St Johnstone opened their short tour of Northern Ireland with a narrow victory against Distillery at New Grosvenor Stadium in Lisburn.
It was a lacklustre performance by the Perth side, who will be hoping to improve considerably for their next game tomorrow against Dungannon Swifts.
Saints manager Derek McInnes said, “We did not get a lot out of the first half but in the second we started to look a bit more dangerous and started creating things in areas of the park where we would hurt them. It is good to start with a win and also to keep a clean sheet.
“It is still an early stage of the season and it is all about building a competitive edge but it is difficult in a friendly when the opposition put 10 men behind the ball.
“However, when there is a small crowd like there was tonight, the players need to build their own adrenaline and create a greater tempo.”
McInnes handed full debuts to new signing Jamie Adams and youngster Liam Caddis with Andy Jackson back in the starting line-up for the first time since his extended lay-off with injury.
And the striker possibly feared his that injury jinx was to strike again as early as the sixth minute when he went down in agony after a hefty challenge on the edge of the Distillery box by centre-half Andy Hunter.
Jackson eventually picked himself up to the relief of the Saints management, but they had another scare just seconds later.
Home striker Mark Patton hit a dangerous dipping shot from 20 yards but St Johnstone’s trialist goalkeeper’s positioning meant he was able to make a comfortable save.
However, it was McInnes’s side which came close to taking the lead in the 14th minute when Cleveland Taylor cut in from his left wing and hit a well-struck diagonal shot from 18 yards.
Distillery keeper Phil Matthews could only watch as the ball flashed past him but incredibly it hit the inside of his left post, bounced back out and was cleared to safety before Jackson could pounce.
Debutant Caddis was next to try his luck shortly after with a snapshot that looked to be heading into the back of the net but instead spun just wide.
Saints failed to capitalise on that early promise and as the game approached the half hour mark, the frustration of both the players and management was becoming increasingly evident.
Just before the referee blew for half time, an attempted deep cross from Danny Grainger ballooned well over the crossbar, neatly summing up a disappointing 45 minutes by the SPL side against the Irish part-timers.
Shortly after the restart, the Saints left-back almost made amends when his measured free-kick from the right fell perfectly at the feet of Steven Milne lurking at the back post but the striker could only tamely shoot at Matthews who held on all too easily.
However, the keeper was forced to pull off a save of a more spectacular nature in the 50th minute when another Grainger corner was met powerfully six yards out by the head of Michael Duberry.
It looked like a certain goal but Matthews dived acrobatically to his right to deny St Johnstone’s captain for the night.
Five minutes later, Chris Millar tried his luck with a speculative shot from 22 yards but it fell well wide.
Saints should have taken the lead just seconds after that when Taylor skinned the Distillery right-back Tomasz Mach and sent a searching cross into the box but the late arriving Adams could not keep his header down with the goal at his mercy.
However, St Johnstone’s small band of travelling fans finally had something to cheer about in the 66th minute. Jackson latched on to a deep cross from the right by Taylor and struck a fierce shot which Matthews could only parry.
Steven Anderson was first to the loose ball and his shot was stopped on the line by Distillery’s Paul Muir who was adjudged to have handled.
Sub Liam Craig, who had only come on four minutes before, stepped up and calmly tucked away the resultant penalty into the corner of the net to give Saints the lead.
McInnes’s side almost doubled their advantage in the 78th minute when Milne flashed a header inches past the post with Matthews stranded.
However, with just a minute remaining, Distillery could have snatched a shock late equaliser when Gary Thompson ghosted through Saints defence and laid the ball off to veteran striker Glenn Ferguson.
He hit a powerful shot which the trialist goalkeeper, who had little to do all evening, did well to save diving to his left.
Attendance 220 (estimated)