Saints 5 - 0 Livingston
14th August 2023
Young saints run riot in season opener against Livingston
St. Johnstone Under 18s ran out 5-0 winners at home to Livingston on Friday night. A 3 goal blitz midway through the first half put the youngsters in a commanding position at the break, and a steady second half performance, with 2 more goals also being added to the night’s tally, being enough to ensure a comfortable first victory of the season.
An Adam McMillan hattrick, as well as goals from Brodie Dair and Cole Wiliams, saw the young Saints come away with all 3 points to kick start their league campaign, as the reigning champions look to retain their title.
St. Johnstone started the game the better of the two sides, with a high energy approach causing the visitors some early problems. Young starlet Ben McCrystal was first to call the Livingston keeper into action, in the opening minutes of the game, after his looping effort required a defenders intervention, to deflect the ball up into the air for the goalie to claim.
Still inside the opening 10 minutes, McCrystal was once again at the heart of the action. He was played through by Brodie Dair, before taking aim at goal. His effort was palmed over the bar by the keeper for a corner. The resulting set piece was headed goal bound by Joe Ellison, but his header crashed off the top of the crossbar and out for a goal kick.
Saints continued to throw bodies forward and create chances, and the sense that a goal was imminent began to grow. This feeling of inevitably grew as the game went on. McMillan and Dair were causing havoc on the wings, with both aiming deadly crosses towards the other at the back post; McMillan being foiled by a timely intervention from a Livingston defender, and Dair heading just over.
After a few more chances for Saints, the opening goal finally arrived, from a set-piece. A Kyle Scott corner into the box perfectly picked out an unmarked McMillan, who latched onto the ball perfectly, thumping his header into the top left corner of the goal to break the deadlock, bang on the half-hour mark.
The hosts would not have to wait so long for their second goal, with the young Saintees capitalising on their moment and doubling their advantage within 2 minutes of their first goal. After winning the ball back, Jacob Fleming did really well to lay the ball off to Fran Franczak. He took the ball and fired a low cross towards the edge of the area for the incoming Dair. Dair then drilled the ball into the bottom left corner, past the goalkeeper who had no chance, to double his side’s advantage.
Then just a minute later, Saints had a 3rd goal. The floodgates had officially opened, and with the Saints piling the pressure on the Livingston backline, they caused a defensive mix-up. This allowed Dair to nip in and steal the ball, running towards the keeper, before selflessly laying it off to McMillan on his left, who evaded a Livingston defender, and smashed the ball into the empty net.
With their tails up and 3 goals to their name, Saints were playing free flowing and confident football. The visitors were beginning to struggle to cope defensively, and failed to test Kyle Thomson in the first half. Ben McCrystal almost added a 4th goal just before half-time, but his left footed strike flew just past the left hand post.
Going into the half-time break, and few would be able to argue with that being a deserved lead. The hosts were in full control of the game and could easily have added a few more goals to their tally.
After an action packed opening 45 minutes, chances became hard to come by in the second-half. Saints were in control of the game and dictating play, but Livingston had certainly tightened things up at the back, and the game became a little bit stifled as a result.
The first real chance of the second half came just after the hour mark. A good ball into the box from Captain Scott Bright found Fleming inside the area. The forward attempted to catch the goalkeeper out with a toe poked effort, but unfortunately his shot ended up over the bar and out for a goal kick.
73 minutes in and Saints would finally add a 4th goal to their tally. Some more impressive build-up play, with Fleming again linking the play, heading the ball through to Dair. The tricky young winger drove with pace towards the byline, before unleashing an effort goalwards, his shot was saved but it was too powerful for the keeper to hold onto. The ball was palmed back out for McMilan, who was in the right place at the right time to slide the ball home into the back of the net.
Over the next 15 or so minutes, Saints would continue to threaten the Livingston goal, and were playing some really quality football. Fran Franczak would come closest to scoring, with his long range thunderstrike crashing off of the underside of the bar and back out. McMilan also almost bagged his 4th goal of the game, but he headed just wide.
91 minutes into the game, with the match all but over as a contest, Cole Williams was taken down inside the area, by the trailing leg of a Livingston defender. Williams then stepped up to take the penalty, and sent the keeper the wrong way, sticking it down the middle and low from 12 yards, to round off a 5 star performance from Saints.
That would be that for the evening's action, with St. Johnstone running out 5-0 winners.
Alistair Stevenson was delighted with the performance:
“The performance was just fantastic, I think it’s the best I’ve seen from this group and the standard was high from the first minute to the last. Some of the football that was played was great to watch, and the game was played at such a high tempo.
"The lads had to play half an hour before they could get the opening goal, but all of a sudden in 5 minutes they had 3, it was relentless, like a machine.
“Everytime we made a change, the team kept going and the performance remained the same, the boys who came on maintained the standards that were set, and they were relentless. Livingston just could not find their way into the game, it was a really complete performance.
“There were some incredible performances in there, but it would be unfair to single anyone out as it was a great team performance. It was brilliant, absolutely brilliant.
“I was so pleased with the performance and the way they were playing. It’s now all about taking that onto the next game and the next game, one game at a time. That is the standard we are looking to set for this season, and it’s a really exciting time to be a part of the group”
Match report by Samuel Porritt