Craig Fowler looks at how Tommy Wright’s side have gone from restrictive spoilers to an attacking menace
Having tallied up one of the lowest scoring rates in Scottish football last season, nobody expected the glut of goals netted by St Johnstone so far this term. Only Celtic have netted more in the Ladbrokes Premiership and they are only three off the total from last season, despite playing only 15 matches thus far.
A few factors have contributed to the improvement in attack. Speedy winger Michael O’Halloran is continuing to develop at a rapid pace (pun intended) and can now be considered on the verge of a Scotland call-up. Steven MacLean, always a potent threat, has managed to stave off the injury bug which has blighted his past two seasons. While new signing Graham Cummins has been a revelation, scoring six goals and tallying eight assists thus far.
A porous defence in the opening couple of months was another reason Saints turned it up a notch in attack. At one point all four members of their first choice starting back-line were out injured.
Since Steven Anderson, Brian Easton and captain Dave Mackay have returned to the starting XI, the unit has begun resemble the stingy line-up of recent years.
Even though Cummins’ statistics leap off the page, it’s hard to look past the influence of Michael O’Halloran.
His combination of speed and direct running make him one of the hardest players to defend in the country. Opponents have to gear up to stop him and this opens up space for other attackers in the team.
Tommy Wright is arguably the best in the country. He was in the conversation for such an accolade before this campaign, but the way in which he reacted to St Johnstone’s poor start, caused by the leaky defence, to reinvent the team’s identity has been nothing short of miraculous.
While his attempts to regenerate the defence with the signings of Brad McKay and Joe Shaughnessy have been off-point, the acquisition of Cummins was one of the best moves of the summer transfer window.
Must do better
Even though there have been signs of improvement, they have still only kept one clean sheet in all competitions.
One of their biggest problems has been keeping opponents out in the first half. 15 of the 23 goals conceded in the league have come before half-time, including a staggering eight in the first twenty minutes.
The back four and covering midfielders need to improve on concentrating from the start.