After the caretaker and then the new manager bounce, St Johnstone’s season has picked up momentum once more.
The league campaign is yet young but the dramatic midweek victory over St Mirren is likely to be a crossroads moment for Craig Levein’s side if they go on to secure their Premiership status and perhaps even push further up the table than anybody thought was possible a couple of months ago.
Courier Sport picks out three talking points, which includes a top 10 for match-winner, Chris Kane.
Not a floodlit robbery
Conceding a goal in the sixth minute of injury-time stings.
St Mirren would have deserved a draw from this match.
St Johnstone were marginally the better team in the first half and the opposite was the case in the second.
But let’s not paint this is as some sort of smash and grab.
Most of the meaningful metrics were pretty even and, for the first time since Levein took over, his side enjoyed more possession (55.5% to 45.5%) than their opponent.
St Mirren had three close things (Lewis Jamieson in the first half and Greg Kiltie and Mikael Mandron in the second).
Never in doubt 😬
🔜 Saints travel to Motherwell this Saturday
Click below for all ticket information ⤵️
— St. Johnstone FC (@StJohnstone) December 7, 2023
St Johnstone had three as well (Matt Smith’s volley, Graham Carey’s cross that should have been finished off and Chris Kane failing to cash-in on an Alex Gogic error).
That a draw would have been a fair result is in itself is a sign of the progress Saints have made given the contrasting positions of the sides in the league and the targets they’ve got for the remainder of the campaign.
It was imperative that Saints took something from that match.
Had they been defeated, it would have been the first time they’d lost three in a row in the league all season.
One of the biggest pluses of the Levein era so far is that Saints are making sure they’re in every game right until the very end.
Do that often enough and logic suggests the reward will occasionally be injury-time winners like Wednesday’s.
An under pressure Stuart Kettlewell will demand his Motherwell players throw everything at Saints on Saturday.
So will the home supporters.
Kettlwell’s job may depend on it.
After their respective midweek results, the hosts, on a 12-game winless run, have a three-point need that is greater.
If Saints can win, though, their Premiership outlook will have been transformed.
Dundee have rightly received plenty of plaudits for their start to the season but, given they’re at Ibrox on Saturday, there would be every chance their Tayside neighbours would be just one point behind them.
I’m sure it wouldn’t pass unnoticed among the Saints’ fan base.
Chris Kane top 10
For a striker who has built his reputation as a selfless team player rather than a selfish number nine, Chris Kane’s canon of important goals in St Johnstone colours is pretty impressive.
His contract is due to run out next month and the thought of the 29-year-old leaving McDiarmid Park in January just doesn’t feel right.
St Mirren might try to sign him, mind you, even if it’s just to stop Kane playing against them!
That’s now five times he’s scored against the Paisley side – resulting in four wins and a draw for Saints.
He’s not done yet but here’s my top 10 Kane goals so far –
1 That goal at Ibrox which Zander Clark didn’t actually score
2 The Scottish Cup semi-final opener against St Mirren
3 His first Saints goal which secured the club a place in Europe at Pittodrie in 2015
4 Putting Saints in front against LASK in Austria
6 The second of a Dens Park double, Steven Caulker bouncing off him, to complete a famous 4-0 rout in 2018
7 An injury-time winner to beat Motherwell in 2020 after Jason Kerr had gone on the charge
8 Scoring at Celtic Park in a 1-1 draw that secured Saints a record 11-game unbeaten run in the top-flight
9 Completing his one and only hat-trick in the Scottish Cup away to Albion Rovers after being recalled from a Queen of the South loan
10 The first of another brace against Dundee (this time in 2020) from a Michael O’Halloran cut-back