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St Johnstone’s greatest year is ending in misery after 7th straight defeat

Jacob Butterfield scored against Ross County.
Jacob Butterfield scored against Ross County.

It should have been the year every St Johnstone fan wanted to last forever.

2021 has given up five trips to Hampden, two trophies and a pair of away draws against European clubs of Champions League repute.

But so precipitous has been the drop-off since all the glory, Perth supporters will soon be utterly relieved to see the back of it.

Bottom of the league and on a truly wretched run of form, this is a club and team in desperate need of a New Year reset.

There is no guarantee a break for body and mind, as well as a few signings, will sort things out.

But, after losing their seventh game in a row, the current group of players have shown once more that they are stuck in a footballing fog without a bright enough torch to find a way out.

There are now four points between Saints and Ross County after the Staggies’ 2-1 victory at McDiarmid.

At least Jacob Butterfield ended the barren goalless run but that provides precious little comfort.

Callum Davidson made five changes to his team following the weekend defeat to Motherwell, with Covid-19 call-offs again impacting the selection.

No Zander Clark

One of the men to come in was goalkeeper Elliott Parish, making his first start for Saints since a League Cup game in August.

Zander Clark’s deputy was tested early by a Regan Charles-Cook shot that dipped just before it reached him.

In wet conditions, he did well not to spill it.

Parish didn’t do very well with the County opening goal on 16 minutes, mind you.

And he wasn’t alone.

No pressure on the ball gave Joseph Hungbo time to play a diagonal pass that split the Saints defence.

Parish looked like he was going to come for it, dithered and by the time he did commit, Charles-Cook was able to lift a shot over the top of him into the net.

The reaction to going a goal behind at Fir Park on Saturday left a lot to be desired but Davidson got a better one from his side this time.

And they were back on level terms three minutes later.

Butterfield tried his luck from 25 yards out and got rewarded with the shot taking a deflection on its way past keeper Ash Maynard-Brewer.

First goal in five games

It was Saints’ first open-play goal since the end of October and first of any kind in five games.

Saints could count themselves lucky to go into the break at 1-1.

Craig Bryson's handball led to a penalty.
Craig Bryson’s handball led to a penalty.

Firstly, their opponents were finding it far too easy to pass their way through midfield and secondly, their opponents missed a penalty.

Willie Collum pointed to the spot for a Hungbo free-kick striking Craig Bryson’s arm.

Ross Callachan took the penalty. His stuttering run-up did the job of sending Parish the wrong way but the accuracy of his shot wasn’t to the same standard and it came back off the post.

The Perth side made a bright start to the second half and 10 minutes after the re-start a Stevie May cross flew across the six-yard box, sadly with no team-mates there to finish it off.

They were behind on 69 minutes, though.

Callachan redeemed himself for his earlier penalty miss by blasting home from close range after a Jordan White header that struck the post had fallen perfectly for the midfielder.

Ross Callachan celebrates his winner.

Two nearly became three a few minutes later when a dipping Dominic Samuel 20-yarder hit the top of the bar.

May forced a decent save out of Maynard-Brewer late on, while at the other end Hungbo should have scored when he only had Parish to beat and then hit the post with a free-kick.

Saints have one game left in 2021 but already it’s a case of roll on 2022.

New Dundee v Dundee United date revealed as SPFL confirms early winter shutdown – but St Johnstone v Celtic among games that WILL go ahead on Boxing Day

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