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St Johnstone 2 Celtic 1: Saints stun champions with comeback win

Steven Anderson and Ryan Christie battle for the ball.
Steven Anderson and Ryan Christie battle for the ball.

The stunning end to the Premiership season for St Johnstone that few would have predicted just keeps going and going.

A team that was supposed to be out on its feet when it lost to the league’s two bottom sides before the split has now won its fourth game in a row to maintain a 100% top six record.

This time Tommy Wright’s boys had to come from behind against Celtic after Leigh Griffiths scored his 40th goal of the season to give the recently-crowned champions the lead early in the second half.

Saints have a lethal striker of their own, though. He might not have reached 40 but 15 for the season is still pretty impressive for Steven MacLean, who cashed in on a blunder by Stefan Johansen to equalise.

Then, with just over 10 minutes left, substitute Graham Cummins, who hadn’t scored for seven months, came up with a dramatic winner.

Celtic’s starting line-up was more from leftfield than Saints’.

The visitors gave rare opportunities to Logan Bailly, Ryan Christie and Scott Allan.

The home side couldn’t field Darnell Fisher against his parent club, and the trio of midfielders Chris Millar, Murray Davidson and Simon Lappin were all injured. Chris Kane was preferred to Cummins up front.

Saints settled into the game nicely.

There were no clear cut chances in the opening exchanges but the Perth men got the ball into the box whenever the opportunity presented itself.

On one such occasion after 10 minutes Joe Shaughnessy got forward down the right on the overlap and crossed the ball into the danger area.

Saints had bodies close to Logan Bailly, hoping to cash in on a handling error, but the keeper was strong under the high-ball and collected.

The weather was glorious but this was no stroll in the late spring sun for the two teams and one tackle in particular, Johansen clattering into Kane, highlighted just that.

Celtic’s first chance came after quarter-of-an-hour.

Griffiths headed powerfully at the back post and Zander Clark reacted quickly to just keep it out.

Midway through the first half Bailly made a bad error of judgment when he slid out of the box while still holding the ball. The free-kick was awarded, Liam Craig drilled a low one through several sets of legs and Brian Easton nearly scored at the back post.

Just a minute later a David Wotherspoon through-ball gave Kane the opportunity to run in behind the Celtic defence and the angled shot at the end of it didn’t miss the far post by much.

Patrick Roberts has been a big hit in his short time with the Hoops and the Manchester City loan player’s left foot shot from the edge of the box on the half-hour shaved the woodwork after it took a deflection.

Shaughnessy had spent about five minutes in the dressing room getting a head cut seen to and the bandaged version that re-emerged got himself into a dangerous position in the Celtic box but Bailly did well to foil him with his feet.

Ronny Deila’s men were first to threaten after the re-start when an Allan inswinging cross from the left found the head of Christie, whose glancing effort was too delicate to direct it on target.

They didn’t have to wait long for the opening goal. It came on 53 minutes, and an excellent one it was too.

Celtic put together a nice move before the ball got to the feet of Griffiths and he still had a lot of work to do. From that point he left three Saints’ defenders in his wake before finishing off from close-range.

The lead only lasted three minutes though. And it was a gift-wrapped equaliser for Saints.

Johansen tried to bring the ball out of his box but was robbed by MacLean who was just as clinical as Griffiths had been moments before.

It was the fourth game in a row Saints’ top scorer has found the net, and his 15th of the season.

On 78 minutes Celtic shot themselves in the foot again and Saints punished them again.

If MacLean has been prolific of late, Cummins certainly hasn’t. But what a way to end your goal drought stretching back to October.

Shaughnessy crossed a ball deep to the back post. Communications between Efe Ambrose and Bailly broke down and when they clattered into each other the Nigerian’s clearing header went straight to Cummins, who made no mistake from point-blank range.

There was a stoppage time goalmouth scramble to endure, at the end of which Christie scuffed a shot, but Saints held out for a superb victory.

St Johnstone – Clark, Scobbie, Anderson, MacLean, Wotherspoon, Shaughnessy, Swanson (Doyle 90), Brown, Easton, Kane (Cummins 59), Craig. Subs not used – Mannus, Sutton, Hurst, McCawl, Krachunov.

Celtic – Bailly, Izaguirre, Ambrose, Griffiths, Christie, Allan (Rogic 80), Janko (Ralston 74), Johansen (Bitton 66), Roberts, Sviatchenko, McGregor. Subs not used – Fasan, Armstrong, Forrest, Tierney.

Referee – Willie Collum.

Attendance – 5,959.