St Johnstone, I’m sure, would assure you they hold a genuine fondness for their McDiarmid Park home. However, the statistics from what is shaping up as another season of success lean towards a team far more comfortable on their travels.
Of all the Perth club’s favourite away day destinations, few seem to whet the appetite more than Dingwall. This was a fifth win from the last six visits for the team who are currently bettered only by Celtic in terms of performance on the road.
Manager Tommy Wright was last night hoping the good cheer would feed into chairman Steve Brown’s mood, given the unhappiness expressed by Danny Swanson, an attacker conspicuous by his absence for yesterday’s match. Swanson, as morning papers had detailed, is disgruntled at a lack of progress in contract renewal talks.
Wright, jubilant after Chris Kane’s spectacular late winner, joked that Brown might be ready to talk terms after Saints took a huge step towards top six safety. “Danny was right to have his say,” he stressed. “There are two parties involved but I don’t take his comments as a negative as it shows how much he wants to stay here.
“I might give the chairman a quick ring now as he’ll be in a good mood and we’ll see if we can get it done.
“We played extremely well. We created chances all afternoon but our final ball could have been better. The goal we lost was unlucky from our point of view but we kept going and I’m so pleased for Chris Kane – it’s a great goal fit to win any game.
“There’s a long way to go but our away form has been magnificent this season. We’re a point behind Hearts now but at the moment our focus is on getting the three points to take us closer to the top six.”
The Perth team were first to threaten, with a David Wotherspoon driven cross from the left into the box flicked on by the heel of Blair Alston. His attempt was touched on to the outside of the post by Scott Fox.
After an awkward tumble, Murray Davidson exited injured to be replaced by Keith Watson, after only 13 minutes.
County’s first real chance materialised after 27 minutes when Craog Curran showed great perseverance to win the ball back twice. He found Liam Boyce, who teed up Michael Gardyne for a wild strike over the bar. Three minutes later, Martin Woods’ chipped free-kick appeared to catch the raised hand of Joe Shaughnessy in the St Johnstone penalty area but referee John Beaton wasn’t interested.
County were behind a minute later. Wotherspoon rose to head the ball wide right to Alston inside the right of the County box and he cut the ball across to a waiting Steven MacLean, who sent a deflected shot past the helpless County keeper.
Then County’s Gardyne struck the upright as he controlled a high Kenny van der Weg ball into the box.
Just after the hour, Saints were screaming for a penalty as a Shaughnessy header was stopped on the line with Woods seeming to handle.
County’s perseverance paid off after 73 minutes. Woods’ low pass through the middle split the defence and Curran took a touch and slipped a ten-yard shot past Zander Clark for 1-1.
But Saints weren’t to be outdone. Entering stoppage time, Wotherspoon’s ball across found substitute Kane taking a touch before lashing a 22-yard screamer into the top corner.