Kilmarnock's Stevie Smith to play through hip injury

Kilmarnock defender Stevie Smith
Stevie Smith was due to see a specialist for a hip injury

Manager Lee Clark has praised captain Stevie Smith for playing through an injury in an attempt to steer Kilmarnock clear of relegation.

The left-back was expected to miss Saturday's defeat by Aberdeen while he sought the advice of a specialist to help with a hip complaint.

But Clark was impressed as the former Rangers defender declared himself fit.

"He has shown the courage that he wants to play through the little injury problem he has," said Clark.

"He didn't look like he had any injury on Saturday."

'Stronger' with Smith

Smith could not prevent Kilmarnock losing 2-1 to the side sitting second top of the table and falling five points behind Hamilton Academical in their battle to escape the play-off place.

However, Clark said of his captain: "I saw him bombing down the line in the 94th minute to try and put a cross in as we chased an equaliser.

"So I was really happy he was back in the team.

Aberdeen's Jonny Hayes celebrates against Kilmarnock
Kilmarnock slipped five points behind Hamilton in second bottom spot after losing to Aberdeen

"It's no co-incidence we looked a stronger team when Stevie was back in.

"He's a good example to everyone else in the squad that, as captain, he's willing to put himself forward when not 100% fit and roll his sleeves up. That's brilliant for me."

However, Clark insisted that he would not want Smith to do anything that would cause problems with his career.

"I'm not a manager who wants to put somebody in jeopardy by making an injury worse, but it's great to see him putting his body on the line to help the club," he added.

"We are hoping to manage him through until the end of the season.

"Ultimately, it will be down to Steve whether that proves too difficult.

"Some sessions he might just work with the physio, but he's an experienced player, he's got good fitness levels and knows his body, so we're prepared to work with him to get him out on the park on a match day, because having him there will be crucial for us."