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ERIC NICOLSON: St Johnstone turned toxic in Kelty but perspective now needs to be found

Callum Davidson and his St Johnstone players had a long walk out of New Central Park.
Callum Davidson and his St Johnstone players had a long walk out of New Central Park.

All the ingredients were there.

A St Johnstone team reaching double digits and equalling a club record for defeats in a row.

An embarrassing loss for the Scottish Cup holders to a side three leagues below (albeit Kelty Hearts are clearly already of Championship standard) which will go down as one of the worst results in the club’s history.

A typically inept attacking display, a typically inexplicable defensive error that led to the decisive goal and a typically meek attempt at responding to it.

And a post-match walk of shame that was far too close to supporters than you should see in a professional football environment.

The geography of the exit route, in hindsight, made the whole thing inevitable.

And it’s something that should have been addressed long before kick-off.

Who on the Saints’ staff thought this was acceptable?

You wouldn’t expect to see players having to make that sort of a journey at a Junior ground.

In the heat of the moment, Perth fans letting the players and management know their on-pitch efforts continue to be near nowhere near good enough was as predictable as the way the game itself panned out.

When you watch the phone footage, it mercifully didn’t go beyond verbal attacks and Liam Craig should be lauded for his role in taking the sting out of the fury when stewards were inexcusably thin on the ground.

For that half-minute or so, which felt like a lot longer, this had the look of a club that had turned toxic.

Not the time for a post-mortem

The morning after is the time for perspective to be found, though.

That means perspective in terms of this golden era as a whole, the reshaping of the current team and the man charged with overseeing that.

Reflections on the first of those has to wait until this season, and Saints’ Premiership fate, is boxed-off.

Responsibility, blame, bad luck and bad judgment will all be pored over when there’s a post-mortem to be conducted.

As they should be for a cash-rich club which has fired several bullets into its own feet.

But, for all that it felt as if the fat lady was at the top of her voice in New Central Park and a happy ending is becoming increasingly unlikely, relegation isn’t a done deal.

The match reaffirmed the fact that Saints are only half-way along the road to the conclusion of the January team rebuild.

And it reaffirmed the absolute urgency of them getting a new dynamic central midfielder (two if Cammy MacPherson doesn’t come back), a lively forward to link-up with Nadir Ciftci and a right wing-back of the Danny McNamara standard or very close to it.

Steve Brown will back his manager

Chairman Steve Brown will allow Callum Davidson to see that through.

And quite right too.

There were no outstanding performers in Kelty – that much goes without saying.

But the most recent recruits – Dan Cleary, Tony Gallacher and Jacob Butterfield – were among the better ones.

And Nadir Ciftci showed his worth at Tynecastle a few days ago.

Winning two cups with a club which has one of the smallest budgets in the league and taking your team to Hampden Park five times in the space of a calendar year and ensuring it punched above its weight in Europe doesn’t earn you a job for life.

But it does earn you the right to be backed in the first transfer window you’ve been able to spend real money in when the previous one took such a significant toll.

And when fans are walking the tightrope of post-double entitlement and implosion-induced justifiable rage, it earns you the right for them to stay behind you when there’s a chance to get off the bottom of the table in a few days’ time.

New St Johnstone signing John Mahon isn’t daunted by Premiership relegation battle – he’s relishing it

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