Kilmarnock manager Derek McInnes insists he is not surprised that Arbroath have maintained their title push.
Killie host Arbroath in their penultimate cinch Championship game on Friday knowing that victory would clinch the title – but defeat would put the part-timers on top.
McInnes accepts counterpart Dick Campbell’s claims that the pressure is all on Killie but hinted that too much had been made about Arbroath’s part-time status.
“Pressure is what it is,” the former Aberdeen boss said. “There’s been pressure on everyone who works at Kilmarnock from the first day of the season to get the club back into the Premiership, so I wouldn’t disagree with that.
“There’s been a lot said about Arbroath and what I would say is that they have had three years building that team.
“I have such a high regard for the players there, they have been so consistent, and they are good players.
“Every one of those players could be full-time. That needs to be said. There are players who would be full-time in any other situation but they have chosen to be part-time for their own personal reasons.
“They have such a good level of player, it’s no surprise to me that they have done so well. We are going to have to overcome them.
“It’s two good teams who have been the two best teams in the league over 34 games and it’s perfectly poised.”
Killie’s 2-1 defeat at Inverness last Friday ensured the title destiny was also in Arbroath’s hands. The underdogs responded with a 5-1 win over Queen of the South to cut the gap to one point with the Red Lichties two goals better off.
McInnes, who has Rory McKenzie back from injury, said: “I’m just really pleased that we have this opportunity because, when we came in in January, there were no guarantees of that.
“A lot of work had to be done and the players deserve a lot of credit for putting us into this position.
“We have still got to deal with the situation and win this game but for long periods of the season this opportunity seemed to be beyond us.
“We lost a game on Friday but that happens, it’s the first game we have lost in months. Our home record is strong and nobody has won more points since we came in.
“You don’t win a league without beating good teams and we have that opportunity. I can’t wait for the game.”
More than 10,000 tickets have been sold, with Arbroath expecting to bring 2,000 supporters and the three home stands all heading for sell-outs.
“It illustrates exactly what the club means to the town and the support, the fact they are going to be there in big numbers is brilliant for us,” McInnes said.
“It illustrates why there has probably been more expectation on us this season in the division and we fully accept that. It’s part of the reason why I am enjoying being at this club, the fact that there is a demand, an expectation.
“We need the crowd to really get behind the team, it’s not just enough to turn up, and we need to produce a performance with confidence and show personality.”