SO METRONOMIC have St Johnstone become in stringing together an eight-game unbeaten run, they have now taken to winning games in near-identical fashion.
Scorers: St Johnstone - Graham 63 pen
Not only was this their third single-goal victory on the trot, they also prevailed in this one just like in their previous fixture against Kilmarnock, courtesy of a Brian Graham penalty. The similarities don’t even end there, as once again the spot-kick award was hotly disputed by their opponents.
On this occasion Inverness were sorely aggrieved that Graham himself had gone to ground following a challenge by goalkeeper Dean Brill, although their manager, John Hughes, was measured in his analysis of the incident afterwards. “I’d need to see it again before I make a call on that,” he said. “I feel for the referee, I’m not going to point the finger of blame. He’s got a decision to make in a split second – if he got it wrong, you’ve just got to take it on the chin”.
Hughes was adamant, though, that midfielder Ross Draper should not have been ordered off shortly after the penalty incident in what was to be a pivotal few minutes in the second half.
It was an evenly matched encounter between two sides, although both found it hard to conjure up much in the way of inspiration in the final third.
CONNECT WITH THE SCOTSMAN
• Subscribe to our daily newsletter (requires registration) and get the latest news, sport and business headlines delivered to your inbox every morning
Inverness were marginally the more threatening early on, but towards the interval Saints began to gather some momentum, with Michael O’Hallaron showing glimpses of his recent good form with a couple of driving runs.
The best effort of an otherwise subdued opening 45 minutes came, however, from the Perth side’s Dave MacKay, who seemed certain to drill into the net until a goal-line clearance by Graeme Shinnie diverted it to safety.
The game continued to amble on until igniting on the hour. MacKay again came close to breaking the deadlock with a free-kick which Brill managed to push away for a corner. In the immediate aftermath, however, a loose pass on the edge of the visitors’ box was picked up by Graham and, as Brill slid in to try to grab the ball, the Saints’ frontman tumbled over with his hands aloft.
Inverness were incensed as match referee Brian Colvin pointed to the spot and it took a while for matters to simmer down sufficiently for the penalty to be taken. Graham calmly despatched it into the net.
The frustration was still coursing through the visitors’ ranks when Simon Lappin nicked the ball away from Draper, who responded with a shoulder charge and was shown a straight red by Colvin. Setting aside the contestable nature of the penalty, award the aftermath did at least lead to a much livelier conclusion than we had been given reason to expect.
Credit to the visitors who gave it a real go while down ten men, with David Raven unlucky to see a shot crash off the base of a post and the Saints defence forced to pull back in numbers to preserve their advantage.
“I’m pleased with the result and the performance. We probably could have passed it better when they went down to ten men, but I’ve got to be delighted with another clean sheet and another win,” said St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright.
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND IPHONE APPS