ALAN ARCHIBALD admits shackling in-form Kris Boyd will be crucial if Partick Thistle are to give their SPFL Premiership survival hopes a timely boost this weekend.
The Jags head into tomorrow's relegation clash with Kilmarnock 11th in the table and eager to get their post-split fixture schedule off to a perfect start.
Boyd has kept Allan Johnston's side afloat with a superb goal return this term.
And Firhill boss Archibald is full of praise for the striker, who is in the running for the PFA Player of the Year award.
He said: "Kris is always a threat. I watched their game last week and, as much as St Johnstone dominated the game, Boydy still had a chance.
"He set one up and got another couple of chances and he gets that in every game he plays in, it is just the quality that he has.
"But they have got other qualities now and young kids that have established themselves this season.
"I think he is in the top four players this year. When you score that amount of goals, he has got to be up there.
"It is the players that vote for it and a players look at Kris Boyd and the way he has come back, a bit out of shape, and has worked on his game.
"He has changed his game, he is not just a goal poacher.
"It just shows you how important he is. I think other players recognise that and that is why he has got the votes."
Thistle may currently occupy the relegation play-off zone but the Jags still have a fighting chance of retaining their top flight status this term.
And Archibald is confident his side can rise to the occasion and put the points on the board when it matters most.
He said: "I don't think [the split] has ever been as interesting as this. It's a long time since it has gone down to the wire with five teams involved.
"It means we need to win the game against Kilmarnock, they will be looking at it thinking that if they beat us that is them safe.
"I said a few weeks ago that the boys need to draw on the experience of last season having to win every game.
"We have got to take character from that and they showed that last year. Yes it is a bit different, but it is the same thing at stake - to be in the top flight.
"We must better the results of teams around you, like we did with Morton last year.
"It helps you all the time. I am under pressure to get results and so are the players.
"We are coming off the back of a disappointing result against Hearts.
"It was worse because we wanted to go into the last five games having a lead and it hasn't happened but we have been in this spot before and we need to get out of it again."
Thistle are just four points adrift of seventh-placed Hibs in the standings ahead of the final five-game shoot-out.
The battle to beat the drop could go down to the final day and Archibald is eager to build some early momentum.
He said: "It is vital that you take something from every game because it is dog-eat-dog. If you get points on the board, someone else is dropping something somewhere.
"That is what makes it interesting."