’t even thinking about Europe just yet,” said Lasley. “Come back and speak to me with a couple of weeks left in the season and, if we’re still in this position, I’ll be happy to talk about it.

“But at the moment it’s not part of our vocabulary and it’s certainly not in our thinking and I’m being perfectly serious when I say that. We set small, short-term targets for the players and that’s not one of them. It’s too far away to consider.

“Right now, it’s all about St Mirren and that’s not me diverting questions. We’re happy to be where we are, but we’re not letting our minds wander and we won’t get carried away. If you allow yourself to do that then you’ll soon receive a boot up the you-know-what.

“Every point is crucial. We get past that split and if we’re still in the mix, we’re definitely checking those other results.

“But right now, it’s all about this next game, because we know we need to look after ourselves, get the points on the board.

“We know none of it matters if we don’t look after our own business. It’s up to us, with two home games coming up. That’s our focus.”

You get a sense from Lasley that the horrifying first-half performance last week, and the attitude of his players within it, that saw them 4-1 down to the Saints at the interval still rankles with him.

“St Mirren aren’t a gimme, not at all,” he said. “From bottom to top, there’s not a lot in this league.

“If we look at last week and think we can turn up, go through the motions and come through with any win, we’re going to be in trouble.

“The first half last week served as a reminder that every team in this division, if you give them time and space, they’ve got players who can hurt you. St Mirren are no different and they’ll be buoyed by what they did last week.

“There is a bit of motivation there because it’s a stark reminder that, if you drop your standards or drop your level, that can happen against any team in this division.

“It’s something we can use to motivate the players. They know that. Hopefully it serves as a good warning shot. I’m hoping we’ll start the game better, that’s for sure.

“It’s up to us to combat the threats they showed in that game, nullify them if we can.

“We’re at home and it’s up to us to take the initiative, push forward and try to win the match.”

Lasley revealed that striker Chris Long apologised to his teammates after the needless red card at Hamilton that sees him miss tonight’s game, though he has full confidence in Tony Watt to lead the line.

“He’s had a good impact for us,” he said. “He’s getting fitter all the time, between game time and training. And we see him as being a big asset from now until the end of the season.”