THE mini-revival under Allan Johnston was well and truly over for Kilmarnock long before they lost two of their players to second half dismissals.
Scorers: St Johnstone - Hasselbaink 24; May 31, 54pen; Kilmarnock - Clohessy 69
Jackson Irvine and Darren Barr were both sent off and, while each can claim the red cards were harsh, there was nothing unfortunate about the two-goal deficit Kilmarnock faced at the time of each decision. After a bright opening ten minutes they were thoroughly outplayed by their hosts, who were unlucky to win by only two goals.
The performance, or lack thereof, prompted the visiting support to once again voice their displeasure at those running the club off and on the park.
“They’re frustrated and they’ve got every right to be,” Johnston admitted afterwards. “We thought we’d turned the corner, we got two good results against Ross County and Hearts and played well in Inverness last week, but that wasn’t good enough today.”
It took the hosts time to get to grips with Kilmarnock’s narrow midfield as Johnston opted to go with four central players and leave creative talents such as Rabiu Ibrahim and Jude Winchester on the bench. Once St Johnstone settled, they always looked to have the game under their control, while the opposition’s solidity was undone by basic defensive errors.
After surviving a period of pressure, Kilmarnock’s back four completely switched off and allowed David Wotherspoon to split the defence after the midfielder received the ball a yard outside his own area. Nigel Hasselbaink raced on, shrugged off a challenge and fired past Craig Samson.
If that was a soft goal to lose, it got so much worse seven minutes later. Gary Miller’s routine punt forward was inexplicably left by both Barr and Jeroen Tesselaar, allowing Stevie May to casually run onto the end of the loose ball and into a one-on-one with the goalkeeper. McDiarmid Park seemed to freeze at that moment, as if no-one could believe the absurdity of the situation. May was not fazed and he stroked the ball past Samson for a commanding lead.
Kris Boyd, who had a quiet afternoon by his standards, almost fired his side back into the match two minutes later but saw his goalbound effort blocked by Tam Scobbie.
That reinforced the threat possessed by the visitors, who started the second period by exerting some pressure. However, the contest was soon finished with Irvine’s dismissal.
The second yellow could be perceived as a deserved booking in modern football, seeing as Irvine collided with his man when getting a toe to the ball. However, it came after a poor decision from Willie Collum to book the player for a first-half dive when the player innocently went to ground after jostling with Dave Mackay.
The hosts soon made use of their numerical advantage when May slipped through Chris Millar who was brought down by Tesselaar. May then stroked home from the spot for his eighth goal in the Scottish Premiership.
Hopes of a clean sheet were dashed when Sean Clohessy’s cross from the right deceived Allan Mannus and landed in the top corner. Any Killie positivity taken from the goal was soon wiped away when Barr picked up his second booking for a foul on May.
May and Gwion Edwards both had late chances but found the visiting defence uncharacteristically resistant. Still, the two-goal lead was more than enough to see the game out.
“We’re on a good run right now,” said a pleased Tommy Wright. “It’s not just consistency in the results but also in the performances as well. We just hope it can continue.”
St Johnstone: Mannus, Miller, Mackay, Scobbie, Easton, Millar, Davidson, McDonald, Wotherspoon (Caddis 66), May (Kane 90), Hasslebaink (Edwards 77).
Subs not used: Jahic, Cregg, Banks, Brown.
Kilmarnock: Samson, Clohessy, Irvine, Barr, Tesselaar, Clingan, Nicholson (Ashcroft 87), Pascali, O’Hara, Boyd, Gardyne (Fowler 59).
Subs not used: Gros, Reguero, McKenzie, Ibrahim, Winchester.
Ref: W Collum