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Shaun Rooney: St Johnstone legend hits Opta CAREER high as prospect grows of becoming Perth talisman AGAIN

St Johnstone talisman, Shaun Rooney.
St Johnstone talisman, Shaun Rooney.

We’ll know in a few weeks if St Johnstone’s draw at Dens Park will fall into the ‘point gained’ or ‘two dropped’ category.

What we do know already, though, is that at half-time of the bottom v second bottom of the Premiership clash, the Perth side were staring down the barrel of a calamitous result.

Game-changers were needed and, as Callum Davidson rightly pointed out post-match, Shaun Rooney stepped up.

Courier Sport drills down into the Hampden hero’s performance against Dundee, particularly in the second half, and discovers that the Hampden hero reached a career high in a major facet of football.


Here, there and everywhere

Davidson’s half-time substitution of Tom Sang for Dan Cleary turned out to be key to Saints establishing control in the contest and cancelling out Jordan Marshall’s opening goal.

Even more important than the contribution of Sang (who played very well) at right wing-back was Rooney’s display at right centre-half in the central defensive three.

The 25-year-old became far more involved in the match.

His number of touches increased from 26 in the opening period to 39 after the break and Rooney’s second half Opta heat map shows that he was a player off the leash and on the charge.

Shaun Rooney's second half Opta heat map against Dundee.
Shaun Rooney’s second half Opta heat map against Dundee.

Top in 12 categories

Rooney hasn’t written his name over a game all season like he did on Saturday.

He certainly hasn’t been as high up the Opta statistics in as many categories

The former Dunfermline and Inverness Caley Thistle man was top for Saints in no fewer than 12 departments.

They were –

Goals – 1

xG (expected goals) – 0.53

Shaun Rooney's attacking Opta statistics against Dundee.
Shaun Rooney’s attacking Opta statistics against Dundee.

Shots – 4

Shots in the box – 4

Big chances – 1

Touches in the box – 5

Final third entries – 10

Shaun Rooney's Opta distribution numbers.
Shaun Rooney’s Opta distribution numbers.

Passes in the final third – 16

Dribbles – 2

Successful dribbles – 1

Possession won – 11

The Opta possession statistics for Shaun Rooney at Dens Park.
The Opta possession statistics for Shaun Rooney at Dens Park.

Saints career high

The area with greatest room for improvement as far as Rooney is concerned is his distribution.

The passing accuracy percentage for his two seasons as a top-flight player show a slight improvement but the average is still in the 50s – 58% this campaign compared to last term’s 56%.

Shaun Rooney's Opta passing statistics for the 2020/21 season.
Shaun Rooney’s Opta passing statistics for the 2020/21 season.
This season's Opta passing accuracy percentage for Shaun Rooney has risen.
This season’s Opta passing accuracy percentage for Shaun Rooney has risen.

In that context, the 82% he hit at Dens is a hugely encouraging and significant milestone.

In fact, it’s a career high.

Never before has he got into the 80s for a full game of Premiership football.

The 88% against Livingston in October is a red herring because he only played for 22 minutes before being forced off with an ankle injury.

The closest to Saturday’s total was 74% versus Ross County last March.

Staying 80-plus would be unrealistic but if Rooney can average in the 70s for the remainder of the season, he can be expected to have a Jason Kerr-type influence on the Saints team from the right side of the back three.


The force of nature

Rooney’s inspirational qualities need little explaining.

Two winning goals in cup finals will almost certainly never be matched by a St Johnstone player as long as football is played.

Apart from an opener against Celtic last season that didn’t prevent Saints from losing in the end, every goal he has scored has meant something – usually a lot.

Against Dunfermline, Hibs and Livingston in the League Cup last season; against Livingston in a 2-1 league victory; the Scottish Cup final; and two at Dens Park (the League Cup quarter-final and Saturday) this season.

The Rooney factor runs deeper than just goals, though.

No other Saints player wears his heart on his sleeve or connects with the supporters quite like him.

The surging defence-into-attack run early in the second half before releasing Sang energised his team-mates and the 2,000 fans in the ground.

Rooney the defender and creator will be vital to Saints’ hopes of avoiding relegation but so too will Rooney the talisman.

ERIC NICOLSON: There were shades of grey in St Johnstone’s stick or twist dilemma at Dens but against St Mirren it will be black and white

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