IT WAS ironic that Hamilton decided to produce a defensive display of horror proportions on Halloween. It was a result which saw Saints, who have now lost just once in their last seven outings, leapfrog Accies and move into fourth in the table, while the Lanarkshire side dropped down to sixth.
For Saints it was their fifth successive away victory, the first time they have achieved that in 19 years.
Saints boss Tommy Wright said: “We defended well. We were fortunate to go in one up, but at 4-0 we should have scored a few more. We have put ourselves in a good position but we are not going to predict where we will finish in the league. Compared to this time last year we are five points better off.”
Martin Canning, whose side had only lost once at home since February, and that against champions Celtic, decided to include himself in the Accies starting line-up for the first time in seven months, when he was sent off, ironically against Saints, the last time the Perth side visited New Douglas Park.
Saints, who had failed to win in the league at Hamilton for five years, were put under enormous pressure from the outset with Accies carving out three excellent chances in the opening exchanges. After six minutes Christian Nade’s reverse pass set up Gramoz Kurtaj, but the Albanian hooked his 18-yard shot wide of the mark. Two minutes later Ali Crawford and Kurtaj combined to leave Nade in front of goal, but Saints’ goalkeeper Alan Mannus did superbly well to block with his legs with Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill watching from the stand.
A goal looked inevitable and it finally came in 40 minutes but remarkably it was for the Perth men. Brian Easton returned to haunt his former club with a cross of pinpoint accuracy from the left and Graham Cummins, unmarked in front of goal, sent a downward header soaring past goalkeeper Michael McGovern.
Saints doubled their lead four minutes after the restart when Cummins set up Michael O’Halloran, who cleverly switched on to his right boot, but McGovern pushed the ball to his left only for Cummins to follow up and drive the ball into the far corner from an acute angle 12-yards out.
Cummins said: “You could never have predicted that result after the first 35 minutes.”
The points were secured in 63 minutes when McGovern flapped at a Liam Craig cross from the left and David Wotherspoon curled the ball high into the net from ten yards.
Four minutes later, O’Halloran showed calmness and precision to place a low, right-foot shot from 18-yards past McGovern to make it four.
Accies pulled one back eight minutes from the end with a 20-yard free-kick by Jesus Garcia Tena, which he curled high into the net. Garcia Tena scored a second in 89 minutes from the penalty spot after Murray Davidson handled, but it was scant consolation.
Canning said afterwards: “Football is a strange game. We totally controlled the game in the first half then gave ourselves a mountain to climb. That’s eight goals we’ve conceded against St Johnstone this season, and on the balance of play it’s hard to believe we’ve lost eight goals.”