The scene at the Port of Dover over the weekend was like something out of Wacky Races.

A mass pilgrimage to Europe descended at the border to France almost as soon as the home-time bell rang out at playgrounds up and down the country on Friday afternoon to signify the start of the Easter holidays. Lorryfuls of goods, coachfuls of kids, carfuls of families, minibusfuls of 18-30s jammed into adjacent lanes leading up to stations manned by stony-faced border officials ready to check and stamp stackfuls of passports and documents before sending these foolhardy holidaymakers on their merry way.

Perhaps the promise of fistfuls of baguettes across the Channel, caskfuls of wine and barrelfuls of stinky cheese is avarice enough to keep these stunted seafarers and tunnel trekkers going. Or maybe it’s just the chance to get out of the doldrums of the stunted domestic scene that motivates them. Who knows?

There’s a similar logjam developing at the bottle neck of the cinch Premiership table as Hearts, Aberdeen, St Mirren and maybe even Livingston continue to lane-hop, horn-blast, window-wipe and hazard-light their route towards the coveted European lanes in the standings.

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At one stage of the season, it looked as though Robbie Neilson had done the sensible thing and made a break for the border before schools were out, with the taste of his Hearts side’s Conference League still fresh on the palate. While trips to Florence to face Serie A stalwarts Fiorentina, the Turkish delights of Istanbul to take on Basaksehir FK, and their Baltic quest against Latvians RFS ultimately left the Gorgie side out in the cold in third place in their group section, the players, supporters and manager Neilson relished the series of stamps on their passports and will be determined to add a few more next term.

But the Hearts juggernaut has been riding on a flat tyre of late: two wins and four defeats in their last six league outings has allowed a resurgent Aberdeen, who have stepped on the gas in collecting 15 points out of a possible 18 during that stretch, to climb to within one point of their Tynecastle rivals in fourth place. The 2-1 defeat to Kilmarnock at Rugby Park on Saturday represented a wheel coming off for Hearts in the race for third, having gone 1-0 up and with the hosts reduced to 10 men in the second half underlining the sense of malaise down Gorgie way at present.

Aberdeen, meanwhile, having thrown Jim Goodwin off the bus after a horrendous run of form since Christmas, have really clicked into gear under the guidance of Barry Robson. The ground they have made on their rivals since the former midfielder and first-team coach took the wheel is astounding. The 1-0 win away to St Johnstone at the weekend may not have been easy on the eye, but getting points on the board at this stage of the season is everything – it’s about the destination, after all, and not the journey. That form and momentum makes the Pittodrie side favourites for the coveted third-place berth which guarantees group-stage football, and the cash injection that provides. Should Robson, who was given the job until the end of the season, achieve this feat, then surely Dave Cormack and his board will afford the young boss the chance to reap what he’s sowed.

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Just three points back are St Mirren – a team who like to shift results lanes evenly with two wins, two draws and two defeats in their last six league outings. Saturday’s impressive 3-0 victory over Livingston, however, lays down a marker for their potential top-six rivals and allowed them to overtake Hibernian into fifth place – which should be enough to guarantee European football with Celtic and Rangers the clear favourites to lift the Scottish Cup with Falkirk and Inverness Caley Thistle making up the other half of the semi-final draw.

Lee Johnson’s Hibs, meanwhile, appear to be running on fumes, Saturday’s 3-1 capitulation at home to Motherwell the latest result to have warning icons flashing on the Easter Road dashboard.

And breathing down their necks in seventh place, just one point adrift of the capital side, are Davie Martindale’s Livi. Despite another season of confounding expectations, one win in their last six league outings has them trailing even a top-six place, with the split just three rounds of fixtures away. But were the gold-and-black outfit to dock themselves in the division’s upper echelon for the final five matches, it would be like witnessing Del Trotter’s Robin Reliant speeding past in the hard shoulder for the likes of Hibs and St Mirren.

As the scenes at the Port of Dover illustrate, it’s one thing getting to the border for Europe by making it into the top six, but the final five rounds of matches which will decide those top five places promise to be almost excruciatingly tight and intense. With the Champions League places sewn up by the usual suspects, the gateway to Europe will see three other sides granted access to the continent, while one unlucky loser will have their credentials refused. Time to buckle up…