St Johnstone inched another point away from automatic relegation but for Perth fans, Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Motherwell didn’t feel like an occasion to feel good about what they had just seen.
It was a case of glass half-full in terms of the result but half-empty in terms of the display.
Courier Sport explores four themes to come out of the contest.
It wasn’t all good in Craig Levein’s first eight games in charge.
There were chunks of play that were a hard watch, when ingrained flaws and insecurities sporadically resurfaced.
But there was a broad-brush reliability to be found in the Perth performance level.
Statistically, Ibrox started a run of six matches without a win, however it was the Saturday after at Rugby Park that a theme of unpredictability took hold.
Saints have been a Jekyll and Hyde team ever since.
Livingston was acceptable – a ‘must not lose’ fixture if ever there was one.
But the performance level graph from Airdrie to Aberdeen and now Aberdeen to Motherwell has been far removed from the relatively straight line of the Levein early weeks.
Rustiness compared to their opponent one Saturday and weariness compared to another seven days later, with a midweek game sandwiched in between, are legitimate factors to raise.
There are also new players being integrated into the side.
By drawing with a couple of relegation rivals during this drop-off period, Saints haven’t damaged their survival hopes – their bottom six peers are equally unpredictable.
But they need to rediscover some rhythm and reliability if they’re going to make the sort of progress that will take them out of play-off danger.
Those who have watched more of Saints’ latest signing than me speak to a number of qualities that will enhance Levein’s team.
An inviting cross from the right that DJ Jaiyesimi got his head to after coming on in the second half, suggested delivering a ball with accuracy is one of them.
In the short-term, at least, Smith’s athleticism could well be the most important attribute.
In ‘second ball games’ like Saturday’s, as Levein described it, Saints can look like a team that doesn’t match-up well in terms of middle of the pitch mobility.
There were two instances of midfield runners not being tracked in the second half that should both have yielded Motherwell goals.
Whether it’s as a box to box ‘eight’ or in a wider role, there’s a strong chance Smith will start on Saturday and get the run of games he’s been craving thereafter.
Another of the January recruits struggled in the main.
Kimpioka didn’t see a lot of the ball when he was the only Saints striker on the pitch but his hold-up play when he had a Motherwell defender at his back was poor.
It’s already clear how the team will get the best out of him, though.
Twice he got on the end of passes over the top.
A touch to take the ball over Liam Kelly was too heavy to set-up a finish into an empty net in the first half and when he did get a shot away early in the second period, it was straight at the goalkeeper.
Kimpioka is never going to be a striker who will get Saints up the pitch in the style of a Chris Kane or Nicky Clark but if his composure and split-second decision-making improves, he’ll get goals.
Theo Bair transformed
As an ex-player and now coach pointed out to me on Saturday night, dealing with a footballer new to a country is a “delicate” business.
There are far more slow-burns than instant hits – particularly in the market St Johnstone operate in.
The transformation of Theo Bair speaks to the potential for Kimpioka to flourish.
And, to state the blindingly obvious, it also speaks to the fact that Bair is now a much better forward than the one that looked ill-suited to the Premiership in his time with Saints.
The Canadian was given plenty of opportunities by Callum Davidson – through the middle and off the side – but he didn’t come close to taking them.
And by the time Steven MacLean took over, with his budget being drastically cut, it was right to cut Bair loose.
If anything, the key decision that was the sliding-doors moment for his Perth career, was the man himself not accepting a Championship loan move when the argument was made that it would be the best thing for his long-term prospects.
Bair deserves all the praise coming his way for his reinvention at Motherwell but nobody at St Johnstone deserves any blame.