LIAM Craig grabbed the only goal of the game to hand St Johnstone victory as Dundee’s Clydesdale Bank Premier League survival hopes were dealt a further blow.
Scorers: St Johnstone (Craig, 33)
Bookings: St Johnstone - Davidson, Pawlett; Dundee - O’Donnell, McAlister
Referee: J McKendrick
Nearest rivals Ross County’s own match fell victim to the weather, but the Dens Park side failed to edge closer to the Highland outfit.
Defeat means Barry Smith’s side have claimed just one point from their last seven matches.
One banner at half-time in McDiarmid Park read “Smith must go,” but the Dark Blues’ manager is determined to remain and fight for survival.
Smith said: “The fans are entitled to their opinion. I know what I’m doing and I know that the club will get out of the position with me there.
“I got stick as a player at Dundee and I came through it stronger. I’ll get stick as a manager and I’ll come through it stronger again.
“I’ve got a lot of affinity with the club. I want to make sure they stay in this league. I’ll continue working as hard as ever, if not harder, to make sure we do so. We always knew it was going to be a tough, tough season and we’ve been proved right.
“We need the supporters to realise that and understand it’s not going to get any easier, but we will get better.”
Saints made two changes for the Tayside derby following their goalless draw against Inverness. Chris Millar and Rowan Vine were both drafted in, in place of Paddy Cregg and Steven MacLean.
Dundee rang the changes, with Iain Davidson, Lewis Toshney, Steven Milne and Brian Easton all handed starting roles – with the latter pair returning from injury.
The home side started well with plenty of possession in the opening stages, but failed to make the most of their domination.
The first chance instead fell to Dundee when Davidson collected a Colin Nish pass and lashed just over from inside the area. Jim McAllister then delivered an inviting corner into the packed box, but there were no takers, with Declan Gallagher just failing to connect in front of goal.
Saints almost sparked the match into life after 31 minutes when an angled drive from the left from Vine forced a rapid response from Easton, who cleared off the line.
The game was crying out for a goal and the breakthrough came two minutes later.
Gregory Tade delivered a cross from the right as Peter Pawlett challenged Dundee goalkeeper Rab Douglas. The ball broke kindly for Craig and all that was required was a simple finish as he rifled into the empty net from ten yards.
Dundee were dealt an injury blow when Stephen O’Donnell left the field on a stretcher after 53 minutes following a clash with Murray Davidson. Smith said afterwards he feared it was a serious knee injury and that “it didn’t look good”.
The home side claimed for a penalty when Tade went to ground under pressure from Gallagher, but there was no spot-kick award by referee John McKendrick.
Saints were threatening again when Craig rolled a low free-kick into the path of Vine and he hooked a shot inches wide.
At the other end, the Dark Blues almost levelled when Nish unleashed from 12 yards, but a timely block from Tam Scobbie ensured the effort dropped harmlessly over the crossbar.
The Perth side were desperate for a second goal but Pawlett earned himself a caution for diving as he battled McAllister for the ball. Saints continued to push forward and Frazer Wright saw his header skim the crossbar after meeting Craig’s free-kick.
Dundee’s Nicky Riley saw an impressive effort from distance fizz just past the upright late on but Saints held on.
St Johnstone manager Steve Lomas admitted afterwards the match had been far from riveting. “Some lost the will to live and I was nearly joining them. It certainly wasn’t a classic,” he joked. But it was another three precious points for Saints.