Lomas expects to use squad

Interim manager Rafa Benitez knows Chelsea will have to continue

to fight to the end of the season in what could be a nervy scrap

for a place in the Premier League’s top four.

A 2-0 defeat at Manchester City on Sunday afternoon dented the

London club’s hopes of finishing second and they are now looking

over their shoulders.

Tottenham Hotspur could move third with a win over West Ham

United on Monday night, while Arsenal are just two points behind

Chelsea.

And Benitez told

Sky Sports of the race for the top four after the loss to

City: “I said before the game, (if we win) it will still be a

battle to the end.

“Not winning is exactly the same situation. We have to carry on

until the end.”

A penalty save from Joe Hart against Frank Lampard after the

goalkeeper had brought down Demba Ba set the platform for City’s

win.

Yaya Toure and Carlos Tevez went on to score the goals to settle

the game but Benitez thought the spot-kick was a turning point.

“The penalty is a crucial moment,” he said. “We did not do as

well as we were expecting but the penalty could have changed

everything.

“It was a good penalty and a good save. Ten minutes later, they

score. Then we have to take a risk and it is clear they are a good

team.”

Rowan Vine netted the only goal at McDiarmid Park from close

range in the 52nd minute after Murray Davidson had bundled Mehdi

Abeid’s corner towards goal.

Substitute Gregory Tade, twice, and Frazer Wright headed against

the frame of the goal afterwards as the home side looked to put the

game out of St Mirren’s reach.

But Lomas was content with the narrow victory after his players

recovered well from the exertions of their 1-1 midweek draw with

Celtic, when substitute Nigel Hasselbaink earned Saints their

point.

The Perth Saints moved just one point off second place and gave

themselves some breathing space in the increasingly tight battle

for a top-half place in the SPL.

Wednesday’s trip to Dundee to face their local rivals, who

appointed John Brown as interim manager at the weekend, is the

second of three consecutive midweek games as Saints play six

matches in a 23-day period that could define their season.

Midfielder Davidson came back from injury and left-back Callum

Davidson returned to the team on Saturday, and Lomas admits he will

need his full squad firing on all cylinders.

Lomas said: “The next game is critical. Dundee took on a new

manager and that in itself will provide a difficult prospect, and

it’s a derby.

“I said to the lads we have got to prepare right. We then have

another tough away game against Hearts and have Kilmarnock after

that.

“Hopefully we’ll get a couple back. Chris Millar is not far away

and Dave Mackay was on the bench yesterday, we just didn’t want to

risk him.

“It’s definitely a squad game and Tam Scobbie was unlucky to

miss out. Hopefully we are getting a few back at the right

time.”

St Mirren manager Danny Lennon is hoping winger Gary Teale

recovers from a stomach muscle strain to face Hearts in Paisley on

Wednesday night after his side lacked the final ball to hurt their

hosts.

The Buddies, and Esmael Goncalves in particular, looked the

livelier team in a scrappy first half, but they struggled to carve

out a chance when they were chasing the game.

Both St Mirren and Hearts are desperate for victory on Wednesday

to revive their flagging top-six hopes and Lennon admits it is as

much of a cup final as their March meeting with the Edinburgh side

at Hampden in the Scottish Communities League Cup.

Lennon said: “I said to the players prior to the game that it

was still very much in our hands and that prior to the cup final on

the 17th we have five cup finals.

“We need to produce top performances and make sure we pick up

victories.

“That’s one out the road but we will be taking the next four and

trying to give ourselves every opportunity.

“It’s disappointing. That’s two out of three games where we are

playing on difficult pitches and totally going against our beliefs,

but we have got to be intelligent and adapt to that.”