It was scratchy, hard on the eye and a tad fortunate – all things taken into account Hamilton must have felt they had been mugged after this distinctly uninspiring 90 minutes which saw St Johnstone sprint off with all three points. Martin Canning’s men have sometimes been accused of winning ugly but this one for the Perth men would pick up few votes for artistic endeavour.
In many ways it sums up what the Premiership is all about for most teams outwith the top two or three – teams find it easier to dig in away from their own patch, soak up the pressure and do a hit-and-run job. Stefan Scougall’s first goal for Tommy Wright’s side since signing in the summer fitted the script perfectly, arriving as it did after they had taken a bit of a doing in the first half and then capitalising on a fatal lapse in the normally well-drilled Accies defence.
Things being the cut-throat nature they are, Wright was hardly going to be anything other than delighted with the outcome, no matter the aesthetics. “When you’ve been on the run we’re on and you lose last week when people were maybe expecting you to win it was a massive game for us. We’ve got a good three points at a difficult place to come against a pretty good side and I’ve got to be pleased with the clean sheet.
“It was more like us – a lot of our problems have been self-inflicted. When we’re solid like that we can always get a goal.”
For shivering souls who braved the chill at the Superseal Stadium some of that heat and noise from the extraordinary encounter between the two sides back in the spring, when Saints’ Richard Foster and Danny Swanson were sent off for fighting one another, wouldn’t have gone amiss.
However with the visitors still exhibiting a brittle confidence on the back of recording only one victory in their last eight games they were decidedly cagey, which hardly lent itself to thrilling spectacle. In fairness Hamilton did their best to capitalise on this timidity in the opening 45 minutes and really ought to have got their noses in front by the interval.
If Darren Lyon was unfortunate to see his lob over a scrambling Zander Clark land on the roof of the net, Antonio Rojano’s failure to turn in Dougie Imrie’s teasing low cross while he was unmarked and no more than five yards out was less excusable. David Templeton was then just a fraction wide as Canning’s men continued to probe at the visitors’ vulnerable looking rearguard, while Clark showed impressive reflexes to first tame a fiery drive from Ioannis Skondoras’ and then block Rojano’s follow up.
The hosts’ failure to capitalise on this smattering of decent chances had left the door ajar and after a lukewarm start to the second half – a Darien MacKinnon effort aside – they literally held it wide open for the Perth men as a through ball from Blair Alston somehow eluded two Accies defenders and Scougall pounced to drill it emphatically past Gary Woods. It was in effect their only clear-cut opening of the afternoon, but it was a harsh lesson to their opponents on how to make them count.
Setbacks like this one had been few and far between for the Lanarkshire side in recent weeks and it showed in the unconvincing manner in which they attempted to prise open opponents who were more content than ever to sit back and hit on the break. Their day was summed up when Templeton, at last presented with a clear sight of goal, wastefully blasted a shot skywards.
Canning expressed understandable frustration afterwards. “I don’t think St Johnstone have won the game – I think we’ve given them it. They’ve managed to dig in and find a way to win it.”