Quite why St Johnstone chairman Steve Brown was so desperate to get Tommy Wright to sign a new contract earlier this week was emphasised with an impressive win at Pittodrie to extend the Perth club’s unbeaten run to eight games.
It matches their best from four years ago that was eventually ended by Aberdeen, but there were few signs that Derek McInnes, the only manager in the Premiership who can better his McDiarmid Park counterpart for longevity, could emerge victorious in similar circumstances.
A defence that has now conceded just two goals in their last 720 minutes of football were unlikely to be unduly troubled by Dons attackers who give the impression they couldn’t find the net with a SatNav right now, especially with top scorer Gary Mackay-Steven’s continued absence.
St Johnstone defended deep, compressed the space and defied the opposition to plot a way through, enabling Zander Clark to keep a seventh clean sheet on the run. He did have to scoop a Scott McKenna header off his line in the first half, parry a Lewis Ferguson 25-yard drive and tip substitute Niall McGinn’s long range free-kick over the bar in the second half, but he was very well protected.
Former Aberdeen defender Joe Shaughnessy was solid alongside promising young centre back Jason Kerr and incisive when it came to breaking the stalemate with a powerful header from David Wotherspoon’s far post corner in 71 minutes.
Just three minutes later the victory, which moved them to within three points of third-placed Kilmarnock, was clinched with a sublime goal that proved this current side are far from one-dimensional.
Substitute Blair Alston’s energy won the corner leading to Shaughnessy’s opener but this time it was all the former Falkirk player’s own work as he sped unchallenged from half-way until Dominic Ball vainly tried to intercept at the edge of the area.
Having worked the space, Alston used it brilliantly with an audacious chip over Joe Lewis for his fourth goal of the season to seal the win, much to the delight of the Premiership’s top boss for November, as Wright said: “It’s been good, and we’ve broke the Manager of the Month curse as well. We broke that trend, if there was a trend.
“The 28 points is an excellent return from the number of games we have had, and 20 points from the last 24 available is an incredible return so the players have been magnificent.
“The ones above us in the top four keep winning as well and we would probably have been higher in previous seasons but it’s nice to be on the coat tails.”
The winning margin could have been greater as Ross Callachan missed a sitter early on, Lewis did well to keep out Matty Kennedy’s volley before the interval and Shay Logan got the benefit of the doubt when the visitors claimed he fouled Callachan in the box after the break. Aberdeen dominated possession but their dire lack of attacking threat continues.
Stevie May in particular looked a forlorn figure against the team he scored so regularly for in the past, as the Dons squandered the impetus gained from a midweek win at Ibrox with a defeat that takes them back into the bottom six.
A disappointed McInnes said:“This is the third game in six days and we had to make sure we got up to it but I think we missed some key players and the creativity and inspiration that everybody looks for at home. Once St Johnstone got their noses in front we huffed and puffed and were devoid of any real ideas or intensity to get back into the game.”
They need to correct this quickly, with Livingston due to visit on Tuesday.