Perhaps it was inevitable that a fixture which produced 18 goals in four matches last season has only delivered one in the three completed in league and Betfred Cup this season, Adam Rooney’s winner
for Aberdeen in the latter competition.
St Johnstone scored 12 of those in the previous campaign, five in one match at Pittodrie, but it is their ability to stop others scoring on the road that is the most impressive feature of their play at the moment.
They have now drawn at Ibrox, Tynecastle and Pittodrie, conceding fewer goals away from home than anyone else in the division including Celtic and would be stronger candidates for second place themselves if it was the same story at McDiarmid Park.
Tommy Wright’s side certainly hindered Aberdeen’s chances of ending the year as the defending champions’ closest challengers as they now trail Rangers ahead of Tuesday’s game in hand at home to Motherwell.
Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes will be looking for a response in that game as he said: “We have only lost to Celtic here this season so we feel we are strong at home.
“I think that’s why we are disappointed because we always expect to win at home but we have to pick ourselves up and go again on Tuesday.
Danny Swanson’s absence with a hip knock left St Johnstone without a key influence on the creative side of their game as well as their top scorer this season, but the Perth club still carried a considerable threat on the counter when the occasion allowed.
The best of their first-half opportunities came after 19 sterile minutes when Murray Davidson started and nearly finished a sweeping move that actually sparked Aberdeen’s most effective spell of play.
Once again it was the precociously gifted teenager James Maddison who provided most of the inspiration, for example a delightful step over and change of direction that opened up the space for a Peter Pawlett shot deflected for a corner that the on-loan Norwich City midfielder proceeded to place on the head of Andy Considine.
Unfortunately for Aberdeen the defender steered his free header from six yards the wrong side of the upright while the impressive Steven Anderson denied Maddison a strike on goal after a weaving run past three opponents.
Davidson took a more agricultural approach to stopping Maddison to earn a booking early in a second half, Steven MacLean did likewise and Chris Kane was cautioned for a late tackle on Anthony O’Connor
That was a reflection on the increased intensity after a half time adjustment by McInnes that saw Shay Logan and Jayden Stockley replace Niall McGinn and Pawlett, increasing the Dons attacking threat as a result.
However, the excellent work done by the Saints’ defence meant Zander Clark rarely had a serious save to make and the same could be said for Joe Lewis at the other end until late in the game.
The goalkeeper fingertipped a MacLean 30 yard drive over the bar but his most uncomfortable moment came courtesy of one of his own players. Graeme Shinnie was criminally short with a pass-back but he and Lewis were relieved to see substitute Blair Alston prod the ball wide of the far post and that same upright was to prove crucial two minutes from time.
Kenny McLean was booked when conceding a free kick at the edge of the box and Lewis brilliantly tipped David Wotherspoon’s well-struck effort on to the post just as he had done in the Betfred Cup tie between the pair in September.
Adam Rooney went on to score a last gasp winner that night, but St Johnstone will be delighted there was no such late drama this time as a point was the least they deserved for another impressive performance on their travels. If only they could reproduce that at home now.
The only disappointment for manager Wright was not heading down the road with full points as he said: “It was a really good performance, individually and collectively, tactically we were spot on.
“We’ve been to Ibrox and Tynecastle now and probably should have won and now we’ve been up here and should have won but we’ll take the point and have to be happy with that.”