GARY IRVINE has urged St Mirren to use the glowing praise of Brendan Rodgers and Neil Lennon to spur them on to Championship safety.
The Buddies were branded the best team Celtic have faced domestically after taking the lead and pushing the Hoops for nearly an hour before succumbing to a 4-1 defeat in Sunday’s Scottish Cup quarter-final.
Rodgers’ ringing endorsement of the Paisley outfit came just days after Lennon had described St Mirren’s 2-0 win over his Hibs team as ‘the best performance’ of any side the Easter Road men have come up against this season.
And Irvine confesses the tributes have given Jack Ross’s team, who are bottom of the Championship but were uneaten in seven before defeat to Celtic, a welcome boost as they prepare for Tuesday night’s crucial encounter with relegation rivals Raith Rovers.
The 31-year-old defender said: “Obviously it’s nice to hear those kinds of words coming from someone like Brendan Rodgers, the manager of a team that’s the top of this country at the minute. They’re a top team and he’s a top manager, so it was nice to hear his words.
“All these compliments coming from experienced heads in the game and top managers are great.
“It’s putting into words all the hard work we’ve been putting in day-in, day out as a team and a management.
“We can take confidence from that and take it into our league games now, because that’s the priority.
“It’s back to the hard business of the league games and the Raith game is a big one for us, and we’re looking forward to it.
“We’ve been taking bits of confidence from the last few games we’ve had and hopefully we can get a result.”
A win for St Mirren would haul them to within two points of second-bottom Ayr United and leave Raith – without a victory in their last 17 games – just three points above bottom spot.
Going into the last quarter of fixtures, points are increasingly precious for both teams and Irvine admits the Buddies must make sure they keep up their gathering momentum.
The former Dundee and St Johnstone full-back added: “It’s good to see we’re eventually getting rewarded for all our hard work but we’re still in the position we’re in and we’ve still got loads and loads of hard work to do, and lots and lots of big games coming up.
“Raith are in a sticky patch and have found themselves getting dragged into it a wee bit. But we’re under no illusions, it’s a hard place to go to and we know it’s going to be a right tough game.
“It’s a big game for them and a massive game for us, and we’re looking forward to the challenge of trying to get the three points.”