St Johnstone produced their best performance of the domestic season to beat Dundee and transformed themselves into a free-scoring side at McDiarmid Park in the Premiership for the first time in the Callum Davidson era.
Michael O’Halloran and the two strikers naturally grabbed all the headlines but Eric Nicolson picks out four other talking points from Saturday’s seventh win in a row against the Dark Blues.
St Johnstone came out on top in the Tayside derby, courtesy of Chris Kane's first-half brace! 💥
Highlights 👇 pic.twitter.com/XVCwA1wsxe
— Sky Sports Scotland (@ScotlandSky) October 2, 2021
In the days between Jason Kerr moving to Wigan and Efe Ambrose signing there was justifiable concern that Saints looked short of central defensive options.
With Liam Gordon injured and Lars Dendoncker’s capabilities yet to be determined, Jamie McCart was the only out-and-out fit centre-half on the books.
It’s hard to grasp the enormity of the changing picture since then.
Gordon is still injured, hopefully closing in on a post-international break comeback, and McCart’s one-game suspension has now been served.
Little over a month after that traumatic deadline day, James Brown has emerged as a strong candidate for right centre-back.
Shaun Rooney is looking more at home in that same role as ever and is no longer the sole attack-minded option at right wing-back in light of Michael O’Halloran’s man of the match weekend display.
Ambrose has barely put a foot wrong since he arrived.
Dendoncker has an accomplished debut under his belt and Hayden Muller has previously showcased his assets against the best forward line in the country.
By the time Saints face Livingston in a fortnight, or not long after, Davidson is likely to have no fewer than SEVEN strong contenders for his back three.
It goes without saying that keeping them all involved and happy will be a challenge – but it’s one all managers would gladly sign up for.
It may also mean that if bids come in for Rooney and McCart in January, Saints could be in a position to let one of them go.
It’s not about the formation
On the subject of central defenders, this performance and result was the ultimate testament to Davidson’s coaching.
Anybody who thinks that playing a back three makes it easier to defend just needed to witness the lack of synergy between Jordan Marshall and Ryan Sweeney on the Dundee left that Saints so ruthlessly and strategically exposed.
Abandoning the formation at half-time was the only logical decision open to James McPake.
That Saints, without Gordon, Kerr and McCart for the first time in years, were as composed as ever against Dundee says two things – that no one player (maybe even three players) is/are irreplaceable and that the efficiency of the backline is born of top level training ground coaching.
We already suspected as much but this was further conclusive confirmation.
Cammy MacPherson’s instant impact
This really did turn out to be a perfect afternoon for Davidson.
Not only has he seen that Dendoncker is up to the challenge Scottish Premiership football presents, there was a half-hour run-out for fellow deadline day loan recruit Cammy MacPherson.
A very impressive one it was too.
With a bit of momentum building for Dundee after Ryan Sweeney pulled a goal back, tenacious tackling and game-savvy were required to make sure cruising to victory didn’t turn into clinging on.
Thought Cammy Macpherson was excellent when he came on too
— Michael Fergusson (@mickeyfs) October 2, 2021
MacPherson made some timely contributions – the main one being a sliding tackle on the 18-yard line to prevent Max Anderson from shooting with 10 minutes still left.
The dilemma of who to play in central midfield in the next stage of the season will almost be as difficult to sort out for Davidson as at centre-back.
But I’ve got a feeling MacPherson will soon be one of the first names on the team sheet.
Blue v blue nonsense
Who gave the thumbs-up to Dundee being allowed to wear their home kits on Saturday?
Hopefully it wasn’t an issue on the pitch but I can assure you it certainly was for those of us watching in the stand or on television.
Saints against Ross County was bad enough last season but at least the royal blue v navy blue shirts and socks were mitigated by different colour shorts.
But this time it was white shorts v white shorts as well.
On a rainy day when the Saints tops got darker, it was madness to not have Dundee playing in their sky blue shirt/navy blue shorts change kit.
Why are Dundee not wearing their away kit? Surely less of a clash? pic.twitter.com/redyV0q5kZ
— HM Foxtrot Charlie (@F0xtr0t0scar) October 3, 2021
Less than a fortnight ago the Perth team, quite correctly, wore their red and white stripes at Dens Park.
If Sir Alex Ferguson thought Manchester United in grey at Southampton was bad, goodness only knows what he would have made of this.