Chris Kane’s 84th-minute strike gave St Johnstone a narrow but welcome 1-0 win over Inverness in their Ladbrokes Premiership clash at McDiarmid Park.
After a turgid first half, Caley captain Gary Warren was sent off in the 67th minute after conceding a penalty but goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams dived low to block David Wotherspoon’s spot-kick with the Saints midfielder missing the target from the rebound.
The 10-man visitors looked to be holding out for a point but when Darnell Fisher’s cross was deflected to the back post with the Highlanders unable to clear, Kane knocked the ball into the net from close range
It was only Saints’ second win in 14 games but it moved them level on points with fourth-placed Ross County, with Wotherspoon the most relieved man in the ground.
A cold night, a poor pitch and a paltry attendance of 2157 – Saints’ lowest of the season – did little to enhance the fixture, albeit there was almost an Inverness goal in the first minute. Wing-back Liam Polworth’s whipped-in cross from the right was met at the back post by forward Jordan Roberts but he could not get his close-range header on target. Not that the near miss sparked the game into life. It was another 10 minutes of mainly drudgery before the next near miss, in relative terms, when Fisher drove just over the bar from distance.
In the 16th minute, after St Johnstone left-back Tom Scobbie tripped Inverness midfielder Ross Draper 25 yards from goal, Iain Vigurs curled the free-kick just over the bar.
The match failed to improve but, just before the interval, as the Perth side stepped up the tempo, Kane headed a Fisher cross tamely past the post.
Fon Williams then punched a Simon Lappin free-kick behind with Saints defender Joe Shaughnessy heading Danny Swanson’s resultant corner straight at the Inverness keeper.
Players crashed into tackles but the shooting by both sides remained awry in the second half, evidenced by Polworth’s angled drive in the 58th minute which flew well over.
At the other end, Wotherspoon had two efforts deflected wide for corners which unsurprisingly came to nothing.
When Warren, booked earlier for a foul on Lappin, was sent packing for a trip on Swanson inside the penalty area, it gave the home side a great chance to break the deadlock. However, Fon Williams dived to his right to parry Wotherspoon’s spot-kick with the Saints scrambling the rebound wide.
Down to 10 men, Inverness began to look tired and retreated to the edge of their own box as St Johnstone pressed in the final stages,with four minutes remaining their defence was at last breached by Kane for Saints’ winner.
St Johnstone: Mannus, Fisher, Anderson, Shaughnessy, Scobbie, Swanson (Craig 88), Davidson, Lappin, Wotherspoon, MacLean (Cummins 83),Kane. Subs not used: Doyle, Sutton, Clark, Thomson, Krachunov.
Inverness CT: Fon Williams, Polworth (Horner 88), Warren, Devine, Tremarco, Danny Williams, Draper, Tansey, Vigurs, Roberts (Wedderburn 74), Hughes. Subs not used: Esson, R Williams, Foran, J Brown, MacLennan.