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.
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
Shots – 4
Shots in the box – 4
Big chances – 1
Touches in the box – 5
Final third entries – 10
Passes in the final third – 16
Dribbles – 2
Successful dribbles – 1
Possession won – 11
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%.
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.
— St. Johnstone FC (@StJohnstone) April 25, 2022
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.