St Johnstone V Motherwell at McDiarmid Park : Match Preview

11 August 2017
St Johnstone stopper Alan Mannus is only focused on his own game

St Johnstone goalkeeper Alan Mannus will not waste his time worrying about Motherwell number one Trevor Carson stealing his Northern Ireland place.

The Saints stopper will come face to face with his compatriot Carson for the first time since he signed for Well when they meet on Saturday.

Carson previously admitted he was unsure if making the move to Fir Park was the correct one for his career prospects.

But after sampling the atmosphere during Sunday's thrilling Ladbrokes Premiership opener against Rangers, the 29-year-old has changed his tune and now believes Scotland's top flight is just the platform he needs to relaunch his international career.

That could spell trouble for Mannus, who has recently nudged Carson out of Michael O'Neill's Northern Ireland squad - but the Perth keeper is relaxed about the challenge coming from his glove rival.

"I know Trevor well," he said. "I've roomed with him quite a bit while away with Northern Ireland over the last few years.

"He's a good goalkeeper and I think he will do a good job for Motherwell.

"He's right, playing up here does give you that platform to show what you can do, especially in the games against Rangers and Celtic.

"You're also in the highest division in Scotland, so that helps too.

"In the Northern Ireland squad over the last few years there has been quite a few guys who have played a lot of football in the Scottish Premiership, so if you're playing here and doing well then you have a chance.

"Will him being up here push me on? Well I just tend to focus on myself. Whatever happens, happens. I don't really pay much attention outside of that.

"I don't really spend much time looking at what other keepers are doing. Whatever way it pans out, I'll deal with it."

Paul Paton returns from suspension for the game.

The midfielder sat out Saints' 3-0 Betfred Cup last-16 defeat to Partick Thistle on Tuesday night as he served a ban that was carried over from last year's competition.

The only absentee from Tommy Wright's squad is Chris Kane, who has been sent to Queen of the South on loan until January along with young defender Jason Kerr.

Meanwhile, manager Stephen Robinson believes Motherwell will travel on a high following their Betfred Cup exploits in midweek.

The Steelmen went down to 10 men in extra-time against Ross County in Dingwall on Wednesday night when Charles Dunne was sent off for conceding a penalty which Craig Curran converted to level at 2-2 but they battled on to win the tie with a dramatic goal from substitute Ross MacLean to set up a quarter-final tie against Aberdeen.

Robinson expects his side's increased confidence to overcome any possible problems with fatigue when they return to Ladbrokes Premiership duty at McDiarmid Park.

He said: "It is a long trip up there and the game went on longer than we wanted it to but the buzz you get from winning the game will out-do any tiredness.

"When we went down to 10 men, probably everyone thought, 'that's the end of that then' and it is easy to say defeat is expected but they didn't, they dug in, showed super character and the boys that came on changed the game in our favour as well, so that is a pleasing aspect.

"The boys are really looking forward to Saturday, there is a lot of confidence in the team and in the camp.

"We have won five games out of six at the start of the season and there is belief and when there is belief you can start building a team spirit, fans start to believe in what the players are doing as well so there is a good feeling around the place at the moment.

"It is important to get off to a good start, by no means are we getting too carried away with what we have done.

"We got into the next round of the cup. We lost our first league game so it is now of paramount importance that we gets something out of Saturday."

Robinson concedes that St Johnstone, under the stewardship of fellow Northern Irishman Wright, remain the benchmark for clubs outside the top three or four in Scotland.

He said: "What Tommy and his staff have achieved up there is tremendous.

"They are not throwing millions and millions of pounds at it but they have improved every year.

"So credit to them and when you look at a smaller club like ourselves, that's what can be achieved."

Winger Elliot Frear is a doubt for the trip.

Frear will undergo a late fitness test on a groin injury while Craig Tanner and George Newell are struggling with knocks.

Left-back Steven Hammell remains out with a hamstring injury.