Pity poor Ross County, for this was an abject display in which their almost total absence of fight and heart was matched only by the sublime quality of St Johnstone’s play as they ran roughshod over their visitors for the whole 90 minutes.
For the Highlands’ Adams family, this was a horror show of epic proportions; for Tommy Wright’s unbeaten and increasingly impressive side, this was like a 90-minute highlights reel.
“That was the best performance since I’ve been here, we totally dominated from start to finish,” said the St Johnstone manager. “It was as one-sided a performance as I’ve ever come across.”
Ross County manager Derek Adams, who has lost three successive matches for the first time as a manager, could do little but concur. “They deserved to win, they were the better side and bullied us,” he said. “Of course I’m concerned.”
He is right to be concerned because the whole match was a tale of unremitting St Johnstone pressure and of their superiority in terms of possession and territory. So outclassed were the shellshocked Highlanders that the only time home keeper Stevie Banks was called into action came shortly before the break when he had to field a wayward cross from Melvin De Leuuw.
So one-sided was the first half that County were ridiculously lucky to go into half-time trailing by just the two goals because it could easily have 5-0 by the break. As it was, the home side’s first came after just 14 minutes when the impressive Murray Davidson dispossessed Branislav Micic in the right corner and crossed the ball low to the front post where Nigel Hasselbaink nipped in front of keeper Mark Brown and flicked the ball into the far corner in a sublime finish.
That opener was matched by the second, which came after Scott Boyd scythed down Stevie May as the Peterborough transfer target scampered towards goal, with the former Saint lucky to escape with just a yellow card. His side paid the price though as the rejuvenated David Wotherspoon curled the resulting free-kick over the wall and into the corner of the goal.
As County heads dropped, Saints threatened to completely overwhelm their visitors. May almost added a third, Steven Anderson put two headers wide and Davidson shot just wide.
The best chance, though, came before the break when Wotherspoon got the better of a tangle with Ben Gordon but was then up-ended by the Ross County defender. Wotherspoon’s spot kick, however, was too close to Brown, with May somehow scooping the rebound over the bar.
At just 2-0 down at half-time, County were still theoretically in this game, but any hope of salvaging anything quickly disappeared as normal service resumed after the break. Within two minutes of the restart, Steven MacLean had a goal disallowed for offside, but then May fashioned a wonderful solo goal, breaking in from the right and then wrongfooting Brown from the edge of the box with a driven left-foot shot into the bottom corner.
By now the match was over as a contest and the frustration and embarrassment of hapless, impotent County was palpable, especially in a laughably late De Leuuw challenge on May. However, any sympathy that Saint Johnstone may usually have felt for their visitors had disappeared in the fug of bad feeling surrounding the aborted transfer of County skipper Richard Brittain to McDiarmid Park, and the home side turned the thumbscrew at every opportunity.
May almost added a fourth from close range and then a magnificent driven Davidson shot from the edge of the box was just inches over. But County couldn’t hold out forever, and when May was upended on the edge of the box, Dave Mackay stroked the resulting free-kick over the wall and past the despairing Brown.
The scoreboard could have looked even worse for County as May, Frazer Wright and Hasselbaink all let chances go begging, while the Highlanders never looked like getting off the mark. With three successive losses under their belts and an abject lack of fight yesterday, it’s shaping up to be a long second season for the men from Dingwall. As for Saint Johnstone, the future has rarely looked rosier.