MARC McAusland has urged St Mirren to use this weekend's game against Hearts to end the freefall that has seen the Buddies plunge to second bottom of the SPL.

A five-game losing run means the Paisley men are now just four points above basement side Dundee.

But, with Hearts just two points above Saints ahead of this weekend's game, the Buddies stopper is determined to use the chance to climb above the Jambos and put an end to Saints' poor run.

McAusland insists there is no panic in the Paisley ranks, despite Saints being on their worst run during Danny Lennon's two-and-a-half seasons in charge.

The defender said: "The run is disappointing, but we must look forward and the Hearts tie is a big opportunity.

"If we win we would go above them so it would be fair to say, even this early in the season, this is a six-pointer.

"The SPL is so tight that a win on Saturday will take us back into the pack and that adds to the extra significance surrounding this game."

Saints' cause has been undermined by long-term injuries to Paul McGowan and Darren McGregor, while McAusland has needed pain-killing injections for knee tendinitis to allow him to soldier on.

He said: "The loss of Paul McGowan has hit us really hard. Gowser was so good at relieving pressure and drawing opposition defenders to him and that helped create space for others. He was also our main creative force.

"However, we believe we have the quality in the squad to turn things around, and the first step towards that is to beat Hearts."

McAusland also believes his side's 2-0 win over the Gorgie men at home in September, which was their first in nine attempts under Lennon against the men in maroon, has given the Buddies some self-belief for the capital clash.

The 24-year-old said: "The win in our last game with Hearts was huge.

"We weren't on the best run against them so to get three points and keep a clean sheet was massive.

"That was probably our last decent performance so we owe it to the boss to get a result.

"The big things for us have been concentration lapses and bad judgment. We are making sloppy mistakes at the back and not taking chances.

"Also, when we should be going long, sometimes we are trying to play too much football.

"All of these things have served to undermine us in recent weeks and as a result the quality of our play has gone back.

"We know, collectively we are not producing what we should be and as a group of players we need to sort it."