St Johnstone boss Tommy Wright reckons Brian Easton’s exuberant celebration following his goal-saving exploits on Saturday epitomised his side so far this season.
Easton’s clenched fist after preventing what looked like a certain goal by Partick’s Nathan Ecclestone highlighted just how miserly the Saints defence has become this term, and it is that kind of commitment to the cause that has pleased Wright most in recent weeks.
The loss of striker Stevie May’s goals was expected to hit Saints hard but, heading into this evening’s game at Inverness, Saints are actually better off points-wise than they were at the same point last year a factor that pleases Wright no end.
He told Courier Sport: “I didn’t see Easty’s celebration at the time but when I saw it back I thought it was great.
“He hasn’t scored – he’s the next on the list after Chris Millar about scoring – but I thought the reaction was brilliant and it was almost as if he’d scored a goal.
“It shows you how important clean sheets are to us.
“If you look at it, we’re four points better off than we were last season.
“Because we haven’t got Stevie May and all the goals, that was being highlighted and people might think we’re not doing as well but we are.
“I think it’s tremendous that, if you look at it, we’ve only scored 19 goals in the league but we’re still a top six side.
“We’ve got to maintain the standards of working hard for each other, and the goals will come.
“But to have scored only 19 and be top six at this stage of the season is a credit.
“Of course you’ll miss Stevie May, but we’ve found a way to adapt and defensively we’ve been really good.
“We’ve got 10 wins so far this season and we only had 14 before the split last year, so I think we’re moving along quite nicely.”
Saints have opened up a five-point gap over Kilmarnock in the table and are now just seven points behind fifth-placed Hamilton with a game in hand.
A win over fourth-placed Inverness would also bring Caley into sight, and Wright is keen to see his team claw their way up the standings by taking points from tonight’s match and the home game with Aberdeen on Friday.
“You aim at Hamilton,” he stressed.
“You aim at the next team and that’s all you can do.
“Kilmarnock will be aiming at us.
“Seven points over 17 games left isn’t a terrible lot to make up if you are both in the split, but we’ve got two really tough games this week back-to-back.”
Murray Davidson has been ruled out of tonight’s game with a groin strain and James McFadden is suspended, although Easton should be available after feeling the effects of cramp and Lee Croft likewise despite turning his ankle.
Wright added that the returning Tam Scobbie is also ready to play after his knee surgery and said the defender was very much in his thoughts for tonight’s game.
Meanwhile, Chris Millar was due to undergo a scan yesterday on his injured groin, although Wright is unsure how long the midfielder will be out for.
“We need to get to the bottom of it because it’s been persistent,” he explained.
“He might miss the next two games but you never know because he’s come off in games before and then three or four days later he’s OK.
“So it’s been one of those niggly problems that’s been about for a while.
“It’s maybe happened too often, but there doesn’t seem a lot wrong.
“But we’re thinking we’re better off getting a scan.
“On a positive note the medical team are not really expecting anything major, but we need to get a scan done for precautionary reasons rather than anything else.”