Cumnock boss Peter Leonard believes his players need to reproduce their Cup form to help ensure Super Premier Division survival.

That may be easier said than done with the Nock rooted at the foot of the table after tasting defeat in seven of their opening eight league matches and preparing to play their final game of 2017 on Saturday when hosting the visit of title challengers Kilbirnie Ladeside.

Leonard makes no secret of holding a Christmas wish for three points as he looks to steer Cumnock away from trouble before their relegation battle becomes terminal. But recent experience tells him the Blasties will provide a tough test.

He said: "I was with Girvan when we came up against Kilbirnie twice this season and they were very impressive in an attacking sense with James Finlay and Jon Sculion in particular catching the eye.

“They ran out 2-1 winners down at Girvan but the 0-0 result at their place was one of those games that could have gone either way and I’m hopeful my Cumnock players can ask a few questions of them come Saturday afternoon.”

Leonard’s two months at the helm since arriving from Girvan along with backroom duo Chris Flannigan and Gerry Philips has evoked Jekyll and Hyde comparisons with Cumnock losing out in Super Premier contests with Auchinleck Talbot (3-2) and Kilwinning Rangers (3-1) yet running riot in Cup clashes, scoring 19 goals and conceding just twice against Glasgow Perthshire (9-1), Bathgate Thistle (5-1) and Craigmark (5-0).

The Cumnock boss added: “Having five players posted missing when taking on Talbot in our first game in charge made life extremely difficult and we then paid the price for getting things wrong tactically in the Kilwinning game when their front players Bryan Boylan, Ryan Nisbet and Carlo Monti were nothing short of lethal.

“Changes had to be made ahead of facing Bathgate so we brought in Bob Murray to stiffen our backline and pushed Stephen McKenna forward into the more accustomed midfield position he played for many years at Queen of the South.

“He has looked more comfortable and has struck up a partnership with Paul Burns that along with the running power of Kier Samson and Adam Hunter on the flanks has seen a lot of openings created for the front guys and I have to give credit where it’s due and say they have been scoring for fun.

“Cup games apart, we have netted a lot of goals in recent friendly matches and there’s now a confidence about the dressing room that wasn’t there before so Chris, Gerry and I are feeling a lot happier with how the team is taking shape.

“It speaks volumes that we were left bitterly disappointed when recent matches against Girvan, Arthurlie and Hurlford United fell victim to the weather as we were confident of the guys turning the corner.”

The placing on the Townhead Park open to transfer list of youthful midfielders Sean Fitzharris and Liam McLaughlin along with loan signing Craig Hastings having been recalled by Cambuslang Rangers has left Leonard looking to strengthen his selection hand going into the New Year.

He admitted: “It’s never easy taking over a team in mid-season because few if any quality players are available for sale and we’ve had to bide our time and work with the squad we inherited while assessing what's needed going forward.

“Our playing numbers are down to 16 and that’s probably the lowest of any Super Premier club so we have pro-actively identified 2/3 signing targets and the plan is to make moves in early January.

“Climbing away from bottom spot would be a terrific boost for everyone connected with the club going into the New Year and that’s why this game against Kilbirnie is shaping up as really important.”