It was a point well made by Tommy Wright, the St Johnstone manager, but just a poor game from which to evoke the spirit of Kenny Dalglish. Saints were deserved winners in Dingwall. The paying supporters were the losers.
The Perth club took a big step towards securing another fantastic finish in the Ladbrokes Premiership, leapfrogging Motherwell into fourth place, with Steven MacLean’s well-worked winner coming straight from the training ground.
The slender margin was still a deserved one for Wright’s team given their overall dominance on a dire day for the League Cup winners.
“It was a corner we worked on in training in terms of movement and getting the first header in,” Wright said. “It is a position in front of the goalkeeper I remember Kenny Dalglish and Dean Saunders scoring lots of goals from.”
Wright knew it was a massive step for his club towards the extra £200,000 prize money on offer between sixth and fourth place, adding: “There’s no question we deserved it. We controlled the game from the first whistle. I was pleased how we controlled possession.
“I don’t think [Ross County] asked too many questions of us and that was down to how we set up in the game. Zander Clark only had one difficult save to make from a deflection.
“I’m really pleased to get three points against a good team, who’ve had a great season at a tough place to come.
“We’re looking to get a positive result next week [at Motherwell]. That won’t put us over the line but would us pretty close to it.”
Saints laid the platform for victory through superb organisation with centre halves Steven Anderson and Joe Shaughnessy snuffing out strikers Liam Boyce and Alex Schalk.
The 56th minute winner came when Danny Swanson’s corner swung to the edge of the County box and Shaughnessy was there to thump a powerful header goalwards. Crucially, MacLean was waiting in a crowded six-yard box to flick the ball over the line.
After 63 minutes, the hosts finally managed a first shot on target, but Jonathan Franks’ venomous 22-yard left footer was saved and smothered superbly by keeper Clark. County enjoyed a flurry of late pressure but never really looked like making it count.
“That was probably one of our worst performances of the season. We didn’t look as if we had fourth place to play for, that’s for sure,” home manager Jim McIntyre reflected. “It was very scrappy – and a scrappy goal that won it – but St Johnstone deserved to win.”