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Ciftci fears, fan backing, Cleary rising and transfer priorities: 4 St Johnstone talking points from ‘springboard’ Dundee draw

There were plenty of talking points thrown up by St Johnstone's draw with Dundee. Supplied by SNS
There were plenty of talking points thrown up by St Johnstone's draw with Dundee. Supplied by SNS

After 10 defeats on the spin, St Johnstone stopped the rot against Dundee.

Their first point since November 6 kept them within two of the Dark Blues and lifted them one closer to Ross County and Livingston above.

But Perth boss Callum Davidson was at pains to point out Wednesday night’s result must act as a springboard to propel his side towards better things.

Saints desperately need goals, points and reinforcements before the transfer window closes.

So how might the draw with Dundee inform what happens in the coming days, weeks and months?

Here are Courier Sport’s talking points from a decidedly nervy Tayside derby.

Nadir Ciftci receives treatment after hitting the deck early on against Dundee.
Nadir Ciftci receives treatment after hitting the deck early on against Dundee. Supplied by SNS

Striking concern

Nadir Ciftci’s injury, less than 10 minutes in against the Dark Blues, was the LAST thing St Johnstone needed.

The former Dundee United striker’s movement, pace and willingness to have a crack at goal have been notable positives since the restart – and the prospect of losing them for an extended period is a grim one.

The Turkish hit man’s injury (he hobbled up the tunnel clutching his right hamstring) could see him miss out for four to six weeks, depending on its seriousness.

Those are four to six weeks St Johnstone – stuck at the bottom of the Premiership and with just 11 goals to their name all season – simply do not have.

Callum Hendry looked lively following his return from Kilmarnock and had the best of the chances Saints managed to carve out.

But the Perth side need another option up top because, for all Chris Kane and Stevie May are grafters, their 15-to-20-goals-a-season days are well behind them.

From brickbats to back pats

Plenty was made of the gauntlet of angry fans the Saints’ players were forced to run after their Scottish Cup loss at Kelty Hearts.

The scenes shared on social media suggested the harmonious relationship fostered between fans and players last season (albeit at a Covid-induced distance) was in danger of turning nasty.

Not a bit of it at McDiarmid Park.

The home side were backed from start to finish by a noisy, enthusiastic home support, led with gusto by the young members of the Fair City Unity group.

The fans were rewarded with a performance that made up for what it lacked in quality with notable determination.

The latter is the bare minimum required from here on in.

Dan Cleary is up for the fight at St Johnstone.
Dan Cleary’s performance was a highlight for St Johnstone against Dundee. Supplied by SNS

A ‘Clear’ successor to Jason Kerr?

Dan Cleary is looking increasingly comfortable at St Johnstone.

And his first half performance in particular against Dundee was incredibly heartening.

The Irish centre half was assured on the ball, strong in the challenge and comfortable on the right side of Callum Davidson’s preferred back three.

So far so good.

But it was the sight of Cleary striding out of defence on multiple occasions – both in and out of possession – that really impressed.

Double cup-winning ex-skipper Jason Kerr made a virtue of his ability to step out of the back line and add numbers and variety to Saints’ forward play.

Cleary looks to be cut from similar cloth to his predecessor at right centre back – and that could go some way towards repairing the tactical dysfunction that has all-but killed Saints as an attacking force this season.

Gaps still to fill

Callum Davidson is not going to change his system.

He has a preferred shape and he’s sticking to it.

That being the case, there are two areas that must be improved – putting the striking issue to one side – before the transfer window shuts.

Saints need an athletic, physical – and ideally technically sound – central midfielder to add some dynamism, bite and threat to their game in middle of the park.

In Jacob Butterfield they have a man whose technique and ability to read a game mean he can drop back comfortably for Cleary when he steps out.

In Cammy MacPherson they have an improving, mobile, project player who provides danger with his dead ball delivery.

They now need a ball of energy who can mix it when required, can beat a man when there’s space to drive into, is tactically disciplined and can pop up with the odd goal.

It’s a big ask.

In Shaun Rooney’s continued absence, they could also do with a forward-thinking right back, who can add some much-needed threat from out wide.

If Davidson can plug those gaps and his players keep fighting, Saints will have a real shot at climbing the table.

If not, life will be much more difficult.

St Johnstone defender Dan Cleary: ‘What needed to be said was said and I think everyone is on the same page’

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