MOTHERWELL manager Stephen Robinson says that while there is still a lot of football to be played after tomorrow’s Fir Park showdown with Kilmarnock prior to the split, that the game may go a long way to determining who seizes a coveted place in the top six.

The Steelmen currently occupy the last position in the top half, but Kilmarnock are hot on their heels with the sides separated by just three goals, and the Rugby Park side have two games in hand.

Robinson is hoping that his team can stave off the Killie challenge, not least of all because it will help him get a head start on his preparations for next season.

“Last year I think it was the last day of the season when I was telling people whether or not they were going to get contracts,” Robinson said.

“Money dictates everything in football, whether I can run with a squad of 18 or 16 first-team players for example.

“Getting into the top six would give the club a bit more money to play with, and the board will always be supportive within their means of what we can and can’t do.

“You can attract players much easier and you can have your financial plans in place without worrying about relegation.

“I don’t think Nadir (Ciftci), Curtis (Main) or Tom (Aldred) would have come here if we were second-bottom of the league.

“That makes it difficult, and it made it difficult in the summer after the hard season we had last year.

“It’s a building process for the football club and it will be a gradual one, it’s not going to be an overnight thing that we will be a guaranteed top six club. But that’s our aim.

“We are trying to negotiate new contracts with certain players so that we can build a base for next season and maybe only bring in three or four players, and give us a decent platform to go from.

“We’re pulling out free transfers all the time, we don’t spend money in it. I’d love someone to give me a million pounds to spend on players, but we don’t have that.

“We know what we are, and we are already planning ahead for the summer months.”

One man who may well be a summer target for a permanent move is striker Nadir Ciftci, who has impressed so far at Fir Park since his loan move from Celtic.

“Why not?” said Robinson. “He’s enjoying his football.

“We’ve been very good for Nadir and he’s been very good for us, so if there’s something that can be done to keep him, then why not? Let’s see what happens.”

Kilmarnock have rightly been receiving plaudits for their form since manager Steve Clarke took the helm, but Robinson has been quietly satisfied with his own side’s recovery since the winter break after a difficult run of results in December.

“We’ve won four games, drawn two and lost one, and that was against a very good Hibs side where we felt unlucky on the night as well,” he said.

“We’ve got momentum and we’ve got a bit of competition back now as well with people coming back to fitness, so we’re looking to keep building on that.

“My first and foremost priority though is to stay in this division, so it would be another three points to make sure we do that.”

Meanwhile, Robinson also revealed that defender Peter Hartley could face up to two months on the sidelines after aggravating a foot injury in training.