Diarmuid O’Carroll has challenged St Mirren to open up a five-point advantage in third place and keep their distance from the compact chasing pack by defeating Hibernian on Wednesday.
The Buddies are enjoying their best start to a league campaign in almost a century and are currently two points clear of fourth-placed Kilmarnock with two games in hand, while they have a game in hand over most of the other teams in the league.
With only six points separating fourth place from 11th, assistant manager O’Carroll hopes the burgeoning Paisley side can keep pulling away in third.
“It’s a very compact league but from our point of view we have that little buffer and we also have this game in hand,” he said. “We want to keep distance from the pack as much as we can but we know that if we drop our standards we’ll be back in the dogfight and we can find ourselves looking behind us again.
“We think we’re very good, in and out of possession, but we still don’t think we’ve hit the max yet. We’re trying to continually push the standards to improve. We’re sitting third but we also feel like a few points have got away from us. It’s about trying to improve and kick on again.”
St Mirren are in uncharted territory at present, but O’Carroll feels they are entitled to start dreaming of a rare third-place finish.
“We always have to manage expectations, the first aim for our club is always to stay in the division, it has to be that for every club outside the big five,” he said.
“But the longer we go into the season and with the quality we have in the squad, of course we have to believe in ourselves that we can push the dream. But ultimately dreams are based on hard work, graft and consistency.
“If the boys drop their levels, it becomes a dogfight again. Of course within the dressing room, the boys will have their own aims and there will be a couple of them who think we can kick on again and do even better. But we’ve got to keep churning out the consistent performances that are getting us where we are.”
For all the progress they have made under Stephen Robinson, St Mirren are generally renowned as a functional team first and foremost, but O’Carroll is adamant they deserve to also be acknowledged for their quality on the ball.
“I think people do say we are organised but in fairness I think there is a respect for what the lads do and what they’re producing,” he said. “When you look at Caolan Boyd-Munce, Mark O’Hara, Greg Kiltie and Conor McMenamin, these are technically very good footballers who could play for anyone in the country, and I think they’re producing that on big stages.
“Because it’s in a mould and a set-up where we are organised and structured and hard to beat, people maybe don’t look at that (technical quality) as the first line of the praise.
“It’s not a frustration but we’re always trying to push the dial further in that direction. Can we play more football, can we pass more, can we control games more with the ball rather than without the ball?
“I think in fairness to the lads, they know that there’s more there.
“We’re just encouraging them and keeping them going. But of course it’s an exciting time. I think from top to bottom the club is is in a good place.
“I think it’s been a really positive time since we’ve come in, since Keith Lasley has come in as CEO and hopefully we can keep fostering that with the fans and keep it going.”
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