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3 St Johnstone talking points: Why THOSE subs will make Callum Davidson’s team selection easy while Billy Dodds has bigger problems to solve

Glenn Middleton will be a certain starter again on Monday night.
Glenn Middleton will be a certain starter again on Monday night.

As was the case 12 months ago, the last game of St Johnstone’s season is their biggest.

The Perth club’s Premiership status is on the line, with victory over Inverness Caledonian Thistle the only way of securing it.

Courier Sport picks out three talking points to assess what was learned from the first leg between the two sides as Saints attempt to bounce back from the morale-crushing Friday night conclusion.

The subs

From the Sky Sports pundits to the social media jury, and plenty of people in between, a Friday night consensus was formed that Callum Davidson got it wrong with his double substitution midway through the second half.

You can understand their thinking.

Broadly speaking, although excellent attacking positions were getting squandered with frustrating regularity before the changes, Saints were still in command of the match.

Then a few minutes after Melker Hallberg and Glenn Middleton took their leave, they lost their way and a two-goal lead was wiped out.

Melker Hallberg makes it 2-0.
Melker Hallberg makes it 2-0.

Given the subsequent explanation that the Swede had been suffering with illness and his race was run, you can’t argue against Hallberg being taken off.

Stevie May for Middleton clearly didn’t work out as Davidson would have planned, though.

I would still maintain it was the change in mindset – whether led from the touchline, from the pitch or a combination of both – that was more important than the change in personnel.

And the surge in confidence Inverness got from a goal out of the blue that shouldn’t have been allowed to stand also had greater significance.

But there is no doubt that Saints were far less effective at getting up the pitch and opening up their opposition defence without Middleton and Hallberg.

If there is an upside it’s that Davidson’s mind should be clear as far as his starting 11 goes.

This should be the easiest ‘go again’ message all season for the first picks on Friday night.

Dilemmas for Dodds

Because his team had finished with a flourish, Billy Dodds’ team selection and tactics came in for less analysis than Davidson’s substititions.

History is written by the winner – or in this case the plucky underdogs who came back for a draw.

But it shouldn’t be forgotten that Dodds made a real mess of things – and it wasn’t as if the pendulum was swinging before that dubious first Reece McAlear goal.

He got lucky. Very lucky.

There’s the potential for Dodds to go down the wrong route again.

Scott Allardice was arguably the most important substitute for Caley Thistle but adrenaline will have helped get him through his first significant chunk of football since early injury.

Does Dodds dare start him? Does he dare leave him out?

Also, it’s one thing throwing caution to the wind and throwing on Logan Chalmers and Austin Samuels when there’s little left to lose.

But would going with one or both of those two play into Saints’ hands?

Then there’s the two suspended defenders.

Danny Devine will come back in but what about Wallace Duffy?

For all that this is an even game in terms of the scoreline, it was only really an even game in every other meaningful way for about 15 minutes of the 90.

Dodds has to alter that but, as on Friday night, there’s potential danger as well as reward around every selection corner.

Too much time

Callum Hendry and Middleton, with Hallberg almost playing as an extra forward, made Saints as potent an attacking force as they’ve been all season, with only the 3-1 against Dundee back in early October worthy of comparison.

The passing and movement in the first half was extremely impressive.

If anything, it all became too easy for them after the break.

Time and time again, ICT defenders were nowhere near touch-tight and there were bigger holes opening up than you would ever see in a Premiership match.

Perth forwards accustomed to a diet of limited options week after week were all of a sudden confronted by two or three good ones with every attack.

Those options will open-up again. There’s no doubt.

And if they don’t try to be too clever or too indulgent, the goals will follow.

Callum Davidson: St Johnstone missed chance to put ICT play-off to bed – but will bounce back in second leg

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