This year’s start to a league campaign for St Johnstone already bears little resemblance to the one that went before.
And a win against Aberdeen tonight will make any comparison between the two even starker.
Callum Hendry was the super sub whose goal secured the first Premiership point of 2019/20 against Livingston but it wasn’t until fixture number 10, deep into October, that his late strike to beat Hamilton put the first win on the board.
Saturday’s comeback victory at Kilmarnock made it four points from three away trips this time around and if Saints can back it up by defeating the Dons this evening, one of the McDiarmid Park club’s best beginnings to a new top flight term in recent memory will be taking shape.
“We have got off to a good start with a win and a draw from the three away games and hopefully we can keep it going against Aberdeen,” said Hendry.
“We went into the new season with confidence built-up from our good run since the turn of the year.
“We want to build momentum again and a win would mean we have had a very good start, unlike last year.
“It was a big relief getting that first victory under our belts so early. Rugby Park isn’t an easy place to go. Kilmarnock had held Celtic to a draw.
“It was a tough start last season, waiting so long for that first win.
“We never spoke about it but it was probably in the back of our minds going into the Killie game. Now we want to build on the win we got.”
The circumstances and controversy surrounding the postponement of the Aberdeen match nearly a fortnight ago will heighten the interest in this rescheduled contest.
For Saints, though, it will be about maintaining their focus and not getting caught up in a Derek McInnes team selection guessing game.
“We were disappointed when the original game was cancelled but it’s great it was re-arranged so quickly,” said Hendry.
“I’m not sure what sort of Aberdeen team to expect but the gaffer has told us to concentrate on ourselves.
“He doesn’t want us over-thinking Aberdeen’s situation.
“This is our first home game with another two to come against Hibs and St Mirren.
“The boys are raring to go and hopefully I can grab a goal and get going again.”
Hendry’s final goals total for last season was nine, most of which were scored as a replacement. He is yet to get off the mark three games into this term but the 23-year-old is revelling in the role of starter as opposed to impact man.
“I had a chance or two against Rangers and Kilmarnock,” said the former Blackburn Rovers forward. “But I don’t dwell on it.
“I broke through last season and I know there’s added pressure because fans will be expecting me to come back and keep scoring goals.
“I’d like to think that will happen.
“I know there is expectation there now but that’s fine by me. It doesn’t unnerve me. I thrive on it.
“Pressure gets the best out of me and the gaffer starting me as the first striker at the minute gives me a chance to claim the jersey.
“This is what I dreamed of when I was recovering from two horrible injuries at Balckburn.
“Back then I never thought I’d be in this position.
“I couldn’t see myself being a professional footballer, let alone playing at a club like this club and in this league.
“So I’m just enjoying every game as it comes.
“Ask any striker and they’ll tell you they want to score every game. But I have no complaints if we are winning games, as we did at Kilmarnock.
“I know once I grab one other goals will follow. We have good strikers here so I have to put down a marker to the gaffer.
“He has a formation he wants to play and the boys are getting comfortable in their roles.”
Callum Davidson’s options up front have been limited by Chris Kane being unavailable for all three matches so far and Stevie May being sidelined for two of them.
“There will be a fight on for places up front when Mayso and Kano are fit again,” said Hendry, who got used to Tommy Wright mixing things up between the three of them in the final few months of his time in charge.
“Isaac (Olaofe) has come up from Millwall and he’s looking for his chance. He gave Aberdeen’s defenders a tough time of it up there in a friendly when he came on for the last 20.
“He is really quick and athletic – a good lad as well.
“And the fans will, quite rightly, be getting excited about wee John (Robertson).
“He is a real prospect. He has been really good in training since we came back.
“John reminds me a bit of myself a couple of years ago. Like me, he knows he is still learning.
“And we are lucky that we are working with Macca (Steven MacLean).
“His one-to-one stuff after training is great. I have been doing a lot with him. It’s really helping me.
“I know how much Mayso learned from him when they played together.”