St Johnstone 2 - 0 Kilmarnock: Saints win again

Kilmanock's Ross Barbour beats Rowan Vine to the ball. Picture: SNS
Kilmanock's Ross Barbour beats Rowan Vine to the ball. Picture: SNS
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THIS result may not have settled anything regarding the almighty scramble for top-six places in the SPL, but it surely has made a big impact on the likely fate of these two sides come the day of reckoning.

Scorers: St Johnstone - Davidson 58, Tade 85

St Johnstone, who came into this game in a sorry state following an abject display against Hearts in midweek, were the near polar opposite yesterday – hungry, assertive and ultimately well worthy of all three points thanks to second half goals from Murray Davidson and Gregory Tade.

As Kilmarnock manager Kenny Sheils reflected afterwards, this result leaves his side probably having to win all three of their remaining fixtures if they are to make the cut. On the basis of this display, and the fact that their next game is against Ross County, you wouldn’t hold out too much hope for his side being in the mix for a Europa League spot.

His counterpart, Steve Lomas, was understandably delighted by the response from his players after the manner in which they had been brushed aside at Tynecastle. He said: “I don’t need to tell these guys when they’ve played badly – they knew it. They’re good honest guys and they put in a shift today.”

He was less pleased, however, that, by dint of internationals, the League Cup final and TV scheduling, his side now face a three-week hiatus.

“It’s not ideal and I find it somewhat bizarre. We would have loved to have had a game next week off the back of a win like this.”

A largely turgid opening 45 minutes saw neither side take command, but the hosts held the upper hand in terms of chances created.

On each occasion, however, they were unable to apply the necessary finishing touch. Rowan Vine twice shot skywards when released on the left and Chris Millar then followed suit from a lay off in the box from Steven MacLean.

MacLean himself was next up to squander a plausible opportunity when Millar drilled a pass beyond the Killie defence, but, as he shot from an angle, the Saints striker’s effort clipped the diving Cammy Bell and went the wrong side of the far post.

The half-time break made no impression of the pattern of the proceedings, with the Perth side continuing to look more likely to engineer a breakthrough. They finally got their reward after Dave Mackay had combined well with Nigel Hasselbaink to win a corner and Liam Craig’s resultant set-piece was driven into net by Davidson from six yards.

“When you prepare for a game of football you give specific detail on the opposition and who to pick up at set-pieces. Then we don’t pick up Davidson at a corner – it’s so annoying,” said a downcast Shiels afterwards.

“The first goal was going to be crucial; it would give the team that scored it a lift – and that’s exactly what happened.”

Garry Hay and Cillian Sheridan were quickly introduced by Shiels after Killie had fallen into arrears, but to little effect. A short while later, it was Kris Boyd’s turn to be brought into the fray, but the great enigma himself barely had a touch of the ball.

As long as it remained a single-goal lead there was cause for anxiety among the twitchy home support, but although the Ayrshire men found themselves with more of the ball, they had still had precious little show for it.

Matters when finally settled when Craig sent in a well

flighted cross from the left and substitute Tade rose unmarked to direct a powerful header beyond Bell.

St Johnstone: Mannus, MacKay, Anderson, McCracken, Callum Davidson, Hasselbaink, Millar, Murray Davidson, Craig, MacLean, Vine. Subs: Tuffey, Tade, Edwards, Doughty, Abeid, Maddison, Caddis.

Kilmarnock: Bell, Barbour, Sissoko, O’Leary, Tesselaar, Winchester, Fowler, Clingan, Dayton, Heffernan, Gros. Subs: Letheren, Hay, Racchi, Boyd, Sheridan, Johnston, O’Hara.