TEN-MAN St Johnstone recorded a 2-1 comeback victory against Kilmarnock as they claimed their fourth successive win.
For a side that relishes being under the radar St Johnstone are in real danger of drawing attention to themselves. This victory made it seven wins in the last eight games for the Perth club, whose manager Tommy Wright is probably glad that the international break is upon us so that his side can dive for cover again.
He will certainly be hoping that attention can be diverted away from in-form front man Michael O’Halloran, who notched up another goal yesterday and generally looked electric every time he had the ball at his feet with the chance to run at the Kilmarnock rearguard. The concern must be growing that O’Halloran will be the subject of some serious interest come the January transfer window.
For the time being, however, Wright professed his delight at Saints’ continued progress which sees them consolidate their grip on fourth place after the shock of going behind in this game after only two minutes to a Steven Smith header. “It wasn’t the ideal start, but there are many ways to win a football match as we’ve proven again today.
“We showed great character to get back in the game and I thought in the second half we were much better in how we played going forward and we defended well. It’s a good run of form but we’re not going to get carried away.”
Kilmarnock’s inconsistency may be a bit of a curse for their supporters and fixed-odds coupons, but it also makes them dangerous opponents for the unwary. Wright’s men were certainly guilty of this at the start as the Ayrshire men strode forward and helped themselves to the lead in less than 180 seconds thanks to a simple but lethal attacking burst. Josh Magennis latched on to a loose ball, fed Kallum Higginbotham who sent over a precision cross for Smith to bullet in a header.
It was a jolt for the in-form Perth side and they could have fallen further in arrears when the enigmatic Magennis hit a curling shot on the turn that flashed past the post with Alan Mannus clawing at fresh air. As the game evolved into an entertainingly open-ended affair there were wide-open spaces in the midfield and hesitant defenders aplenty and this cocktail contributed to Saints restoring parity. Steven McLean helped himself to possession by the halfway line, played a couple of one-twos before teeing the ball up for the effervescent O’Halloran to pick his spot from six yards out.
With shots and chances appearing at regular intervals it could have swung either way, but a determined opening to the second half by the home side proved to be decisive. With O’Halloran zooming forward Mark O’Hara almost blasted the ball into his own net as he tried to avert the ball reaching Chris Kane. Minutes later the same Saints player did find himself with a scoring opportunity and he finished quite emphatically after being set up by some sterling work by David Wotherspoon and McLean.
Kilmarnock made a pretty decent fist of trying to get a leveller as the game wore on, but only had themselves to blame for not securing it. There were a number of close-run things in front of Mannus, but a composed finish eluded them on a number of occasions when they had the Perth rearguard looking decidedly wobbly. The dismissal of Liam Craig for a crude challenge on Smith simply came too late for Gary Holt’s men to look to exploit their numerical advantage and as the Kilmarnock manager conceded: “The difference was when you get chances you’ve got to be clinical – they were, we weren’t.”