St Johnstone urged not to sack duo after pitch battle

Former St Johnstone player Allan Preston has appealed for the Perth club not to axe brawling pair '¨Danny Swanson and Richard Foster.
Tempers flare as the teams go into the dressing room at half-time. Picture: SNSTempers flare as the teams go into the dressing room at half-time. Picture: SNS
Tempers flare as the teams go into the dressing room at half-time. Picture: SNS

The radio pundit saw the Saints duo clash on the stroke of half-time at Hamilton’s SuperSeal Stadium. Players rushed to separate the teammates as they made for the tunnel after trading blows.

When the dust settled, 
Foster and Swanson were both shown red cards by referee Don Robertson and nine-man Saints’ Euro hopes were dented by a late strike from Accies striker Alex D’Acol.

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Hamilton coach Guillaume Beuzelin was sent to the stand after being sucked into the mayhem.

The Perth club moved swiftly
to suspend both players as they began a probe, with furious manager Tommy Wright pledging tough sanctions if the pair were found guilty.

But one-time McDiarmid Park midfielder Preston has appealed for clemency. He said: “St Johnstone have done the right thing by suspending them while they investigate the affair. There has been no knee-jerk reaction by the club.

“I sincerely hope the boys aren’t facing the sack. That would be really harsh.

“Both players will be utterly embarrassed by their behaviour. It has made national news. It was 30 seconds of utter madness. The red mist came down and they will deeply regret what happened.

“They know they were out of order. But they shook hands and I’m told while the second half was going on they were 
sitting chatting in the away dressing room.

“There’s not a footballer out there who hasn’t had the red mist descend and done something they regret.

“But look at these two lads down the years and this incident is totally out of character. That should be taken on board.

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“And I think you have to remember the good work these players have done for the club this season. Swanson has scored a lot of goals and Foster has been arguably their most consistent performer.

“They have to take what is coming to them and fair enough that will be a heavy sanction. They should be facing the maximum fine open to the club of two weeks wages and they will automatically miss big games against Hearts and Inverness this week.

“Danny and Richard let down themselves and took the shine off a day when the headlines should have been all about securing another top-six finish. They left nine team-mates hanging on, trying to hold out for a point. And they almost did it. I thought they were magnificent to a man. How many times do we talk about the camaraderie and the team spirit Tommy has at St Johnstone? I’d say it is still there and this won’t change things.”

D’Acol’s 89th-minute winner took Hamilton off the bottom of the Premiership table, two points above Inverness, whose draw with Kilmarnock guaranteed Saints a top-half finish for the sixth season in a row.

Afterwards Saints manager
Wright said: “I should be sitting here with a glass of champagne, delighted that we have got top six and maybe three points if all 11 stayed on the pitch. But unfortunately human beings make mistakes and two of my players have made mistakes and been punished for it.”

Wright’s counterpart Martin Canning, meanwhile, has urged his Hamilton players to focus on survival. Accies play Lanarkshire rivals Motherwell, Ross County and Dundee – all bottom-six sides – before the split and Canning wants his side to remain focused.

He said: “That is eight games left and the five after the split we don’t know who it is going to be against. But they are all games we believe that we can win if we can play well.

“Every team is in the same situation and they will all be looking at their fixtures and saying the same thing.

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“But we need to make sure we stay focused, not get too high and not get too low. I keep 
saying the same thing.

“We probably deserved the win and even with 11 versus 11 in the first half, I thought we were the better team.”