St Johnstone 2-0 St Mirren: Perth men boost top-six bid

ST JOHNSTONE returned to winning ways to stay on course for a top-six finish with a cakewalk of a victory over an insipid St Mirren team surely now destined for the Championship. Goals in either half did the damage, but, in truth, had Tommy Wright’s men been more ruthless there could have been a far more convincing and realistic look to the scoreline.

St Johnstone's Brian Graham (right) wheels away with team-mate Dave Mackay having opened the scoring. Picture: SNS

Scorers: St Johnstone - Graham 33; Anderson 61

Wright’s Perth men were good from the first minute, which was better than they had to be. However, it would be remiss to let the paltry nature of their opponents detract from some excellent passing passages, a real desire in midfield and a generally competent showing from a capable top-flight team.

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The same cannot be said for St Mirren, who, at present, look dead men walking; a collection of confidence-sapped individuals seemingly eager to roll over and accept a fate they have looked on a collision course with since the horrendous appointment of Tommy Craig last summer. Gary Teale said through the week he was not enjoying his stint as Buddies manager and chances are very few of those who travelled to Perth to back his team enjoyed his dark-ages tactics, or the lack of spark his charges exhibited.

With the painful memories of last week’s mauling in Maryhill stinging them into action, the home team started way faster than their opponents, who, in truth, came out of the blocks like they were sleepwalking. If St Mirren were fighting for their lives, they had a very bizarre way of showing it.

One-time Morton striker Brian Graham should have notched on the quarter hour when he got on the end of a superb Dave Mackay centre, only to steer the ball into the arms of Mark Ridgers with the goal gaping at his mercy.

Wave after wave of attack battered down on the Paisley team, who survived more through luck than any sort of good judgment or organisation as St Johnstone threatened continuously with Graham coming closer still with a curling effort off the outside of the far post.

Jim Goodwin was just holding a wobbly visiting defence together, although they weren’t being helped by a midfield who collectively were ponderous to 50-50 challenges, and utterly clueless when charged with supplying the forlorn figure of an increasingly isolated Steven Thompson.

That it took over half an hour for the opener to arrive was the only surprising element to St Johnstone taking the lead. Brian Graham making it third time lucky was predictable, as was the absolutely appalling defending on show from the Buddies to allow Graham to take a touch and roll the ball home from six yards with barely a challenge to be seen.

It was a goal which encapsulated perfectly the story of as one-sided a first half as you are likely to see.

St Johnstone created the chance with some decent football, but their life was made easy by a visiting team struggling to register a heartbeat in a shameful 45 minutes.

After a collector’s item of a visiting shot on goal soon after the restart, when James Dayton drove wide of target, normal service was resumed as the home team again applied second gear and dominated completely.

Graham passed up another superb chance to score when he headed a Mackay cross wide when afforded oceans of space inside the area, and Steven Anderson glanced wide from a corner when again not picked up by an abject Paisley defence.

Neither Anderson nor the home team would have long to wait for the second goal, with the centre-back benefiting form more accommodating defending to plant a header into the roof of the net from inside the six-yard area. This second goal was always going to be the clincher against a team who look like they could go from one solar eclipse to the next without scoring – and so it proved as St Johnstone ran down the clock with minimal fuss to ensure they sit in the box seat in the race for the top six.

St Johnstone: Mannus, Mackay, Wright, Anderson, Easton, Millar, Davidson, O’Halloran (Swanson 78), Wotherspoon, McLean, Graham (Kane 81). Subs not used: Banks, Scobie, McFadden, Miller, Croft.

St Mirren: Ridgers, Naismith, Genev, Goodwin, Tesselaar, Dayton (Arquin 52), Mallan (Sadlier 75), McGinn, Kelly, Gow (McLear 72), Thompson. Subs not used: Kello, Reilly, McAusland, Wylde.

Referee: J Beaton. Attendance: 3,166.