St Johnstone may have secured their place in the last four of the League Cup following Tuesday night’s 3-1 win over Morton at Cappielow but, not for the first time recently, it was the performance of Michael O’Halloran that had everyone talking.
The 24-year-old was outstanding against the Championship side who had no answer to his pace and power with the front man scoring one and setting up another for Chris Kane.
His displays in a Saints shirt have sparked calls for him to be given a chance in the national set-up but that was something team-mate Liam Craig would not be drawn on.
However, Craig did point out that after an earlier move to Bolton Wanderers did not work out for O’Halloran, he is revelling in the freedom to express himself granted to him by boss Tommy Wright.
Craig said: “Michael is a player who excites people. You saw him the whole night when we got the ball to him, defenders were starting to double up on him to make it difficult. He keeps wanting it, he keeps getting into good areas and putting good balls in.”
When asked if he felt O’Halloran was now deserving of a Scotland call-up, Craig said: “That’s not for me to decide. I just hope he keeps playing the way he is.
“The manager gives him the freedom to go and express himself and as long as he’s playing well for St Johnstone, creating chances and scoring goals, why not give him an opportunity?
“He probably went down there (to Bolton) when he was quite young. I played with Scotty Allan at Hibs as well who had a similar thing. But when you get a manager who believes in you and is going to give you chances and time to make mistakes, like Alan Stubbs did with Scotty and like the manager does here with Michael, that can only help.
“It’s important that we just keep letting him develop. If he gets a call-up to the Scotland squad it will be great for him and the club.
“The manager has said we want to keep him and hopefully he does stay because the club wants to go and win trophies and compete. If we are going to do that we need to keep our best players at the club and he’s definitely one of them.”
While much of the focus was on O’Halloran after the Morton game, Craig also pointed out that there are now goal threats throughout the St Johnstone team with the three counters being scored by different players.
He added: “I think when you have players like Mikey in the team, when he gets on the ball he excites when he goes past people. You’ve also got Steven MacLean that’s his 10th goal of the season already. If we can keep him scoring goals that’s another threat.
“You look at the midfield tonight myself, Simon (Lappin), Murray (Davidson) David Wotherspoon . . . We’ve all scored goals if we are going to be successful it’s going to take a whole squad.
“You saw tonight Kano coming on having done well at the weekend and he gets his goal and sees the game out for us. I think we’ve got a good squad of players here.
“Even the way the manager changed it for the Inverness game at the weekend shows he believes in the squad as well. To get the two wins, it’s important now that we back that up with another on Saturday.
“We’re in another semi-final but we’ve two big games coming up soon. To come here and win after a great win at Inverness at the weekend is a good start but we want to continue that form back in the league now starting with Hamilton on Saturday. That’s our focus.
“It’s great to be in the semi-final and we’ve got the Scottish Cup to look forward to as well but that’s all after Christmas. It’s just important now that we go on a run of league games. We’re into the top six now and it’s important that we stay there.”