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St Johnstone kids in focus: How did Max Kucheriavyi, Alex Ferguson and Sam Denham fare in Fife derby showdown?

St Johnstone's trio of young talents
St Johnstone's trio of young talents

Kelty Hearts claimed a 1-0 win over Cowdenbeath on Tuesday evening.

It sent the Maroon Machine nine points clear in the League 2 title race. A sizeable stride toward promotion.

The Blue Brazil remain six points adrift of Elgin City but, with two games in hand, displayed the sort of stoic streak that will give them real hope of securing SPFL survival.

However, this fiercely fought Fife derby also had ample cause to interest St Johnstone fans, with three of their most highly-regarded young talents on show.

And Courier Sport was at New Central Park to cast its eye over Max Kucheriavyi, Alex Ferguson and Sam Denham.

Max Kucheriavyi

For someone yet to make a competitive appearance for St Johnstone, Maksym ‘wee Max’ Kucheriavyi already has fans in Perth exceptionally excited.

It’s easy to see why.

The Ukrainian prospect entered the fray after 65 minutes against Cowden and swiftly emerged as the match-winner.

Operating on the right of a front-three, his brash confidence and direct dribbling were on show as he repeatedly dashed forward and committed defenders.

One of those forays brought about the decisive goal, with Jamie Todd adjudged to have fouled Kucheriavi in the box.

Cowden boss Maurice Ross dubbed it ‘a dive’.

Kelty counterpart Kevin Thomson vehemently disagreed.

Kallum Higginbotham cared little either way as he slammed home the spot-kick.

Kucheriavyi was booked for simulation earlier in the contest, while he was — in a bizarre twist — flattened by fellow Saints kid Ferguson within seconds of taking to the field.

Max Kucheriavyi shone with Brechin City.
Max Kucheriavyi dazzled with Brechin

Nevertheless, he instantaneously hopped back to his feet. There is an irrepressible quality about the diminutive youngster.

“We felt we needed a wee lift and an extra body to bring some excitement,” said Thomson. “I’m pretty sure the faithful who come to watch Kelty love players who can skip past defenders and create chances.

“Wee Max has made a great start in that regard, so hopefully we can utilise his quality.”

Alex Ferguson

The boy with the iconic name is seeking to carve out a reputation all of his own — and hopes are high at McDiarmid Park that Alex Ferguson can do exactly that.

Facing a Kelty Hearts side with lavish midfield talents, this was an onerous challenge for the 18-year-old playmaker.

Yet, he was arguably Cowden’s finest performer out-with the imperious Craig Barr.

Alex Ferguson
Rated by Callum Davidson: Ferguson

Every time Ferguson received possession in the harum-scarum Fife derby battleground, he sought to get his head up and find a forward pass.

Ferguson, already with two senior St Johnstone appearances under his belt, had a wonderful opportunity to break the deadlock after perfectly timing his run into the box to meet a Fraser Mullen cross. But he fired over the bar.

Directly up against Andy Black, one of the most diligent, hard-running midfielders in League 2, he also illustrated a necessary stomach for the fight, belying his languid frame.

“When he [Ferguson] grows into his body and puts on a few kilos then he is going to be a real option for that St Johnstone first-team,” said Cowden boss Ross.

“He’s a real talent. No doubts about that.”

Sam Denham

The young centre-back found himself in the news earlier in the campaign after he enjoyed a lucky escape from a dramatic car crash on the outskirts of Dundee.

Now, Denham is seeking to ensure he hits the headlines due to his performances on the pitch.

“I watch Sam Denham and…he’s just a Rolls-Royce,” adds Ross. “He strolls through games.”

Sam Denham (right) has returned to St Johnstone after his loan spell at Brechin.
Sam Denham during a loan spell at Brechin.

The 19-year-old played on the right side of a back-three against Kelty.

Along with left-sided centre-back Todd, they allowed the towering Barr to attack everything in the air and defend pro-actively.

Denham and Todd sought to sweep up danger and track the movement of Higginbotham and Cardle; no mean feat.

Denham endured a few testing moments when Jamie Barjonas drifted into the space between him and wing-back Fraser Mullen, while the overlapping Kieran Ngwenya was a constant threat.

Nevertheless, the promising stopper turned in a mature, solid display.

Kevin Thomson defends St Johnstone kid Max Kucheriavyi following ‘dive’ assessment on Kelty Hearts debut

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