A 4-1 win suggests a mauling that would leave any goalkeeper angry with themselves. However, St Johnstone’s Alan Mannus chose to point the finger in other directions regarding the fate that befell his side at the hands of Rangers on Tuesday night.
Mannus was adjudged to have brought down Alfredo Morelos in the 12th minute of the encounter that led to Rangers opener from the penalty-spot, and set them up for a three-goal first-half. The last of those goals came directly from a free-kick by Sean Goss that followed referee Steven McLean adjudging Saints midfielder Murray Davidson to have fouled Jamie Murphy.
The Northern Ireland international believes these decisions dictated the course of the entire encounter, while accepting his team “weren’t good enough” in the first period.
“The first goal isn’t a penalty and the third goal isn’t a free-kick,” insisted Mannus. “For the penalty, I felt the ball touch my leg. He [Morelos] touched it first and it’s touched my leg and then we’ve gone into each other.
“What am I meant to do? Just move out of the way for him once it’s touched my leg. We were looking at the replay to see if it was clear that it did touch me, I felt it did after he hit it but we couldn’t see if it was clear on the replay. But I was certain it did, so for me as it hit my leg it was a corner and not a penalty.
“I said to the referee that it’s hit my leg after he’s hit it. I don’t know if he couldn’t see it and it wasn’t clear that it did that.
For me it’s not a penalty and that changes things.”
Now lying eighth, seven points off sixth-placed Kilmarnock, it now seems that St Johnstone will finish in the bottom half of the table for the first time since 2010-11. They are at home to Hamilton on Saturday, and then travel to Kilmarnock in midweek and, essentially, need victories in both to keep alive even faint hopes of continuing their remarkable run of top-half finishes. However, aside from a win over Ross County last Saturday, which followed on from a draw at Celtic Park, they have only posted one – at Ibrox – in the league since mid-December.
“Saturday is a massive game for us,” Mannus said. “We know we’ll have to start the game better and do better in the first half than what we did against Rangers and that Hamilton are going to be up for it. So we need to be ready.
“The two games before Rangers we’d been really good and defensively hadn’t given away a lot of chances and we’ve created chances ourselves. We need to get back to doing what we did on Saturday and also what we did against Celtic.”