St Johnstone and Dundee live down to expectations as basement battle ends in predictable stalemate

To the surprise of absolutely no one, this relegation battle on a wintry midweek night in deepest January comfortably lived down to expectations.
Dundee's Ryan Sweeney pulls down St Johnstone's Murray Davidson at a corner. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)Dundee's Ryan Sweeney pulls down St Johnstone's Murray Davidson at a corner. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)
Dundee's Ryan Sweeney pulls down St Johnstone's Murray Davidson at a corner. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

A swirling wind did not help. In fact, this might have been the biggest single factor contributing to the poor fare on offer. But it was never likely to be festival of football in any case.

Both sides toiled to break the chain of recent and not-so-recent league results and came up with a solution that does neither of them much good on the face of it. St Johnstone remain bottom, Dundee second bottom.

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Few would bet against both teams fighting out their own private relegation battle at the business end of the campaign but they will both accept the point happily enough and move on.

There were few clear opportunities created but both sides could point to chances that might have left them feeling slightly better about themselves. Saints defender Jamie McCart made a superb clearance off the line after good play from Dundee substitute Charlie Adam on the left in the dying minutes. Callum Hendry was earlier thwarted by a fine Adam Legzdins block.

Despite the forward’s recall from Kilmarnock, St Johnstone’s problems in front of goal continued. This, though, was their first clean sheet in the league since the beginning of November. It’s progress, certainly, but it came at a cost.

The home side suffered a blow they could have done without after just eight minutes when Nadir Ciftci, who was making his home debut, sustained a hamstring injury while trying to latch on to a bizarre attempt at a back header from Dundee defender Ryan Sweeney.

It’s a dog-eat-dog world at the bottom of the table although some previous history at Dundee United – and a specific biting incident – might have been what prompted the baying from the away fans as the Turk limped round the pitch in front of them. Chris Kane was sent on to partner Hendry, who had gone straight into the starting XI having only been recalled from his loan spell at Kilmarnock on Monday.

That said everything about Callum Davidson’s desperation as he sought to start reversing his side’s shocking decline. Things aren't much better in James McPake’s world, but Dundee have not fallen from the heights of double cup winners in a matter of months. This is what has vexed the St Johnstone fans. Despite everything, they offered stiff support to their side here.

After being frustrated in several proposed deals, McPake has managed to add Niall McGinn to the earlier addition of Canadian midfielder Jay Chapman. The former Aberdeen winger was given a rousing welcome when he and Adam made their first appearance to warm up after 20 minutes. They both entered the fray after 50 minutes as Dundee sought to up the ante.

St Johnstone then promptly had their best chances to score. Hendry made headway down the left before rifling in a shot at Legzdins’ near post. The Dundee ‘keeper made a vital save with his feet. Kane then robbed Christie Elliott about 50 yards from goal but Liam Fontaine recovered well to snuff out the danger.

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The visitors’ best chance – or at least their best effort - came from the perhaps predictable source of Leigh Griffiths’ left foot. A half-chance on the edge of the box after 63 minutes had Zander Clark scrambling to his left to make a good save. The former Celtic striker had been a somewhat peripheral figure to that point but there was always a sense he could spring into life.

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