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ERIC NICOLSON: Referees are spreading incompetence around as St Johnstone suffer game-changing blunder yet again

St Johnstone are back at the bottom of the league table.
St Johnstone are back at the bottom of the league table.

St Mirren made sure St Johnstone’s unbeaten run wouldn’t stretch beyond three league games and sent Callum Davidson’s team back to the bottom of the table.

Courier Sport takes a look at the refereeing injustices that have been a persistent theme in Saints’ season so far and the reality of the relegation head-to-head with Dundee that has now become a certainty.

Not-so-magnificent seven

There are football truisms and there are football myths.

The old “decisions even themselves out over the course of a season” always has, and always will, fall into the latter category.

St Johnstone are finding that out to their cost in 2021/22.

Whether it will become one of the contributing factors to a relegation season is yet to be determined.

But what can be said in the here and now with absolute authority is the scales are not going to balance for the Perth men.

The weight piled up on one side is too great for there to be a realistic prospect of that happening.

At the moment there’s a granule of sugar fighting against a bag of the stuff.

Actually, the granule might be an exaggeration.

If there has been a significant refereeing call that was either 50/50 or slightly fortuitous and has led to a penalty awarded or avoided, a goal allowed that shouldn’t have been, or a man unluckily sent off against Saints, I can’t remember it.

Take a look at the list of game-altering and game-defining decisions that have been wrong and have contributed to points lost by the Perth side and the huge disparity is laid bare.

On the broader point of Scottish referees, the standard has never been lower.

It’s an embarrassment to the SPFL and the much-needed introduction of VAR will shine an even brighter light on officials who are unfit for the job.

If you go through the not-so-magnificent seven blunders suffered by Saints, the fact they have been spread across seven not-so-magnificent different referees makes this even more worrying for our professional game.

With the ‘help’ of their assistants, John Beaton, Steven McLean, Nick Walsh, Greg Aitken, Kevin Clancy, Colin Steven and now David Dickinson have shared the incompetence.

Clancy at Kelty and Aitken in the Aberdeen match are the only ones with a reasonable argument that their view was impeded.

To think, Saints still have the inevitable Alan Muir and Willie Collum clangers to come!

One from two it is

Talk of Saints catching any of the teams above them before Wednesday night’s game was based in hope rather than realistic expectation.

This defeat to St Mirren has almost certainly killed it off for good.

Hibs and Aberdeen may be struggling for form and nowhere near the standards their fans have come to rightly expect but forget them being dragged anywhere near Saints and Dundee.

St Mirren will likely finish in the top six and Livingston and Ross County are also decent sides who will have their sights set on the high side of the table when the split comes into effect.

By the time Saints have accrued eight or nine more points all of those teams will have done the same or close to it.

None have a collapse in them.

The likeliest scenario is the two Tayside clubs will continue to swap positions over the remaining months of the season.

It will the flipside of the title race.

The key difference will be one slip could be fatal for Celtic and Rangers.

For Saints and Dundee, there will be several ‘they win, we lose’ double whammy match-days like in midweek to come.

Having the collective nerve and temperament to absorb them (for players, management and fans alike) will be one of the key factors in determining which of them has a play-off seat when the music stops and which goes straight down.

Callum Davidson blasts ‘horrendous’ penalty decision that cost St Johnstone in defeat to St Mirren

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