While a late David Wotherspoon strike secured a deserved victory, the last few days of the transfer window have taken on added significance for St Johnstone supporters.
The build-up to this game was overshadowed by the departure of top scorer Matty Kennedy to Aberdeen for a £70,000 fee and manager Tommy Wright going public with his dissatisfaction with the club’s down-to-the-wire signing strategy.
With midfielder Murray Davidson absent with a broken arm, on-loan Anthony Ralston unable to face his parent club, Michael O’Halloran touch and go and a first-half hamstring injury ruling out Drey Wright, the Northern Irishman is hoping for back-up before Wednesday’s visit from defending champions Celtic and a weekend crunch clash with Hearts.
He’s anticipating the McDiarmid Park powers-that-be will step-up negotiations to bring in Jamie McCart from Inverness Caley Thistle after the defender signed a pre-contract.
And now a midfielder has also popped-up on Wright’s wish list.
It was another midfielder, Wotherspoon, who helped engineer a win which drew Saints level on points with seventh placed Killie and opened up a nine point gap on bottom club Hearts.
It was no more than Saints deserved against a team enduring a seven game losing run under manager Alex Dyer, with Wotherspoon and the ever impressive Ali McCann dominating the middle of the park in Wright’s 3-5-2 set-up.
While Wotherspoon backed Michael O’Halloran and Danny Swanson to plug the gap left by Kennedy’s departure, he understood an ambitious manager’s desire for fresh faces.
“He wants to push us forward and he wants to get us back in the top six again,” said the former Hibs player.
“If he feels that he needs numbers in the changing room then that’s the way he feels.
“He’s shown what he wants and that’s what he’s done in the last few years with the club.”
Wotherspoon’s controlled 83rd minute volley from the edge of the box crept into the corner to underline the character within the Perth dressing room.
After McCann had bundled home a superb seventh minute delivery from wingback Scott Tanser, Saints were rattled by a controversial penalty call by referee Alan Muir.
While Callum Booth was guilty of being turned by Chris Burke, the initial contact seemed to be outside the area and Wright later branded it a poor call by referee Alan Muir. The veteran Killie winger ignored the furore to convert in style.
“These decisions go against you but we bounced back. It shows our mentality, that we can grind out the results that we need,” said Wotherspoon, who is relishing the prospect of going up against Celtic.
Fellow midfielder McCann’s goal was the precursor of another mature performance and Wotherspoon is among his growing band of admirers.
“He’s great. Ali’s going from strength to strength.
“At the start of the season he wanted to show himself. He managed to get a start and he’s take the bull by the horns.
“He’s got great strength and great determination, and he got the goal too which he deserves.”
Another of Wright’s young prospects, Callum Hendry, again made an impact from the bench, forcing a stunning save from Killie keeper Jan Koprivec to divert a 25-yard free-kick bound for the top corner.
In the first-half Perth keeper Zander Clark had earned his corn in similar fashion with a fine stop to frustrate Burke.
His manager joined the on-field full-time celebrations and praised his players for bouncing back from a midweek loss at Livingston.
Reflecting on the fall-out from voicing frustration with the dilution of his managerial authority, Wright was standing his ground.
And the result and team performance underlined his enduring value to the Perth club on his 301st game at the helm.
“What I’ve always tried to do is look after my club and speak passionately about my club,” said Wright, whose starting line-up included five home-grown players.
“I’ve said what I’ve said. I won’t be taking it back.
“At times we could be more proactive than reactive. We’re waiting until the last seven days of the window.
“But listen, I’ve said enough. I think one of my school reports did say that I talk too much and was a bit disruptive in class.
“So maybe I’ve ruffled a few feathers, but hey-ho.
“After losing on Wednesday it was important that we got three points.
“It puts us level with Kilmarnock and ahead of Ross County now and nine points from bottom place and five from 11th so it was a good day all around.
“We’re trying to get McCart in and we’re trying to get a midfielder in to replace Murray.
“I don’t know how long Drey’s going to be out. O’Halloran’s got a chance for Wednesday.
“But we do need bodies in.”