St Johnstone 4 Inverness C.T. 0: How Premiership status was treasured in Perth
Premiership salvation is not something which can be dressed with ribbons or placed on display in that newly bolstered trophy cabinet at McDiarmid Park. It will nevertheless be every bit as treasured as recent cup successes by St Johnstone.
Callum Davidson’s side negotiated a tricky start to score twice in six minutes early in the second half and then completed the job in emphatic fashion with two late goals.
Two cup heroes were instrumental in this stunning turnaround after a goalless opening half. Stevie May got things underway moments after coming on at half-time while Shaun Rooney replicated Callum Hendry’s cheeky chipped finish a couple of minutes earlier to put some real gloss on the scoreline. St Johnstone finally came good when it mattered.
Manager Callum Davidson stuck two fingers up at his critics in the process. A half-time substitution was instrumental in their change of fortunes.
Perhaps May should consider changing his number to 23 in recognition of the date after he graced another big occasion a minute after half-time. He was on hand to sweep in the loose ball after Melker Hallberg’s header had been saved on the line by Mark Ridgers. May had only just come on for Glenn Middleton. There is life yet in a striker who many feared might be gradually fading from the McDiarmid Park scene.
The goal soothed the Saints. Davidson used his eve-of-match press conference to complain about recent decisions going against his side. He cannot argue that they enjoyed some luck here. Cammy MacPherson’s long-range effort deflected off Inverness skipper Sean Welsh and left Ridgers wrong-footed after 52 minutes. St Johnstone were determined to avoid their fate in the first leg on Friday night and let another two-goal lead slip. The visitors, roared on by an impressive following, did waste two good chances as they tried to mount another comeback.
An Austin Samuels shot was saved by Zander Clark after 62 minutes and then substitute Aaron Doran skewed his side’s best chance of the game wide after Kirk Broadfoot’s headed knockdown.
But Hendry made sure of the outcome with three minutes left when he deftly finished after being left one-on-one with the ‘keeper following Hallberg’s through ball. Somehow Rooney found himself in an almost identical position shortly afterwards after Dan Clearly's charge forward. Rooney converted with the same aplomb. It could well stand as his farewell gift to the fans although it seems hardly necessary after the two cup final winners he has already delivered. The wing back is now out of contract.
Johnson might have expected Inverness to be the ones visiting Easter Road next season as he stood discussing the opening half with his companions at the interval.
Inverness had looked the more dangerous side in a tight opening half. There was little evidence for home fans to have any confidence in St Johnstone extending their stay in the top-flight after 12 seasons. Inverness looked the hungrier, more menacing side.
The jitters were in evidence for all to see from the moment Clark managed to take a fresh air swipe at Cleary’s backpass. The ball skidded out for a corner.
Like in the first leg when he had come on to great effect Samuels looked particularly dangerous. Inverness were on a mission though it petered out after the interval.
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