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ERIC NICOLSON: St Johnstone’s big game reliability has gone which will make play-offs a scary prospect

St Johnstone's Callum Hendry at full-time.
St Johnstone's Callum Hendry at full-time.

St Johnstone fans will have long since made their peace with the fact there has never been a more sharp and painful season to season comparison for their football club.

Night and day doesn’t do it justice.

Even during a spell of marked improvement since the November, December and January horrors, there have been jarring reminders of how precipitous the fall has been.

The one compare and contrast that feels the most relevant just now is reliability.

Put simply – during the Derek McInnes promotion season, Callum Davidson’s first in charge and pretty much every other one in between, in the main you could trust a St Johnstone team to turn up when they really needed to.

The phrase “you know what you’re going to get in the big games” has been a badge of honour for so long.

From the 1-0 win at Dens in 2009 after Saints had lost at home to Queen of the South the previous weekend to all those clutch performances in league and cup which underpinned the 2021/22 heroics, that reliability has been the enduring hallmark.

Some – like the ugly victory against St Mirren last January which preceded the League Cup semi-final triumph – just blur into a collective mass of ‘typical Saints’ results that will never be talked about in pubs and online forums.

That in itself sums up the dependability, predictability and monotony of a Perth team showing up when jeopardy and rewards are greatest.

And it’s probably the most concerning thought when you consider what is likely to lie in store for the side that is in danger of bucking the trend.

You can’t dismiss the 2022 wins against Hearts, Motherwell and Livingston (twice), the five draws, nor the general fact that Saints have hauled themselves from bottom to second bottom of the Premiership with a five-point advantage over Dundee just three matches from the end of the regular season.

But when their good work has earned a shot at making it a two-way, or even three-way, scrap to avoid the play-offs, they haven’t risen to the task.

Ross County at the end of February and now St Mirren. There’s a case to include last weekend at Dens as well. Maybe Paisley.

Campbell brothers will have taken note

If Saints don’t make an utter mess of these last three matches or Dundee don’t find the sort of form that has eluded them all season, they’re going into a play-off when the pressure will be even more intense than it has been to date.

Ian Campbell was at McDiarmid taking notes on Saturday.

If it’s to be Arbroath in the play-off final, he and Dick will be confident of what they’re going to get from their players.

Davidson – and the Saints supporters – will have no such certainty, even if they win their remaining Premiership fixtures.

That’s a scary place to be.

St Johnstone were ‘miles off it’ against St Mirren, Callum Davidson admits

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