St Johnstone 1 - 1 Dundee: Tay rivals share spoils

David Wotherspoon celebrates after equalising for St Johnstone. Picture: SNS Group
David Wotherspoon celebrates after equalising for St Johnstone. Picture: SNS Group
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Those who suggest “form goes out the window” in a derby clash should perhaps take note of this feisty encounter.

Even against the in-form Saints, Dee’s recent results suggested a stalemate could be on the cards as they have proved specialists in parity, with a particular fondness for a 1-1 draw.

Paul Hartley’s side had registered that scoreline in three of their previous four matches and, even when they claimed the lead through the excellent Kane Hemmings, there was always a feeling that St Johnstone would soon be on level terms.

David Wotherspoon, largely thanks to the fine work of Michael O’Halloran, did the honours to ensure bragging rights were shared and that Saints’ unbeaten run was extended to six matches.

Indeed their fine form has resulted in noises emerging from the Perth camp of an impending challenge for best-of-the-rest status.

Yet it was the visitors who took the early initiative, with their potent front three immediately illustrating their worth after just 36 seconds. Greg Stewart found Rory Loy on the flank, and his delivery was perfect for Hemmings, but his sharp shot from six yards was held by Alan Mannus.

It was a sign of things to come as Hartley’s side emerged with vim and vigour, and Dundee claimed the lead when the irrepressible Stewart found his former Cowdenbeath team-mate Hemmings with a delightful back-heel. With the Saints defence inexplicably inviting him to shoot from 20 yards, he obliged by drilling home his sixth goal of the season.

St Johnstone’s response was swift. O’Halloran, whose form has resulted in calls for international recognition, surged past Kevin Holt before delivering a pinpoint cutback for Wotherspoon, who crashed home off the underside of the bar.

With the contest belying rain, wind and snow to rattle along at a superb pace, the lively Stewart was the next to threaten, driving into the box and fizzing a drive inches over the bar.

Joe Shaughnessy was linking well with O’Halloran and providing a fine outlet for the hosts on the right, and a super cross by the former Aberdeen defender found Murray Davidson in the box on the stroke of half-time, only for the midfielder to lash his volley off target.

Following an enthralling first period, both sides struggled to replicate that fluency during a scrappy, ill-tempered start to the second half, as evidenced by a hefty challenge by Chris Kane on Dundee defender Julien Etxabeguren which provoked the ire of the visiting support.

For all the threat of O’Halloran and nous of Steven MacLean, Saints were missing the intelligent movement and physical presence of Graham Cummins, absent due to a hamstring injury.

Dundee turned to substitute Gary Harkins in a bid to spark the contest back into life. However, it was St Johnstone who almost claimed the spoils and, once again, it was Wotherspoon’s late run which created the opportunity as he ghosted into the box before curling a shot agonisingly wide of Scott Bain’s left-hand post.