Brandon Haunstrup quit Portsmouth to achieve his ambition at Kilmarnock - yet it could end in agony
As Pompey seek to strengthen their hold on a top-six spot, Brandon Haunstrup is faced with an entirely different play-off battle.
For failure would see him suffer relegation with Kilmarnock in his maiden season away from Fratton Park.
The left-back quit the Blues in the summer to sign a two-year deal with the Scottish Premiership side following a successful trial.
Eager for regular first-team football, Haunstrup turned down the opportunity to remain at Pompey to test himself in Scotland.
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Having initially struggled to get himself into Killie’s side, the 24-year-old has established himself, starting their last 14 fixtures and catching the eye with strong performances.
It’s a journey which has seen him total 26 appearances so far, earn a red card against Aberdeen minutes after appearing as a substitute, and turn out at locations such as Ibrox, Parkhead and Pittodrie.
However, Haunstrup also finds himself embroiled in a relegation fight which cost the man who signed him – Alex Dyer – his job in February.
As it stands, Kilmarnock are second from bottom in the Scottish Premiership table, one point clear of the sole relegation spot.
Yet even that may not be good enough to remain alongside the likes of Rangers, Celtic, Aberdeen and Hibernian.
For the team which finishes 11th (second from bottom) are then pitched into a two-legged fixture with the Championship’s play-off winners.
Whoever triumphs will occupy the Premiership the following season.
Haunstrup and his team-mates have five league games left to avoid the bottom two and be assured of their top-flight presence.
Yet there remains plenty of optimism following successive victories under newly-installed former St Johnstone boss Tommy Wright.
Following eight consecutive defeats, he has led Killie to thumping wins over Motherwell (4-1) and Stenhousemuir (4-0), albeit the latter in the Scottish Cup.
Nonetheless, they are one point ahead of bottom club Hamilton, while are also buoyed by a far superior goal difference.
In addition, there’s the tantalising prospect of progress in the Scottish Cup, where they face League One side Montrose on April 17 for a place in the quarter-finals.
Victory would see Wright’s side play the winners of St Mirren or Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
Still, after 54 appearances and one goal during five Fratton Park campaigns, Haunstrup is finally experiencing regular first-team football.
And he has plenty to fight for as seasons both sides of the border reach their fascinating conclusion.
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
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