St Johnstone had to settle for a share of the spoils against Hibs at McDiarmid Park this afternoon after a cracking game that was packed with chances for both sides.
Home boss Tommy Wright had demanded a response from his players following last week’s desperately-disappointing Premiership opener at Kilmarnock and he certainly received one from his team.
Saints took the lead through Tony Watt in the first half but were pegged back after the interval with Oli Shaw netting for Hibs.
Both sides pressed hard for a winner but ultimately had to be satisfied with a point apiece.
Wright made three changes from the side that was beaten at Killie last week with Richard Foster returning from suspension to the starting line-up along with Blair Alston and Liam Craig with Liam Gordon and David Wotherspoon dropping to the bench while Aaron Comrie missed out altogether.
Hibs manager Neil Lennon shuffled his pack as well from his side’s Europa League draw against Molde on Thursday night with Steven Whittaker, Jamie MacLaren, Shaw and on-loan Bournemouth player Emerson Hyndman coming in for Vykintas Slivka, David Gray, Marvin Bartley and Florian Kamberi.
Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes and Dundee manager Neil McCann were interested spectators in the main stand as the game kicked off.
It was the Edinburgh side who first threatened in the fifth minute when Shaw hit a speculative long-range shot which home keeper Zander Clark spilled but quickly gathered at the second attempt.
The goalie came to the rescue shortly after when Hibs’ Martin Boyle dug out a cross from the right towards Shaw who produced a powerful header from 12 yards with Clark diving full length to turn the ball away for a corner.
The dangerous Boyle then embarked on blistering run into the home penalty area before cutting the ball back to MacLaren with his close-range effort cleared off the line by Foster.
Saints finally had a chance of their own in the 17th minute when a Craig corner from the right fell to Murray Davidson with the midfielder sending a shot just wide of Hibs keeper Ross Laidlaw’s post.
However, the home side did fully grasp their next opportunity on 22 minutes when Watt hit a fierce, low drive from a tight angle which flew into the far corner of Laidlaw’s net with the help of a deflection off Hibs’ Ryan Porteous. There was no doubting though that the striker was claiming the goal as his own as he celebrated in front of the away fans.
Lennon’s men looked to hit back straight away with Clark saving a fierce Boyle effort which then bounced off MacLaren and somehow stayed out.
That man Boyle again proved a thorn in Saints flesh in the 33rd minute when he hit another dangerous effort with Steven Anderson making a last-ditch clearance to turn the ball over the bar.
St Johnstone came close to extending their lead in the 38th minute when Matty Kennedy hit a curling effort from the edge of the Hibs box that seemed destined for the top corner but Laidlaw produced an outstanding acrobatic stop to deny him and ensure his side went down the tunnel just one goal in arrears.
And that deficit was wiped out in the 51st minute. Boyle sent a speculative cross in from the right with the ball sailing all the way through to Shaw lurking at the Saints back post and he gave Clark no chance with a fine diving header.
The keeper had to race out of his box to clear in the 61st minute to prevent Boyle pouncing on a misplaced pass by Drey Wright.
St Johnstone were struggling to carve out opportunities but did come close to taking the lead once more when Foster delivered a cross from the right with Blair Alston heading just over Laidlaw’s bar.
Hibs had a chance of their own in the 79th minute when Lewis Stevenson hit a long-range drive that flashed just inches past Clark’s left-hand post.
Shortly after, Saints came close again when Alston hit a low 25-yard piledriver that seemed to be heading for the back of the net before Efi Ambrose deflected the ball over the bar. The same Hibs player then looked like he had handled in his own box but referee Willie Collum ignored penalty appeals.
However, there was to be no winner from either side.
Attendance – 4,637.
St Johnstone – Clark, Tanser, Alston, Anderson (Gordon, 60), Wright (Wotherspoon, 87), Davidson, Kerr, Foster, Craig, Watt (McMillan, 90), Kennedy.
Subs not used – Mitchell, McCann, McClean, Scougall.
Hibs – Laidlaw, Whittaker, Hanlon, MacLaren (Kamberi, 62), Boyle, Stevenson, Hyndman (Horgan, 62), Mallan, Ambrose, Shaw (Swanson, 86), Porteous.
Subs not used – Dabrowski, Gray, Bartley, Slivka.
Referee – Willie Collum.