St Johnstone 2-1 Kilmarnock: The Saints go marching on as victory equals 41-year record
THE last time a Perth team pieced together a five-game winning run in Scotland’s top flight, genial future Scotland manager Willie Ormond was ensconced at Muirton Park and the matchday soundtrack was provided by George Harrison, who topped the February, 1971, charts with My Sweet Lord.
SCORERS: Davidson (29), Hasselbaink (89), Fowler (92)
After seeing off Celtic, Ross County, neighbours Dundee and St Mirren to post a club SPL four-match record, the prospect of emulating a First Division milestone posted in the early days of glam rock intrigued supporters making for the McDiarmid Park home seats.
The scoreline belied a gulf in class as the Perth side edged into second place behind Celtic just weeks after they were languishing in the dungeon and manager Steve Lomas was being earmarked as favourite for the chop.
While Rugby Park veteran James Fowler swept home an 18-yarder deep into stoppage time, strikes from Murray Davidson and Nigel Hasselbaink had already ensured Killie manager Kenny Shiels’ wait for a maiden victory over the Perth side goes on.
Hasselbaink was the prime sinner in front of goal as impressive Saints dissected the Ayrshire outfit after the break but Lomas cheerfully assumed the role of defence counsel to the wingman and laughed off early season speculation prompted by bookmakers installing him as favourite to be the first SPL manager seeking fresh employment.
“They have their job to do but it would have been harsh losing my job after taking the club into Europe. I don’t know where that came from.
Maybe the chairman had a punt on it!
“We mentioned the club record to the players before the game and we’re are delighted with the win. But we should have coasted home.”
Shiels was tempted into restoring first-choice keeper Cammy Bell, who had been laid-up since breaking his wrist back in August.
The Scotland squad man stood between Killie and a thrashing but he was unable to prevent the ever-impressive Davidson bundling in a 29th-minute opener.
The keeper did block Steven Anderson’s powerful header from a probing Liam Craig corner kick but an alert Davidson was perfectly positioned to feed on the scraps and poach his fourth goal of the season.
Kilmarnock’s frustration at conceding from a dead-ball move could not be masked, particularly with the Perth side temporarily short-handed, with defensive lynchpin Frazer Wright having a head wound patched-up.
Given the turnaround in fortunes in recent weeks, confidence was flowing through home ranks, with the pace of both Hasselbaink and Gregory Tade perplexing the
Yet the visitors persevered with their passing game and came within centimetres of an equaliser before the interval.
A 30-yard free-kick seemed made to measure for dead-ball specialist Gary Harkins but it was Cillian Sheridan who stepped forward to curl an exquisite, perfectly flighted strike beyond the defensive wall.
Northern Ireland keeper Alan Mannus dived in vain but the ball crashed off the inside of the upright.
The second-half belonged to St Johnstone but profligate finishing allowed Kilmarnock to harbour hopes of pilfering a point.
Hasselbaink, cautioned along with Liam Kelly and Rory McKeown, was twice denied in head-to-head duels with Bell but bemused fans and colleagues alike when he failed to dispatch Tade’s squared pass with the goal vacant.
But Lomas welcomed the winger’s perseverance and self-belief and, in the 89th minute, the former St
Mirren player calmly rounded Bell to buy Saints breathing space before Fowler’s unexpected late goal.
Killie manager Shiels maintained Sheridan’s free-kick, which struck the post, was a turning point but he conceded Saints were the superior side.
However, the Irishman ventured into surreal territory when he commented: “The fact the linesman forgot to bring out his flag for the second half was a big, big factor. I’ve never witnessed that in professional football. We played with two defenders, chasing the game, so that had an impact.”
St Johnstone: Mannus, MacKay, Wright, Anderson, Miller, Millar, Davidson, Craig, Tade, Hasselbaink, Vine. Subs: Tuffey, Caddis, Scobbie, Rodger, Robertson, Moon, Kane
Kilmarnock: Bell, Fowler, O’Leary, Nelson, McKeown, Pursehouse, Kelly, Dayton, Harkins, Pascali, Sheridan. Subs: Letheren, Tesselaar, Johnson, Gross, Heffernan, Perez, McKenzie
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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