There was the Guy Melamed hand-ball that the opposition believe should have been spotted in the build-up to the only goal of the game, and the Chris Kane shot their normally reliable goalkeeper would expect to save.
There was the two yellows sending-off that added to their manager’s fury.
There was a possession statistic at the end of the match, around 55% for the losing team, that would make you question which side had 11 for 40 minutes of football and which had 10.
There was the malfunction of St Johnstone’s normally reliable passing game and a gap between defence and midfield which helped explain those figures.
There was the meagre total of two shots on target.
But if you casually categorise this victory as an ugly one you really haven’t been paying attention to the Perth club’s season.
The good fortune, the test of character that was passed and the ‘one goal is enough because they’re not getting past us’ mentality of the backline made this 1-0 triumph a thing of beauty in the context of what has gone before.
Prior to this match, Saints had played 23 times in the Premiership and only on a solitary occasion could it be said their points return was greater than their performance – the smash and grab injury-time win at Kilmarnock way back in mid-August.
Two results blessed with a bit of luck out of 24 will still be the lowest in the league so there is ground to be made up. However, make no mistake, a win of this nature will do more for belief in the McDiarmid dressing room than a comfortable two or three-nil when they have been at their best.
Style over substance isn’t sustainable in the middle of winter when pitches are poor and bodies are weary. Substance over style is.
The Saints players now know they can win matches in different ways and, equally importantly, opposition sides will have to re-evaluate their strategy against them because of that.
“It was scrappy but it’s a win,” said Jason Kerr who, as captain, has had to speak to the media more than most about points having slipped through their fingers.
“There were times when we played into their hands and could have moved the ball better, which we’ll look to improve.
“The gaffer had said before the game that we would take a 1-0 like that and that’s what we’ve got.
“We got a bit nervous because we haven’t won in a while and we were thinking: ‘Let’s just get the ball forward’ a bit too much. We knew how much a win meant. The league is getting tighter. We’d had a lot of draws when we were the better team – like against Dundee United in our previous game. Hopefully we can go on a wee run of wins now.”
It has been a while since Saints have had their skipper at the heart of their defence – and even longer since he has been at his peak.
A back injury kept him out of four games in which the team were unbeaten and when he did return, against Livingston, he was brought off with 20 minutes left after an untypically edgy display. The next league match was away to St Mirren and Kerr’s error of judgment on the stroke of half-time led to a red card and a Saints defeat from a winning position.
The subsequent suspension was followed by a Covid-19 lay-off that sidelined him for a further three matches.
A commanding, error-free afternoon on his return to face the side he last played against in Paisley was required. And Kerr delivered.
His attacking contributions were limited through no fault of his own. This wasn’t the time and place for gambling too often with trademark over-lapping and under-lapping bursts beyond the Saints midfielders and attackers and on the odd occasion he did offer himself as an option, his team-mates didn’t pick him out.
Winning every one of the high balls he went up for was the statistic that stood out from all the rest.
“The last game I played against St Mirren I got sent off so this definitely feels a lot better,” said Kerr, whose concentration and authority was matched by Liam Gordon, Jamie McCart and Zander Clark in a tight central-defensive core.
“I’ve been sent off before in my career but that one was the worst feeling. It happened just before half-time and it felt like it was my fault that we lost the game because we were in control of it and a goal up at the time.
“I shouldn’t have made the tackle.
“It took a couple of weeks to get over it and be positive again.”
Testing positive for coronavirus quickly undermined that rediscovered positivity, however.
“I don’t actually know where I got it so it shows just how careful everybody needs to be,” said Kerr. “Wash your hands and wear your mask. It’s proof that it can get anyone.
“The more positive results that come back the greater the chance of football shutting down again and we really don’t want that to happen.
“I phoned the club as soon as I got symptoms so I didn’t come in and then my test came back positive.
“It was obviously good that it didn’t spread through the squad and we could keep on playing and get a few results.”
He added: “I lost my smell and my taste. The worst bit was having to sit in my house by myself for 10 days doing nothing.
“I’ve been watching every game and cheering on the boys but it’s torture when you’re in the house watching it on your own.
“I’ve felt good for a week and I felt sharp out on the pitch.”
The build-up to a Betfred Cup semi-final will feel a lot different with Saints having halted a double figures winless league run than it would have if it had still been open-ended.
They now have the ideal mindset to be bold and confident against Hibs at Hampden on Saturday evening.
“It’s a big chance,” said Kerr.
“I know it’s a different competition but this win will give us a lot of confidence going into the semi.
“It’s a winnable game. We all know that. We know we’re good enough to go and beat Hibs. I feel like we deserved to beat them in the last two games we’ve played (a controversial injury-time defeat at McDiarmid and a 2-2 Easter Road draw).
“We just need to focus on playing the way we know we can and winning.
“We’ve more than matched Hibs this season. We’ve got enough quality to beat them.
“It will be my first semi-final and I’m buzzing for it. I can’t wait. Hopefully it will lead to my first final.
“I feel that we’ve got a squad here that is good enough to go and win this trophy.”
There aren’t many players left from the Saints 2014 Scottish Cup winning-side but their influence will be invaluable over the next few days, according to Kerr.
“I was a young boy at the club back then,” he said.
“I know how much it meant to the likes of Macca (Steven MacLean) and Stevie May who are still at the club, and how much it meant to the fans.
“It will be good to have the experience of Macca, Stevie (and a couple of others) in the build-up. They know what it takes to win a semi – and a final.
“I’m not thinking that far ahead, though.”
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