Kilmarnock 2-0 St Johnstone: Tommy Wright resigned to missing out on top six
St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright says losing 2-0 to Kilmarnock has all but ruled out a top-six finish this season.
Saints have finished in the top six for six consecutive seasons, yet Wright believes it may now be beyond them.
St Johnstone are eighth in the table, nine points behind sixth-placed Hearts, but with one game in hand.
"We can still finish strongly, but this result will probably take us away from the top six and seventh is probably the best we can hope for," Wright said.
"We were coming [to Rugby Park] thinking a win was game on, helps us close down Motherwell and possible press for top six. But we've got to get back to winning ways, and go to Dundee on Saturday and get a positive result."
The game against Kilmarnock was evenly poised until Jordan Jones was brought down by St Johnstone's Aaron Comrie inside the area, with Kris Boyd despatching the resulting spot-kick.
Jones was then brought down by Jason Kerr following a counter-attack, with referee Willie Collum judging that the Kilmarnock winger had a goal-scoring opportunity as he sidestepped Kerr on his way into the penalty area.
Kerr was dismissed and St Johnstone conceded a second goal after the break to good attacking play from Kilmarnock's Lee Erwin.
Wright was angry with Jones at one stage during the first half, but did not criticise the player - who was the subject of a disagreement between his manager Steve Clarke and Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes after winning a penalty at Pittodrie last Saturday.
"I thought at the time that Aaron possibly got the top of the ball, there's some contact, but obviously not enough. If he's made contact [with Jones], Willie Collum's got no option," Wright said.
"What doesn't help Aaron's position is that he goes to ground and that's something we spoke about before the game, that you can't go to ground, particularly on this pitch, because things like that can happen.
"Two things happen when you concede a goal - the opposition get a lift and you can either roll your sleeves up and respond to that or you go in your shell a little bit. We went in our shell a little bit.
"At 1-0 you're always in the game but we make another mistake, we give the ball away cheaply and Jason will learn from it. He shouldn't go to ground, he should try to stay on his feet and even if he allows Jones to get the shot off but forces him wide, [Alan] Mannus might save it. Down to 10 men, you're really struggling."
Kilmarnock manager Steve Clarke still refused to accept that he has steered his team to safety, despite the victory lifting Kilmarnock to fifth in the table, one point above Hearts and with a game in hand over the Tynecastle side.
The Kilmarnock manager is concerned, though, that Jones may miss Saturday's league game against Ross County and Tuesday's Scottish Cup quarter-final replay against Aberdeen through injury.
"Until it's mathematically impossible, I'm not going to say we're safe, because I've been in football long enough to know that you can make yourself look very silly at times," Clarke said.
"I'm delighted to be on 40 points, it's a nice landmark for us, but we want to keep pushing up the table as high as possible.
"Jordan's a good player, he's the kind of player you would pay money to watch. He's exciting, he attacks defenders, he always tries to make something happen. Fortunately for us, he made a couple of things happen that were key incidents in the game.
"He said his hamstring tightened up towards the end. Hopefully it's not too bad, but I would think he'll definitely be out on Saturday and he must be doubtful for Tuesday night.
"Everyone will talk a lot about Jordan after the game, but Lee Erwin was outstanding. He showed the Kilmarnock public probably for the first time what I've been seeing since I came to the club; he's a good player, he has a good work ethic, he works hard in training and I'm pleased that he's shown everyone else that he's ready to play."