Scottish Premier League

McAusland wary of Hearts threat

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Fri, 03 May 2013 19:06:00

Dougie Freedman insists he never lost faith that Bolton could fight their way into the Championship play-off shake-up.

A ninth successive home victory over Blackpool in this weekend's final round of fixtures will almost certainly ensure Wanderers' participation in the end-of-season showpiece.

Freedman replaced Owen Coyle in the Reebok Stadium hotseat at the end of October and the decision to hold his nerve with a small number of astute acquisitions during the January transfer window - Wanderers were 20th at the start of February - and rely his own coaching abilities now appears thoroughly vindicated.

He said: "When I first came here, yes I did (see Bolton making the play-offs) but I had a decision to make, I looked at my squad and I needed to see everybody without making decisions that sometimes can backfire.

"I made a cautious decision not to go and spend money which was there because

I've seen teams in the past in this division that have come from the Premier League spend money and it not work.

"I made a decision that I would look at my squad and I would make sure that I knew everybody inside out and that I would coach and develop. That has given us the foundations to move up the league quite quickly. I'm very proud of the fact that it's the same players.

"At the beginning I felt we could. The first couple of months were difficult - there was a few mistakes made - but I kept on believing that we could go on a run.

The teams around us have dropped points to let us get in the play-offs and we've taken advantage of that.

"We were in 17th position 10 weeks ago. We have got good players, there's no doubt about it, we just needed to make sure that everybody was fulfilling their role in the team and that's what's starting to happen.

"I've made some difficult decisions along the way. Sometimes they're not popular, I understand that, but I think, hopefully, the fans understand I've done it for them. I've made the difficult decisions for the long-term future of the football club.

"Along the way we've picked up some results, I think, because of the decisions."

The Buddies claimed their first silverware since 1987 when they defeated the Jambos in the Scottish Communities League Cup final in March.

McAusland knows Hearts will be keen to make amends for the defeat at Hampden but backed Saints to claim the point they need to secure their SPL safety.

He said: "They will want a bit of revenge for the cup final. It's always tough going to Tynecastle.

"They have big, strong players. They are a good team. If they turn up on the day, they will give us a right hard game.

"But, hopefully, if we play the way we know we can play, we can get the job done."

Bottom side Dundee have enjoyed a resurgence under new boss John Brown in recent matches, allowing them to move to within eight points of Saints with three games to go.

The Paisley club have failed to pick up a win since their triumph at the national stadium but McAusland hopes they can finally end the Dark Blues' slim hopes of avoiding the drop.

He said: "We hoped to have done it before now but it hasn't worked out that way.

"The sooner Saturday comes, the better. Hopefully we can get it done then.

"Training has been quite relaxed this week and everybody is all right.

"We were disappointed not to get three points last Saturday but it's done now so we just need to look forward to this game."

Brown has this week attempted to crank up the pressure on the Buddies but McAusland is not interested in mind games.

He said: "I don't read about it. We just need to focus on ourselves and hopefully our performance can take care of itself and the outcome we want will be sorted."

A positive end to the season could yet see Saints secure their highest ever finish in the SPL.

McAusland added: "If we win our next three games, we could push ourselves right back up there but our main objective is to stay in the SPL and hopefully we can make sure we do that come Saturday."

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