St Johnstone 0 - 1 Ross County: Staggies bag win
SCORER: De Leeuw 29
Ross County were delighted and St Johnstone despondent at the outcome, which was settled by one moment of outstanding finishing by Melvin De Leeuw in the first half but the onlookers, whether in the stadium or staring at screens, were the real losers as the entertainment value of this encounter bumped along the bottom of the scale.
Aesthetics aside, this was a fine and deserved win for Derek Adams’ side which ensures the scramble for both the top six and to avoid the relegation play-off place take on renewed intensity.
“It’s a perfect result for us,” asserted Adams afterwards. “There was a lot of pressure on us after the results earlier.
“We’ve got tough games coming up before the split against Aberdeen and Motherwell but we enjoy the challenge of taking on teams from the top six”.
County certainly enjoyed this game against Saints, who still remain on course to finish in the upper half of the table but who were, as their manager Tommy Wright put it, “as poor tonight as we’ve been in my time here”.
Even allowing for a late equaliser being chalked off for handball by substitute Chris Iwelumo, Wright also conceded that his men didn’t really deserve anything from the match.
After starting hesistantly, County grew into the game as the first half progressed. They may not have been peppering Alan Mannus’s goal with shots but on the occasions they drove forward they exposed uncertainties in the Saints rearguard which suggested there was indeed promise of a rare away win coming their way.
Yoann Arquin almost raced clear in 27 minutes but Tim Clancy picked up a yellow card for halting his progress. There was nothing legitimate or otherwise that the hosts could do, however as they dosed off a short while later and allowed De Leeuw to drift into space in their penalty box. When he was fed the ball by Evangelos Oikonomou, the Dutchman took it in his stride before dispatching a ferocious low drive which Mannus couldn’t keep out.
Saints, who had looked unconvincing even when enjoying the better of the opening stages, were laboured in trying to navigate their way back to level terms.
It didn’t take a tactical genius to work out what County’s approach would be after the breakthrough goal with their two banks of four set up to frustrate and waiting their moments to burst up the park and seize a second goal. It worked pretty well, too, and the Perth men were confined to only a handful of chances after the interval.
Steven Anderson saw a header nodded off the line by Filip Kiss and Stevie May’s spectacular overhead effort was tidily tipped over the bar by Mark Brown.
Out of keeping with the character of the game there was, at least, a gripping finale as Saints piled forward in a last desperate push for an equaliser.
Twice Brown pulled off heroic stops to keep them at bay and, although Anderson thought he had salvaged a draw for Saints at the death, his effort was quickly ruled out for striking the arm of Iwelumo and that was that.