DEBUTANT DOYLE DELIGHTED WITH DEFEAT OF DONS

Saints defender Michael Doyle came on as a late substitute against Aberdeen on Friday night to make his debut for the club, and was impressed by the Perth side’s performance

“It was brilliant. Do you know, it’s just what we expected. We’ve been a thorn in Aberdeen’s side in the last couple of games we’ve played against them as well. I think all the boys played really well. Watching it back on TV, we kept the ball really well and played a lot of good football – it was night and day compared to against Kilmarnock. We could have had another one with Steven Anderson at the back post, which I don’t think was a foul, but we’ll take the three.”

After suffering a tough defeat at Rugby Park last week, Saints were looking to bounce back and Michael knew that the players had it in them to do just that.

“I think it’s a big thing getting Murray Davidson back, and Steven Anderson coming back. It’s a lot of experience – Chris Millar was fantastic as well. Everybody played brilliantly and I don’t think you could say anybody had a day off. It was brilliant having Zander (Clark) in goals – I don’t think he was expecting to start, but he was absolutely fantastic in training yesterday so it just shows that the manager’s not scared to make changes. Obviously nothing against Alan (Mannus), but Zander did really well.”

Michael’s experience at Alloa means he understands the mentality Kilmarnock had going into the last pre-split fixture, but insists the scoreline didn’t reflect Saints’ performance.

“Kilmarnock was a bit disappointing. I think they wanted it that wee bit more – I’m not saying we didn’t want it but they were fighting for their life. I said that coming into our last two games, against Dundee United and Kilmarnock that on paper it looks as if we had an easy run in. I know when I was at Alloa and you were fighting for your life, you just want it that wee bit more and you’re able to push yourself that wee bit harder. It obviously showed – I know it was a free kick and a penalty, and if you weren’t at the game and just saw the scoreline you would have thought they’d run over the top of us, but they didn’t. It was a free kick, which kind of changed the game, and then a penalty, so if you were at the game, you’d have seen there wasn’t a lot in it.

Having taken 7 points from 12 netting a dozen against the Dons this season, Michael puts Saints’ direct style of play down to Derek McInnes’s side slipping up against Saints throughout the season.

“Tonight, everything was positive right from the start. We knew Aberdeen were second in the league and are still trying to push Celtic but if we played the way we know we can, we can beat anybody.”

“I don’t know exactly what makes us the thorn in Aberdeen’s side. My first game on the bench for Saints was against them, and I think Aberdeen were on a fantastic run at the time. They beat us 4-3, but we were just able to score against them – I don’t know why but it just seemed to happen. We have a directness they just can’t handle, whereas Celtic maybe try to play about them, and that suits them trying to play pure football. We’re very direct, we know what we’re good at and we use it to our advantage and it showed today because Aberdeen couldn’t handle that.”

Having spent the last couple of months sat on the bench, Michael was delighted to finally come on after working hard with the development side.

“To be fair, coming up until the end there, I didn’t actually think I was going to get on. I’ve been waiting for a debut and I’ve been looking forward to it and now I’m looking to push on from there. Against Falkirk I thought I played quite well, but I think there’s a couple of things I need to improve on. I’ve been working on my crossing everyday with Callum (Davdison) and that obviously showed – I think I could have had about five assists, but I’ll just take the three. I came on for the team, and you know you work hard when you do that. It’s worse when you come on as a player and just think ‘right, I’m on the park now – I might as well just sit there’. I was willing to work when I came on and I hope the gaffer notices that, running people into the channels and winning headers. I’m hoping for the next game I can push on and maybe get longer in the team and hopefully maybe get a first start. I can only build on it. It was good that the manager was at the 20s game and he’s not just watching me, he’s watching young boys as well. Big Liam Gordon made the bench as well tonight, so that’s another positive for the youth system as well.”

Even although Europa League football is unavailable, Michael, and the rest of the team, are just as focussed on achieving fourth place and won’t stop fighting until the end of the season.

“I think the target’s always been top four. The manager was saying before the agme that there is no Europe, but that doesn’t mean you don’t want to stay top four. I’m not sure if there’s a financial advantage in it for the club or the players, I’m not 100% sure, but the boys aren’t caring about that. They’re in it to finish as high as they can and they want to win. They play to win, and that’s always been my philosophy. You always play to win, so if you go on a good run from now until the end of the season, especially with players like me who are trying to win a new contract and catch the manager’s eye, and the boys who are fighting for their place for next year. It builds a bit of a bond between the team as well, which is good for going into pre-season. I think there’s a lot to play for, obviously not Europe, but the boys definitely want to finish top four and want to be that team who are pushing Hearts, Aberdeen and Celtic. Aberdeen were going for the league, and we like to mess with that and it will be the same with Celtic. You want to be the thorn in people’s side and the team that nobody wants to play against, so I’m looking forward to the next four weeks.”

Interview by Ross Gardiner