St Johnstone have their first league win of the season and Stevie May has his 50th goal for the Perth club.
Courier Sport picks out three talking points from Saturday’s victory against Aberdeen.
Stevie May rolls back the years
Of the many qualities Callum Davidson has as a manager, an appreciation of the less eye-catching sides of a footballer’s contribution to the team and, as a consequence, showing faith in those who deserve it, are high on the list.
We can all think of plenty of head coaches who would have moved on an attacker who hadn’t scored a goal since December and hadn’t scored an open-play goal in nearly a year.
Not only has Davidson kept Stevie May at McDiarmid Park, he has given him plenty of game-time in the long, barren months.
And there has been reward.
May’s 13 minutes of action at the end of the Betfred Cup final weren’t game-defining or game-changing.
But that he was the only substitute Davidson turned to when a precarious one-goal lead had to be held on to and he needed a selfless runner to get Saints up the pitch, speaks to his importance.
And May didn’t let his manager down.
He’ll never recover the burst of acceleration that would take him away from his marker to such devastating effect in the 2013/14 season but it is within his compass to roll back the years with that year’s single-minded, bordering on selfish, streak Saints fans came to expect.
The modern-day May can frustratingly be gripped by indecision on occasion – taking far too long to shoot against Motherwell back in August was a prime example.
By contrast, every one of his seven touches for his goal at Pittodrie had a purpose.
Nice way to hit the 50. 🤫 pic.twitter.com/Q6z9tKatb6
— Stevie may (@Stevie__may) September 18, 2021
Marry that old-style dynamism with the selfless endeavour that makes him so popular with the current group of Saints players and it won’t just be a consummate team player Davidson can rely on, it will be a match-winner.
Jamie McCart leading from the back
James Brown excelling in a new position for the second game in a row and Efe Ambrose making an accomplished debut for St Johnstone were perhaps the headline-grabbing central defensive performances at Pittodrie.
But Jamie McCart deserves equal acclaim.
If the former Inverness Caley Thistle man had his heart set on a transfer a couple of weeks ago, you wouldn’t have known it on the evidence of his displays against Rangers and now Aberdeen.
Davidson name-checked him as one of the training ground standard-setters after Ali McCann and Jason Kerr departed and offers for his services were rebuffed.
And he has brought that leadership to a match-day as well.
McCart was every bit as authoritative as Davidson needed him to be against a pair of powerful attackers, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Christian Ramirez.
Saints attacks invariably started at his left boot, shown by the Opta touches statistic for Saturday’s match, and he was way out in front in terms of distribution as well.
Headers were won and even when they weren’t, there was a purpose to his challenges that meant the ball wasn’t going to threaten Zander Clark in his pristine, all-white kit that remained pristine, all-white after the final whistle had blown.
The perfect example was when the most dangerous cross of the match from left-back Jack Mackenzie came flashing across the six-yard box early in the second half and it was McCart’s positioning and strength that ensured Ramirez didn’t convert.
He didn’t get a touch but it was masterful defending.
You can be sure Saints will be doing all they can to persuade McCart to extend his contract beyond next summer but you can be equally sure that as long as he is at McDiarmid Park he’ll be a class act at the back.
Central midfield dilemma for Dens Park
It came as a relief to Davidson that Cammy MacPherson will only be out for two or three weeks rather than two or three months as a result of the dislocated shoulder he sustained in a bounce game.
On the face of it, Saints have got a good central midfielder head count when everybody is fit, with Murray Davidson, Liam Craig, David Wotherspoon, Craig Bryson, Cammy Ballantyne and Ali Crawford all either specialists in that part of the pitch or capable of filling in.
But apart from Davidson, MacPherson is probably the only one you would consider to be a high-energy, combative type.
You could actually see the two of them forming a partnership along the lines of Davidson and Ali McCann as the season goes on.
In the short-term, though, the former Livingston man’s back spasm towards the end of the Aberdeen game makes him a doubt for the League Cup quarter-final against Dundee.
And, with MacPherson not yet ready to feature, striking the right balance in central midfield would appear to be the manager’s biggest selection issue at Dens.