St Johnstone 0-0 Livingston: Saints clinch fifth place and return to European football

St Johnstone can look forward to European football next season after this goalless draw against Livingston at McDiarmid Park secured fifth place in the Premiership.

St Johnstone's James Brown and Livingston's Jaze Kabia in action.

It is a fitting reward for Callum Davidson’s men, who have already lifted the Betfred Cup in the 2020/21 campaign and can now turn their attentions to next Saturday’s Scottish Cup final against Hibs.

St Johnstone are now guaranteed a second-qualifying round berth in the newly-formed Europa Conference League due to the fact next weekend’s opponents have finished third in the league but, if they taste success at Hampden, then they will go into the final play-off round of the Europa League.

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The Perth outfit have not played in Europe since 2017, when they were eliminated by FK Trakai in the first qualifying round of the Europa League.

St Johnstone just needed to avoid defeat against Livingston to clinch fifth spot due to their superior goal difference over the Lions and despite the build-up to this encounter being hampered by ongoing Covid-19 issues at the club, St Johnstone were never seriously troubled in a match that had a strong whiff of end-of-season fare.

Davidson revealed earlier in the week that the Saints will only have two training sessions with his full squad ahead of the Scottish Cup final as players return from isolation. The St Johnstone manager was clearly in no mood to risk some of his key players, with midfield tyro Ali McCann wrapped in cotton wool on the bench and striker Chris Kane used as a sub.

Even still, seven of the starting XI against Livingston are set to begin against Hibs. Zander Clark will displace Zdenek Zlamal, Liam Gordon will come back into the defence, and McCann and Kane appear certainties to play too.

It was clear from early on that this match would be, at best, a slow burner. While both teams were committed, Livingston in particular lacked a cutting edge in attack. Matej Poplatnik did not offer any punch as a lone striker and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, Livi’s most potent forward, flitted in and out of the game out wide. He had the best chance of the first half on 26 minutes, a neat bit of skill on the right allowing him to fire a shot that was beaten away by Hearts loanee Zlamal.

St Johnstone did not fashion much either. Livingston goalkeeper Max Stryjek looked jittery under a couple of high balls, but they could not capitalise. Stevie May’s swivel and subsequent shot just before the break was too close to Stryjek and he held comfortably.

Matters did not improve in the second period. The most noteworthy incident came on 72 minutes when, after James Brown was caught dithering on the ball, Livingston winger Jaze Kabia pounced. His shot was blocked by the knees of Zlamal, with Livingston claiming a penalty when Jason Kerr and Kabia tangled when challenging for the rebound.

The final whistle came as a welcomed relief to all witnesses and St Johnstone can now look forward to their date with destiny against Hibs.

St Johnstone: Zlamal; Rooney, Kerr, McCart; Brown, Craig, Wotherspoon (Conway 66), Davidson, Booth (Gilmour 84); May (Kane 66), Melamed (Middleton 57).

Livingston: Stryjek; McMillan, Fitzwater, Guthrie, Longridge; Bartley (Holt 78), Diani; Kabia (Mullin 82), Pittman, Emmanuel-Thomas; Poplatnik (Forrest 69).