AN emotional afternoon for St Johnstone captain David Mackay ended in frustration when, after putting his side in front, a fluke goal allowed the visitors to leave Perth with a point.
St Johnstone - Mackay 50
Ross County - Craig og 69
Full-back Mackay had been waiting for seven months to dedicate a goal to the baby son he and his partner lost last season.
When he broke the deadlock five minutes into the second half, Saints were well on top of the Highlanders and looked set to move into third place with a first win in five games. Unfortunately for Mackay, it didn’t work out that way.
“I’ve been wanting to score since I lost my wee boy in April,” said Mackay, who pointed to the skies after finding the net.
“That was for him so it was special in that way but I really wanted to do it in a victory. I wasn’t too emotional when it went in because I’d prepared myself for that moment.
“However, we really need to learn to kill teams off when we’re on top.
“This was two points dropped rather than one gained. County came for a draw and they’ll be going home happy.”
The first half was book-ended by horrific misses from the home side.
After only two minutes Gregory Tade set the tone when he got on the end of an inviting, whipped delivery from Nigel Hasselbaink only to mistime and mishit his shot wide from six yards.
Steven McLean was the other culprit. He was guilty of procrastination after Chris Millar’s perfectly-weighted through ball had left him one-on-one with County keeper Michael Fraser.
With the goal gaping, McLean should have shot at the earliest opportunity. Instead he dithered, allowing Grant Munro to block his way.
He then cut inside and, with a shot no longer on, attempted to tee up Tade but his touch was so heavy the intended pass overshot and went out for a goal-kick.
The visitors failed to impress during the opening stages, with only a volley from Iain Vigurs, which flew wide when he should have hit the target, remotely threatening Alan Mannus’ goal.
Saints were indisputably the superior side and Mackay finally gave them the lead in the 50th minute, collecting a clever reverse pass from McLean, turning inside and beating Michael Fraser at his near post with a low drive.
Unfortunately for the hapless McLean, he was to prove the villain again when he spurned another excellent opening minutes later.
Tade’s surging run and cutback presented the striker with an eminently convertible chance but, with the goal gaping, his shot was blocked by Mihail Kovacevic. It was a pivotal moment.
When Mackay conceded a foul by pushing Sam Morrow off the ball, Richard Brittain reacted quickly, immediately sending Iain Vigurs clear while Tade and Hasselbaink failed to track his run.
Even then, good fortune was required. The midfielder’s shot was flying wide until it struck Liam Craig, sliding in to clear, and was deflected behind Alan Mannus.
“I was going for the far post and I think it was going in but you never know,” said Vigurs. “I’ll try and claim it anyway. It was a big goal for us.
“St Johnstone were good today and we were struggling to get to grips with them. We got lucky with the deflection but I’m happy with the draw.”
“They switched off at a free-kick and it cost us,” said Saints manager Steve Lomas. “Plus we had enough chances to win a couple of games.
“There was some good defending from Ross County as well but we should have put this game to bed.”