Getting the better of Livingston has quickly become one of the Premiership’s harder tasks this season.
Only Celtic on day one of the league campaign had beaten them until this match, with the top flight’s new boys undefeated on their own pitch.
That St Johnstone have claimed their scalp in West Lothian is more evidence that Tommy Wright’s men are currently one of the form teams in the division and are emerging as genuine top six contenders.
It’s now three wins in a row – a run of results they haven’t had since August 2017.
Saints struck early through Matty Kennedy and never lost their grip thereafter.
It was a return to the three at the back formation for Saints that served them well at Motherwell in their last away game. That meant Liam Gordon starting and Drey Wright, who picked up a knock on Saturday, dropping to the bench.
Livingston have become the Premiership’s set-piece goal specialists, scoring four in one game against Dundee last time out.
They have been less accustomed to conceding them but that was what happened five minutes into the contest to give the visitors a dream start.
A long diagonal free-kick from Joe Shaughnessy was brought down well by Tony Watt on the 18-yard line. The striker broke through the traffic at the edge of the box and his low shot fell perfectly for Kennedy to tuck the ball away from six yards out.
Perhaps Livi’s week-and-a-half without a game was an issue in the early stages but Saints were certainly the brighter team early on, with nice link-up play being put together on both sides of the pitch.
On one such occasion the ball was worked to David Wotherspoon but his low shot from a narrow angle was charged down.
It wasn’t until the 23rd minute that the away goal was under any real threat and it was of their own making.
They made a mess of a corner, with Wotherspoon slipping on the edge of the box and a quick Livi counter-attack ended up with the Perth midfielder having to make a foul on Dolly Menga at the corner of the Saints penalty area.
All the big men in yellow were up from the back but Shaughnessy rose highest to head away Keaghan Jacobs’ free-kick.
Watt drew a foul in a dangerous position a few yards from the bye-line on 26 minutes. Liam Craig surprised Liam Kelly by drilling the dead ball in low and hard but when the keeper failed to hold it, Shaun Byrne was on hand to clear.
A few minutes later Richard Foster sent over a perfectly weighted cross which Watt failed to connect with. Given the fact that the striker had lost his marker it was a good opportunity lost.
It wasn’t as good an opportunity as the one that Scott Pittman failed to convert on 35 minutes, though. Jason Kerr scuffed an attempted near post clearance and when it fell to Pittman he couldn’t direct his shot past Zander Clark.
Saints would have been quite happy to see half-time, as there had been a bit of a momentum switch in Livi’s favour towards the end of the first period.
They were back on the front foot after the re-start.
Watt went past Alan Lithgow down the Saints right and squared the ball across the 18 yard line. It ran all the way to Scott Tanser, who had charged forward to meet it on the left, but the wing-back’s sweetly struck first time shot flew over the bar.
Watt’s work for the team will have been appreciated by his manager and he won a corner on 56 minutes. Liam Craig’s in-swinger was cleared back to him and when the ball was sent across for a second time, Kelly did well to catch it cleanly at the back post under pressure from Kerr.
Saints defenders were putting their bodies on the line when required, with Gordon getting an important block on a Steven Lawless volley just before the hour mark.
Kennedy was matching Watt’s work-rate and he was chopped down near the byeline. Wotherspoon took the free-kick and Kelly was at full stretch to tip it away to safety.
Livi made a double substitution on 68 minutes, with Lawless and Scott Robinson replaced by Bobby Burns and Egli Kaja.
It was an incident-free spell of the game, which suited the team in the lead nicely.
For all that they were controlling possession, the hosts weren’t getting close to troubling Clark.
Even on a rare occasion when a Saints defender misjudged the flight of a cross – Foster at the back post on 76 minutes – Kennedy was there to bail him out.
Watt’s game was over on 78 minutes when Chris Kane came on for him. There was a second Saints substitution two minutes later – Ross Callachan for Wotherspoon.
Craig Sibbald tried his luck from 20 yards out but his shot was dragged wide and Clark had it covered anyway.
Saints then saw the game out with no real scares.
Livingston – Kelly, Lamie, Lithgow, Halkett, Gallagher, Byrne, Pittman, Robinson (Burns 68), Jacobs (Sibbald 78), Lawless (Kaja 68), Menga. Subs not used – Stewart, Cadden, Hamilton, Lawson, McMillan.
St Johnstone – Clark, Tanser, Shaughnessy, Davidson, Wotherspoon (Callachan 80), Kerr, Foster, Gordon, Craig, Watt (Kane 78), Kennedy (Wright 87). Subs not used – Hurst, Swanson, McMillan, Nydam.
Referee – John Beaton.
Attendance – 1,476.