David Wotherspoon insists it is only a matter of time before St Johnstone hit the goal trail again after they drew another blank in Saturday’s 1-0 defeat against Hearts.
The Jambos emerged victorious from a dreadful spectacle at Murrayfield, with a deflected drive by Kyle Lafferty proving a suitably scrappy way to settle an ugly encounter.
Quality and clear-cut chances were at a premium throughout, but the hosts were marginally the better of two poor sides, with Harry Cochrane rattling the post and a couple of other moments to warm the palms of Alan Mannus between the sticks for the Saints.
St Johnstone have now failed to find the net in their last three fixtures, succumbing to successive 3-0 defeats against Aberdeen and Rangers before their reverse in the capital – and in truth they never looked like troubling the Hearts back-line.
However, Wotherspoon is refusing to push the panic button.
“We are really disappointed. It’s our third loss on the bounce and we haven’t scored in the last three games which isn’t good,” he said.
“It’s just a bad time at the moment and I am sure our luck will change. It will turn around.
“I didn’t feel we deserved to lose the game on Saturday. I thought it had 0-0 written all over it and they got that little bit of good fortune.
“It’s just that lack of quality in the final third that let us down. We got ourselves in good positions, but it was just that final ball and finish we needed.
“We have every belief we have got it in us to get goals. It is just a matter of time before we start winning games again. We just need to go back to basics and hard work. I think the boys are honest enough to work hard.
“We’ve brought that work ethic for the past couple of games, but we have just not had that bit of luck.”
The only action of note during a dreadful first period at BT Murrayfield saw Isma Goncalves surge down the right wing before slipping a neat pass to Jamie Walker, however the recently rejuvenated forward saw his shot from a tight angle saved by Mannus.
The Northern Irish stopper was forced into action from the resulting corner, tipping Christophe Berra’s header over the bar.
Craig Levein wasted no time in attempting to enliven the clash, sending 16-year-old Harry Cochrane in place of former Dundee United star Prince Buaben.
And the precocious playmaker immediately started demanding possession and spraying passes.
Hearts almost claimed the lead when Walker sent Isma through on goal, but his tame drive nestled in the arms of Mannus.
Wotherspoon finally tested Jon McLaughlin in a rare moment of offensive endeavour by the Saints, cutting in from the left-flank and firing a low shot on target. The visitors knocked the ball about nicely at times on Saturday but were utterly impotent.
Cochrane’s influence led to the opener, with the midfielder picking up a loose ball and fizzing a low shot at goal from all of 40 yards.
The drive fell kindly to Kyle Lafferty in the box and his sharp snap-shot found the net via a deflection off Joe Shaughnessy.
With St Johnstone streaming forward in search of a leveller in injury time, Cochrane scampered clean through on goal on the break but his low shot clattered the base of the post.
“You have got to make your own breaks and we are not making things happen at the top end of the pitch,” rued St Johnstone boss Tommy Wright. “The players have got to take responsibility.
“Our players are good enough, they have got quality. The frustrating thing for me is that we got into good positions, but we created nothing – that’s where those players at that end of the pitch have got to stand up and be counted.”
John Souttar was happy to take points over plaudits after Hearts ground out the victory.
“It wasn’t a great game, let’s not beat around the bush,” smiled the former Tannadice defender.
“It’s scrappy and, while it’s not the style of football we want to put on, we’ve won the game and that’s the main thing.
“You can play nice football and lose games, which we have done previously, or you can win games. Winning comes first. It would be nice to play well too – and I’m sure that will come.”
Meanwhile, Craig Levein lavished praise on Hearts’ talented teenagers.
He said: “I was actually really chuffed with all the kids. Jamie Brandon had a slow start and I thought Stefan Scougall caused him a few problems – but after 15 minutes, Jamie got really tight and he didn’t really cause any problems after that.
“Henderson came on, did a job, chased balls into the corners, kept the ball for us and let people support the attack, so that was good.
“Harry was really good. He’s really young, he’s really weak, he’s really inexperienced, but he’s a good player.
“In all honesty, like most kids who get opportunities, if Arnaud Djoum was 100% and Don Cowie was fit then he might not have played. Although he’s young, he’s probably the next best player we’ve got. That’s why he plays. He wouldn’t be in the team if I thought he was scared.”
Levein now faces a dilemma regarding how many of the young guns to pitch into action against rivals Hibernian tomorrow night, adding: “I haven’t made up my mind about that.”