Tommy Wright pleads for more quality as St Johnstone exit Europe

St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright bemoaned his players' poor final ball. Picture: SNS.
St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright bemoaned his players' poor final ball. Picture: SNS.
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St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright made a plea for an injection of quality after seeing his side become the second Scottish side to embarrassingly crash out of Europe at the first hurdle to minnows in three days.

The Perth Saints needed to score twice in Lithuania against an FK Trakai side who won 2-1 at McDiarmid Park last week.

But not only could they not grab the two goals required in Vilnius, they couldn’t even manage one and that was against a team who had to play with ten men for 33 minutes after Arunas Klimavicius was sent off for two bookings. St Johnstone even lost it at the death from a breakaway goal by Maksim Maksimov, who also netted last week.

Truthfully, it was a desperately poor result against a side which the fourth-best team in Scottish football should be trouncing all day long. It wasn’t on the Rangers scale of humiliation, but it was a dreadful outcome to lose home and away to a bang average Lithuanian side.

Wright knows he needs a revamp to his side. He said: “It was a game we shouldn’t have lost – it was a game we should have won. All night we got into good positions, our approach play was good, but our final cross let us down.

“Overall I can’t fault the efforts of the players, just that final ball. We lacked that quality and ruthlessness to capitalise on the amount of opportunity we had in good positions.

“They weren’t better than us. They can enjoy their night and they deserved it because they made fewer mistakes than us and that’s cost us dearly. The damage was done last week.

“It’s always a frustrating time for managers when they lack players. I know what I need to add to the squad. I know we need more quality. I’ve been here four years and I have worked extremely hard to make sure this club performs at the highest level and get the best out of what we have. I believe the squad is crying out for a little bit of help and hopefully we can get that because it is frustrating for me as a 
manager.”

The Perth men took control early on and twice came close to making the breakthrough within the space of a minute through the aerial prowess of Joe Shaughnessy.

A Liam Craig free-kick was met at the back post by the big Irishman and his header was tipped over by keeper Ignas Plukas.

From the resulting corner by Blair Alston, Shaughnessy saw another header blocked on the line by defender Valdemar Borovskij.

It was a completely different game from last week. Saints allowed Trakai no time on the ball, they were dominant, and defender Klimavicius was lucky to be only one of five first-half bookings for a cynical trip on Murray Davidson, who was bursting through on goal. But that red card for him was only delayed until the 57th minute when he was shown a second yellow card for catching Chris Kane late.

Wright wasted little time in sending out an SOS to veteran striker Steven MacLean, artificial pitch or no artificial pitch. But the truth was that St Johnstone had long since run out of ideas and had punched themselves out.

The Lithuanians rubbed salt in the Scots’ wounds with the winner with two minutes left with Saints pushed up the park.

Mykhaylo Shyshka spotted a glaring hole in the middle of the Saints defence and threaded in Maksimov who easily tucked the ball past Zander Clark to seal a horrific week for Scottish football.