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St Johnstone 1-2 Ross County – Saints punished for missing chances

Richard Foster in action against his old club.
Richard Foster in action against his old club.

The season is only a couple of weeks old but come next April there may still not be a more glaring example of a team being punished for failing to take its chances than this one.

St Johnstone, who needed to win to stay in the hunt for progression to the last 16 of the Betfred Cup, gave Tommy Wright the start he was looking for with an eighth minute Scott Tanser penalty goal.

The full-back was clinical but several of his team-mates subsequently proved to be anything but. And, after Ross County had been second best in the game, a Billy Mckay double gave them a 2-1 half-time lead.

So it remained and for the first time in the competition’s new format, Saints won’t be going through to the knockout stage.

There were five changes to the team that started the season off poorly at Montrose, with Zander Clark, Steven Anderson, Kane, David Wotherspoon and Liam Craig all back in the starting line-up.

Three of that quintet had a part to play in Saints’ early opener.

There was the familiar sight of a Craig corner delivered to the back post being met by the head of Anderson and directed back across goal. From there, Kane was brought down by Tom Grivosti.

Referee Bobby Madden pointed to the spot and Tanser, who took over penalty-taking duties at the end of last season, sent keeper Ross Laidlaw the wrong way and the Perth side were 1-0 up.

After County conceded possession in midfield on 15 minutes, Saints had a good chance to counter-attack them.

Craig tried to pick out Kane, who did well to time his run and stay onside, but the vice-captain was uncharacteristically wayward with his left foot and the visitors were able to mop up.

There was an even better opportunity two minutes later, which really should have resulted in a second goal.

Murray Davidson got in behind the Staggies’ defence and lifted his head up to spot Danny Swanson charging towards the penalty spot unmarked. The former Hibs and Dundee United man shot first time but skied his left foot effort over the bar.

The chances kept coming for Saints.

Swanson played a pass through for Michael O’Halloran who then had a race for the ball with the goalie. Laidlaw just got their first but couldn’t hold on and O’Halloran looked certain to score.

With a man on the line though, and the angle acute, his shot struck the post.

You feared that Saints’ failure to underline their dominance with more goals would come back to haunt them and indeed it did.

Jason Kerr fouled Ross Stewart in the box just before the half-hour and again referee Madden was in no doubt it was a penalty. Clark made a fine save to keep out Mckay’s shot but the rebound fell nicely for him and it was 1-1.

The equaliser didn’t change the flow of the match, though. Saints were soon back in control and when Swanson took the ball through the heart of the County backline he didn’t have the pace to get away from his old team-mate Keith Watson.

A Kane cross that turned into a shot was tipped over the bar by Laidlaw in the last minute of the first half but in stoppage time County got themselves in front.

Blair Spittal found it all too easy to pick out Mckay and he calmly steered a low finish past Clark for his fourth goal of the season.

Four minutes after the break Clark made an excellent double save to thwart Stewart and then Sean Kelly.

County were much improved in the second half and Joe Chalmers came close with a low angled shot on 63 minutes.

Matty Kennedy had replaced Wotherspoon at half-time and he did well to beat his man down the right and send over a cross that Kane couldn’t get a strong head to. The striker would have been better leaving it to Davidson who was free at the back post.

Craig thought he had equalised on 72 minutes when he finished off an Anderson knock-down but it was ruled offside.

The tin lid was put on Saints’ frustrating afternoon on 76 minutes when Kane, one v one against Laidlaw with not a defender near him, lacked the composure to beat the keeper.


St Johnstone – Clark, Foster, Tanser, Kerr, Anderson, Wotherspoon (Kennedy 45), Swanson (Hendry 68), Craig, Davidson, O’Halloran, Kane (McMillan 78). Subs not used – Parish, Duffy, McCann, McClean.

Ross County – Laidlaw, Kelly, Fontaine, Mckay (Graham 76), Vigurs, Grivosti (Fraser 85), Mullin, Watson, Spittal (Gardyne 69), Chalmers, Stewart. Subs not used – Morris, Power, Paton, Dixon-Hodge.

Referee – Bobby Madden.