St Johnstone 0-0 Kilmarnock: Saints and Killie toil

St Johnstone's Chris Millar (left) dives in on Kilmarnock's Chris Chantler. Picture: SNS Group

St Johnstone's Chris Millar (left) dives in on Kilmarnock's Chris Chantler. Picture: SNS Group

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ON an afternoon where some other teams in Scotland went on a goal rampage, these two couldn’t muster one between them. It wasn’t for the lack of trying or even a lack of presentable chances, but through a deadlock-ensuring cocktail of poor finishing, good goalkeeping and a few timely blocks.

There will have been worse stalemates this season, but in terms of passing and invention this was one of the those 90 minutes to erase from the memory quickly. Sure, there were chances, however these almost entirely stemmed from defensive lapses rather than inspired attacking play, with not a single player on show looking capable of picking the lock of the opposition defence.

With both teams in decent form going into what always looked likely to be a nip-and-tuck encounter, there was nothing surprising in both looking to pass their way through to goal. But the two well-drilled defences proved tough nuts to crack. Fully 13 minutes had passed before the first noteworthy effort, Kilmarnock’s Chris Johnston whipping a left-foot drive wide.

Whilst it was always close, it was St Johnstone who just about shaded the opening half in terms of chances. Visiting keeper Craig Samson had to rush out to block at the feet of Michael O’Halloran then got lucky as Darryl Westlake raced back to block Steven MacLean’s follow-up attempt.

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St Johnstone’s failure to do much with the bulk of the possession quickly turned to frustration, with three home players going into the book of referee Euan Anderson before the interval, including Chris Kane for an outrageous spot of diving. With tempers edging towards tetchy, Kilmarnock nearly snatched the lead through a Tope Obadeyi drive from distance, and the ever-impressive Alan Mannus had to dive full-length to palm away.

Little changed going into the second period other than the rain getting a little heavier and the pitch then getting boggier. Chances continued to be thin on the ground, and when either keeper was worked they were on their toes as Mannus twice denied Nathan Eccleston and Samson beat away an effort from O’Halloran.

The longer the game wore on, the more Kilmarnock looked the more likely against a home team long since out of ideas and lacking pace in the forward areas. With seven minutes remaining, a combination of two very good saves from Mannus and a body-on-the-line block from Tam Scobie as Johnston, Eccleston and Josh Magennis rained down shots on the home goal to no avail, perfectly summed up a day where both could have played for hours without scoring.

Saints might have survived this late scare, but manager Tommy Wright felt his team were worth more than they got. He said: “It was a game we should have won as we dominated possession and they only got chances through our mistakes.”

Unsurprisingly, this was not an opinion fully embraced by Kilmarnock boss Gary Locke, who said in almost entire contradiction: “We had the best chance of the game and on another day we win the game. Delighted with the performance, as in terms of work-rate and desire we were excellent. It wasn’t a day for pretty football and I was delighted with our showing.”

St Johnstone: Mannus, Mackay, Wright (Scobie 75), Anderson, Easton, Millar, Wotherspoon, Davidson, O’Halloran, Kane (Graham 63), MacLean (Swanson 89). Not used: Banks, McFadden, Miller, Croft .

Kilmarnock: Samson, Westlake, Ashcroft, Pascali, Chantler, Johnston, Slater, O’Hara, Obadeyi, Ecclestone (Eremenko 77), Magennis. Not used: Brennan, Barbour, Miller, Smith, Kiltie, Syme.

Referee: E Anderson. Attendance: 3,170.

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