Home has been where the hurt is for St Johnstone in recent weeks but this was about as emphatic a win as any by a two-goal margin can be. This Tayside derby was expected to test the mettle of the Perth side as their old rivals looked to narrow the points gap in the chase for a top-six finish – instead it was a bit of a stroll for Tommy Wright’s men which all but secured for themselves that coveted post-split position for yet another campaign.
McDiarmid Park is not exactly a happy hunting ground for Dundee with only one win now in their last 14 visits to this stadium and yesterday they seemed all but beaten after the opening 20 minutes by which time the hosts were already two goals to the good. “I’m really pleased, we got the response we were looking for,” reflected a delighted Wright. “Our play throughout the game was really good with or without the ball. It was more like us – the tempo we played from the first to the last there’s not many teams can stay with us when we do that.”
Even by the endlessly inconsistent standards thrown up by the mid to lower end of the Premiership the opening 45 minutes of this game were startling, particularly for the home support. Having witnessed a succession of slow, stumbling starts by their side the manner in which they seized the initiative from the off yesterday must have had them rubbing their eyes in disbelief every bit as much as the decent sized Dundee support could barely comprehend the insipidness on display from their players.
The Perth men were completely dominant and should been out of sight by the interval. Paul Paton nodded them in front from Graham Cummins’ lay-off after only 12 minutes and was soon followed by Blair Alston hitting the back of the Dundee net with a low 20-yard drive. A procession of chances came along for the hosts thereafter up to the interval with a Danny Swanston volley that clipped the bar and a Steven MacLean turn and shot coming close to number three. The paltry sum of the visitors’ endeavours in a dismal first half for them was a corner from Craig Wighton that came to nothing.
James Vincent fired in a fierce shot that Zander Clark was forced to parry away early after the restart and Dundee showed signs of improvement but the benchmark was hardly the most testing. This moment and a few set pieces aside there was little to suggest the tide was turning.
Saints continued to create the majority of the openings without ever conjuring up the sort of incisiveness they had shown earlier, with Paton’s rasping drive that could have delivered a rare brace for the Northern Ireland midfielder a notable exception. But they always looked comfortable with the bridgehead that their flying start had given them and after recent disappointments the home fans could at last head for the exits in contented mood.
“We were second best and I thought it was a really flat performance,” was Paul Hartley’s honest assessment. “We’re a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde team and today we were poor in every department.”