Michael O’Halloran made a triumphant return to St Johnstone on Saturday and insisted after the game that he never let his head drop at any point during his Ibrox frustrations.
The Rangers wideman is back in Perth on a six-month loan deal after it was made clear to him he was not part of Pedro Caixinha’s plans.
The 26-year-old has not started a game since January but gave an immediate reminder of his talents as he climbed off the bench to make his second debut for Saints.
His last-gasp solo winner sealed a 2-1 opening day triumph for Tommy Wright’s side at Kilmarnock and O’Halloran says that is proof a lack of confidence was not the reason for his struggles at Ibrox.
He said: “My confidence has always been fine but it was just a lack of games and that’s why I came back here. I enjoyed it first time around. The fans, the gaffer and the players are great with me so I’m glad to be back.
“The gaffer knows how to get the best out of me and he trusts me, so I hope that goal repays him a little. My focus now is playing well and trying to get us into Europe again. You train all week to play and I’m glad to get back involved again. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to start. I haven’t played in a while and the last game I started was January so it was good to get some minutes and to score a goal is a great start.”
David Wotherspoon fired Saints ahead early but a stunning long-range free-kick from Kris Boyd put Killie level on the hour mark.
Lee McCulloch’s Rugby Park team looked set for a point until O’Halloran made his stunning intervention with just 90 seconds left, driving past four men before firing into the far corner.
The defeat was a set-back for McCulloch and his new-look line-up but he hopes the addition of former Motherwell duo Lee Erwin and Dom Thomas will give them the attacking threat they need to challenge this term.
“He’s made an impact,” McCulloch said when asked about Erwin’s second-half introduction. “Before joining us he had ten days of doing nothing because he didn’t go away with Leeds pre-season. We are trying to bleed him in, but you can see he’s a good player and showed a good partnership with Kris Boyd already.
“You have an experienced player – loads of communication from Boydy all over the pitch – and Lee will be learning off that.
“As for Dom, I thought he tired at the end but he’s not played a lot of competitive football at this level and intensity. But he’s got unbelievable ability. Great feet, he’s direct and has an eye for a pass. He’s a match winner on his day and I can’t ask any more than that.”