St Johnstone in Europe ‘like winning league’

Steve Lomas salutes the home supporters after securing Europa League football for next season. Picture: SNS

Steve Lomas salutes the home supporters after securing Europa League football for next season. Picture: SNS

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Steve Lomas says taking St Johnstone into Europe for a second year in a row feels like winning the league. Saints’ 2-0 win over Motherwell, combined with Inverness’ 1-0 defeat at Ross County yesterday, secured third spot in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League and the final Europa League berth.

The final whistle saw fans spill onto the McDiarmid Park pitch to celebrate with the players and Lomas was keen to pay tribute to his side. He said: “To have two European campaigns on the spin for a club like St Johnstone is probably like winning the league for us. For a club like this in Perth, it’s probably as good as it gets, so we should enjoy it.”

Goals from Liam Craig – who is set to join Hibernian next season – and Nigel Hasselbaink sealed the win against a Motherwell side who were already confirmed as runners-up in the SPL. Lomas said: “I thought it was a day of excellence. We just had to do what we could do.”

Georgios Samaras might have scored twice for Celtic in an emphatic win over Dundee United yesterday, but the striker is still far from sure that he has sealed a cup final starting slot. Samaras returned to the starting line-up yesterday after being named as a substitute for last weekend’s 4-0 win over St Johnstone.

He made his presence felt against United, scoring what were only his seventh and eight league goals of the season in the 4-0 win. With Celtic’s next game being the Scottish Cup final v Hibernian, it was a good time to shine. However, Samaras was more concerned with the prospect of Celtic lifting the cup than what might be his own contribution to the final.

“I don’t think I have secured my place in the team for the cup final,” Samaras later said. “We have 22 players who have an equal chance of starting the game and it’s up to the gaffer.”

Neil Lennon, who was last night presented with the Scottish Football Writers’ Association’s Manager of the Year Award, can only have been impressed with Samaras yesterday, although the manager did admit that the player is due a good performance at Hampden. Samaras was surprisingly circumspect about his chances of playing. “Would it mean a lot to me to play from the start?” he wondered. “No, it is about the team. Whether I play one minute or 90, we want to win it as a team. It is not about big egos, and who is going to play or not. It is about the team.”

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