St Johnstone got a last day reminder at Hamilton of why they hadn’t been playing top six football after the Premiership split, according to Liam Craig.
Ugly goals cost the Perth side against Accies on Saturday – as they cost them on their long run without a win between January and March.
Another successful season is over but Craig believes the scope for improvement at McDiarmid Park is clear.
“Over the piece we had a lot of the ball and dictated the game, but in the final third we’ve not been good enough,” the former Hibs and Falkirk man reflected.
“The first goal just falls to them in the box but the second goal probably sums up why we’re not in the top six.
“We’ve had too many goals like that against us this season, but in terms of moving the ball from side to side and trying to do the right things, I thought we were good.
“We’ve not worked the goalie enough, and a combination of not doing that and not defending properly has cost us the game.”
In the immediate aftermath of a defeat, Craig was still able to put the result into perspective.
“Listen, the boys aren’t happy because we didn’t get a result,” he said.
“But we will reflect over the next few days and over the summer and when you look at the season, the amount of clean sheets we’ve had, the amount of wins we’ve had, it’s been really good.
“Celtic knocked us out both of the cups, so it’s not been a terrible season if you look at the teams above us.
“People were saying at the start of the season there was probably one spot in the top six available, and that’s not being disrespectful to Kilmarnock. They are the ones who have got it and they have been exceptional over the last two seasons.
“We went toe-to-toe and just missed out on the top six, and that second goal summed up why.
“You’ve got to give a lot of credit to the players and the management again, because since the split the attitude and the performances have been decent.
“We’re disappointed by the result today, but since the split we have been excellent.
“The positives are we’ve had young boys like Jordan Northcott coming into the side and there’s Olly Hamilton getting his debut as well.
“The age of the squad has come down as well, so over the piece there are a lot of positives to take.
“Over the last 10 years you’ve got to give a great deal of credit for the way the club has been run both on and off the park.
“You look at the teams who have been relegated or been in the Championship for a long time, and we’ve never put ourselves in that situation.
“It will be the same next season. We’ll go and enjoy the summer, it’s been a long, tough season, but we’ll come back refreshed, have a right good go, try and win as many games early on as we can and see where that takes us.”
This will be another summer of continuity rather than transition in Perth.
Craig explained: “We’ve got Zander in goals who is still young, you’ve got Jason and Gordy with Tanser, and boys like Ross Callachan in the middle of the park, Matty Kennedy and Drey Wright to come back after the summer, so the squad is a good age.
“I’ve been fortunate enough my whole career to play with good senior pros, especially at this club, and now it’s up to myself, Richard Foster, Danny Swanson and boys like that to make sure we help the younger players develop into another good squad to go again next year.
“The nucleus of a really good squad is there.
“It’s alright saying that though, but we have to go and perform.
“We know in the dressing room why we’re not in the top six, but we’ll come back next season and go again.”
Hamilton got the early opener they had been hoping for – a close-range finish from Ziggy Gordon after a corner wasn’t cleared.
Then, just before the hour, Steve Davies scored the second when he was gifted a clear shot 18 yards out and their Premiership status was secure.
The closest Saints came to scoring was in the first half when David Wotherspoon saw a shot beat the keeper but cleared off the line.
Manager Tommy Wright gave Brian Easton his first start in nearly a year-and-a-half.
He said: “He would have probably played a couple of weeks before but for the form Tanser was in.
“He will be better for that and it should do his confidence a lot of good.
“He has a decision to make because he has an offer on the table. In this day and age you can’t wait about so he’ll have to make that decision pretty quickly. Hopefully he stays because I wouldn’t have offered him a contract if I didn’t want him here next season.”