St Johnstone win a timely reminder of Wright credentials

St Johnstone's Murray Davidson scores against Hibs to make it 1-0. Picture: SNS
St Johnstone's Murray Davidson scores against Hibs to make it 1-0. Picture: SNS
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In a week that has seen Tommy­ Wright being touted as an ideal successor to a man who has defied all expectations with Northern Ireland, the St Johnstone manager gave a timely reminder of his uncanny­ penchant for upsetting the odds.

Given the high standards they have set, Saints had gone through something of a mini-crisis in failing to win, nor score, in six straight games.

They arrived at Easter Road as rank outsiders against a Hibs team brimming with confidence from four straight wins.

In leading the Perth club to three successive fourth-place finishes in the Premiership and a 2014 Scottish Cup 
triumph, Wright has paid scant regard to reputations.

It is those qualities that the Irish Football Association are certain to bear in mind should national team manager Michael O’Neill defect to Scotland.

“You look at his stats over the past three or four years and they have been excellent,” said Saints midfielder Murray Davidson.

“So I would be very surprised if he doesn’t get linked with jobs. We have been in this position before where he has been linked with jobs.

“He is professional, the players are professional and the longer he stays here it can only benefit us.”

It was a performance from St Johnstone that bore all the hallmarks of Wright’s successful four-and-a-half year reign.

Disciplined in keeping their shape, the visitors grew into the game before ending their 620-minute goal drought.

Saints were improved after the break and went in front when Davidson nodded home from close range after Graham Cummins headed Liam Craig’s cross back across goal.

Anthony Stokes levelled in the first minute of injury-time when Joe Shaughnessy was adjudged to have handled a Martin Boyle shot, a decision Wright described as “harsh”.

But Saints responded in the right manner and Steven MacLean was left with a simple tap in after Ofir Marciano could only push out Craig’s shot.

Scotland cap Davidson admits the players were becoming impatient over their lack of victories.

“It’s a big relief to get the win,” he added. “It was a big win because we have not got a game next week. To win it like that was fantastic so it is a 
pretty happy dressing room.

“My goal was a bit of everything. Relief, and I was delighted to get the goal at such an important stage of the game.

“When you looked at the run we were on and the run Hibs were on, I am not sure many people would say that St Johnstone would go to Easter Road and get the win.

“Sometimes that’s the way we like it, but I would be lying if I said it didn’t play in your mind.

“It’s more what people off the pitch say. They say ‘oh, you’re on a bad run’ – the last couple of years there have been so many positives.

“I have said for years now, especially this year, it’s extremely fine margins.”

Unlike on previous occasions, Hibernian head coach Neil Lennon refrained from unleashing a post-match ­diatribe.

The home side briefly rose above their lethargy following Davidson’s opener but, in the main, failed to kindle the kind of performance that has taken them to third in the table.

“I’m not going to be over-critical of the players,” said the former Celtic manager. “I’ll get over it.

“There was a flatness about us and I can understand it.

“It’s been a fragmented couple of weeks with players being away and players being out injured, some needing a rest.

“A point would have kept a decent run going. I just wanted us to get the point and you can come away saying, ‘well we haven’t played well but we got a point and show a bit of character’. To lose it in those circumstances – it’s crazy.”

Hibs winger Brandon Barker, who looked dangerous before being substituted for Dylan McGeouch in the 65th minute, echoed Lennon’s sentiments.

“It was a horrible way to lose the game. We should have seen the game out and got a point but we went for the win. That’s in our mentality, maybe that was the wrong decision and we should have sat off and taken the draw.

“It’s always difficult to play against St Johnstone, they make it difficult for us, but it did feel a bit flat.”