CHRIS Burke has insisted Kilmarnock can avoid relegation from the Premiership this season if they keep cool heads in their final fixture – just like the Birmingham City side he was a member of back in 2014 did.

The winger was bitterly disappointed when the Ayrshire club allowed St Mirren to come back not once but twice and salvage a 3-3 draw in their penultimate league match at Rugby Park on Wednesday night.

The result means they now need to beat Hamilton away on Sunday and hope that Motherwell beat Ross County at home to avoid the two-legged Premiership play-off final.

However, former Rangers and Scotland player Burke is confident that Tommy Wright’s men can defeat their bottom-placed opponents and survive in the top flight.

He recalled how Birmingham were losing 2-1 to Bolton and just minutes away from dropping out of the English Championship seven years ago when his countryman Paul Caddis scored an injury-time header. 

“I played for Birmingham when we played the last game of the season at Bolton,” he said. “We needed to get a point to stay up and we did so. It was actually another Scotsman, Paul Caddis, who scored a header to keep us in the Championship. So I’ve been there. I know what it’s like. I know what it takes.  

“Hopefully I can use that experience to help the group a little bit. I don’t think it will help that much because I know these players here have enough in their locker, enough experience and enough intelligence to know what’s at stake in the game on Sunday. 

“It will take determination, it will take mentality. Being calm under pressure is probably the most important thing. We do have that here.

“I’m experienced myself so I need to try and lead from the front along with other players in the changing room. We have to help and nurture the younger players who are still learning the game. 

“I think it’s important to stick together. We have said that throughout the season when we have had our ups and downs. But we have stuck together and shown that. Hopefully that can see us over the line.”

Burke continued: “I’m not telling any lies when I say the group is still confident. I’ve been in groups before that are a bit down and you can tell they sense the pressure. But this group is not. We are still confident. No matter what, we had to go to Hamilton and win.  

“We go into each game trying to win. We are looking forward to the game on Sunday and I’m sure Hamilton will also. 

“But there is pressure on other teams as well. Ross County still have to go to Motherwell, who are in great form. They want to get that seventh place and finish as high as they can. To secure that, they need a win. So it’s not just Kilmarnock who will be under pressure on Sunday.”

Burke feels the goals that Kyle Lafferty has provided since joining Kilmarnock in February will help the Rugby Park club beat Hamilton and stay up – but he knows they must defend far better as a unit than they did against St Mirren. 

“Kyle is an important part of this group,” he said. “His two goals against St Mirren were terrific. That’s predator instinct. Especially the second one. Hopefully we can see a couple of them on Sunday. 

“The defensive mistakes are a collective thing. You can’t blame the goalkeeper or the defence or the defensive midfielders. Strikers and attacking players take responsibility, too, because you defend from the front.  

“We obviously didn’t do that well enough in certain elements of the game against St Mirren. But the most important thing – and I think the positive thing – is that we can score goals. I would be more worried if we couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net.”