JIM McINTYRE, the Ross County manager, must have been tempted to tear into his increasingly shot-shy strikers in the dressing room after St Johnstone’s fine away victory. The only trouble is, there were barely any there to be found.
Ross County lost two players – striker Craig Curran and defender Andrew Davies – to calf injuries before a ball was kicked. They then saw Northern Ireland international Liam Boyce hobble off with a medial ligament knee injury.
With Dutch forward Alex Schalk already sidelined, McIntyre may be left with just one fit frontman – 18-year-old Greg Morrison, who earned a very decent first start – after the international break.
But it was the slump in form and the recent pattern of timidity in front of goal that will occupy the County manager’s thoughts over the rest period. St Johnstone, in stark contrast, emerged from the match in fine fettle and right in the thick of the battle for European places.
McIntyre was in no mood to make excuses for his team, branding County’s first half display their worst 45 minutes of the season after a Danny Swanson penalty and fine Chris Kane finish sank the hosts.
With just one goal scored in the last five games, McIntyre admitted: “We need to create more than what we’ve done. Normally that’s a side of the game we do quite well.
“We’re going through a patch just now where we’ve not created much. We need to get back to making better decisions and taking more responsibility to do our own jobs.
“The first half performance was our worst of the season. We didn’t play with any energy or tempo – I thought we were flat. Whether losing two guys to injury beforehand had an effect on the players’ minds, I don’t know, but that should never be the case.”
“It was one of those performances where you’re left scratching your head.”
After relentless first half pressure, the away team’s breakthrough came three minutes before the break. McEveley was adjudged to have tripped Kane, with the striker going nowhere in the box, and the County defender claiming he couldn’t get out of the striker’s way.
Swanson stepped up and found the bottom right corner of the net, sending Fox the wrong way.
Judging by the way they re-emerged at half-time, County had taken verbals from manager Jim McIntyre at the break. Immediately, they were the team on the front foot, squeezing Saints back, but time and again it came to nothing.
Liam Boyce headed a good chance wide, while McEveley saw a strong header tipped over by Zander Clark.
County’s attacking exertions left them vulnerable at the back, though, and they were caught by a classic sucker-punch after 73 minutes.
A sweeping Saints break ended with substitute David Wotherspoon threading Kane into space and the Saints striker calmly stroked the ball past Fox as the keeper tried in vain to shut him down.
Boyce exited injured leaving County to play with 10 men through the final minutes, and Saints were never in danger.
“I think it was comfortable,” Tommy Wright, the Perth team’s manager, said. “But to make it comfortable you have to play well – and we played extremely well today.”