St Johnstone failed to finish the season with a flourish, suffering a disappointing defeat at home to Rangers.
Saints weren’t quite at their Sunday best against an inexperienced-looking Glasgow side and fell behind in the first half to a Kenny Miller goal with Rangers extending their advantage after the interval courtesy of a Jon Toral counter.
St Johnstone pulled one back through Graham Cummins however the visitors held on to take all three points.
Saints boss Tommy Wright made three changes from the team that beat Hearts in midweek with Liam Craig, Blair Alston and Steven MacLean coming in for David Wotherspoon and Danny Swanson, who were suspended, while Cummins dropped to the bench.
Rangers manager Pedro Caixinha made a whole host of changes with Wes Foderingham, Lee Hodson, Barrie McKay, Joe Dodoo and Joe Garner all making way after the defeat to Aberdeen at Ibrox on Wednesday night.
Saints made the better start on what was a slick McDiarmid Park surface and they had the first chance of the game in the sixth minute. Alston sent a header from the left side of the Rangers box into the path on MacLean but the striker was at full stretch and could not stab the ball home.
Rangers’ first opportunity came in the 16th minute when they were awarded a free-kick 25 yards out following a foul by Liam Craig. James Tavernier stepped up to take it but sent his effort high into the stand.
Craig then tried his luck from long range but his low shot flew wide of Rangers keeper Jak Alnwick’s left-hand post.
The Saints midfielder was in the mood and had another pop from even further out with this attempt flying just over the bar.
Rangers then manufactured an opening of their own with Tavernier teeing up skipper Kenny Miller on the edge of the St Johnstone penalty area but the striker sent his shot well over Alan Mannus’ bar.
Saints hit straight back with Craig Thomson embarking on a great run down the right before sending a tempting cross into the Rangers box but MacLean could not direct his header on target.
Thomson then had a chance of his own in the 25th minute when he flashed a wicked shot across the face of the Rangers goal with Alnwick making a vital fingertip save to push the ball for a corner.
Caixinha’s side then had their best opportunity of the game on the half-hour mark when Jon Toral sent a well-measured cross towards the St Johnstone back post with Miller at full stretch putting the ball just over.
However, the veteran striker made no mistake in the 40th minute. Martyn Waghorn played an inviting ball in from the right with Miller calmly steering a low shot into the corner of Mannus’ net from 12 yards to give the Glasgow side the lead at half-time.
Just three minutes after the restart, Thomson teed up Craig again with the midfielder’s fierce 20-yard shot being acrobatically tipped over by Alnwick.
However, Saints fell further behind in the 53rd minute when Tavernier made an incisive run to the byline, leaving two home defenders for dead, before cutting the ball back to Toral who picked his spot to send his shot past the helpless Mannus.
The keeper found himself exposed again shortly after but this time Waghorn passed up the gilt-edged opportunity, sending his shot well over when he should have at least hit the target.
The home side tried manfully to get back into the game but Rangers continued to look the more likely to increase their lead with Waghorn spurning another great opportunity in the 74th minute when he was played through on goal by Miller but the striker’s shot was a tame one and easily gathered by Mannus.
Saints then grabbed a lifeline in the 76th minute when two subs, Greg Hurst and Cummins, combined with the latter clinically firing past Alnwick.
The keeper then came to Rangers rescue shortly after making a vital stop to deny MacLean.
As the clock ticked down though, Rangers had another opportunity to put the game to bed when Jamie Barjonas cracked a 20-yard shot that Mannus did incredibly well to save, diving to his right.
However, it was the 2,453 travelling fans who were celebrating as referee Andrew Dallas blew for full-time.
Attendance – 6,799.
St Johnstone – Mannus, Scobbie, Alston, Millar, MacLean, Shaughnessy, Foster, Easton, Kane (Cummins, 45), Craig, Thomson (Hurst, 69).
Subs not used – Clark, Anderson, Paton, Gilchrist, Jardine.
Rangers – Alnwick, Tavernier, Toral (McKay, 76), Miller, Windass, Holt, Bates, Waghorn (Bradley, 85), Wilson, Barjonas (Halliday, 90), Beerman.
Subs not used – Foderinhgham, Dodoo, Lyon, Atakayi.
Referee – Andrew Dallas.