Saints 1-0 Ross County
11th November 2023
An excellent second half strike from Graham Carey saw Saints beat Ross County 1-0 at McDiarmid Park this afternoon to move off the bottom of the league and up to tenth in the cinch Premiership.
The first half was a largely uneventful affair as each side cancelled each other out.
However, Saints made a good start to the second half and they came close to taking the lead on 51 minutes when Nicky Clark saw his overhead kick cannon back off the crossbar and then Carey saw his follow-up effort brilliantly saved by Ross Laidlaw.
The only goal of the game came on 71 minutes as Carey curled a brilliant strike into the top corner following an excellent team move by Saints to give Craig Levein his first win since taking over as Saints manager.
There is an international break next weekend so Saints are back in action in a fortnight as they travel to Edinburgh to take on Hearts at Tynecastle Park, kick off 3pm.
Saints were at home for the third game in a row this afternoon as they welcomed Ross County to Perth. Saints had to settle for a share of the spoils on Tuesday evening as Motherwell came from behind to draw 2-2 with Saints at McDiarmid Park. Craig Levein made one change to his starting eleven this afternoon as James Brown came in to replace Sven Sprangler who dropped to the bench. Ross County lost 3-0 at home to Celtic last weekend and manager Malky MacKay made two changes to his starting eleven as Ben Purrington and Will Nightingale came in to replace George Harmon, who dropped to the bench, whilst James Brown was suspended after getting sent off last weekend.
Before the match got underway both teams took part in an Act of Remembrance ahead of Remembrance Sunday tomorrow as Saints CEO Stan Harris and Ross County CEO Steven Ferguson laid wreaths along with representatives from the Armed Forces.
Graham Carey got the match underway for Saints and Chris Kane won Saints a free kick in a promising position after 18 seconds following a foul on the Saints number nine by Ryan Leak. Both Carey and Matt Smith stood over the free kick and it was taken by the former as he whipped a dangerous ball into the box which Jordan White turned behind for a corner which was comfortably dealt with by the visitors.
PHOTO: A service was held to mark Remembrance Day led by club pastor Rev Dave Barrie
After that early free kick it was an even opening to the match as neither keeper was tested. Saints though were passing the ball about well and a good move by the Perth side on 27 minutes saw Luke Robinson break down the left and the on-loan Wigan Athletic defender did well to beat Connor Randall at the bye-line as he got past the County defender before being hauled back by Randall as Saints were awarded another promising free kick. Smith took the free kick as he sent over an inviting ball into the box which was cleared by the Staggies defence.
Another good passing move by Saints just before the half an hour mark saw Dan Phillips lay the ball off to Carey who dragged his effort narrowly wide.
County got a sight of goal with 3 minutes of the first half remaining however, Scott Allardice’s right-footed effort from the edge of the box was straight at Dimitar Mitov who comfortably gathered the ball.
PHOTO: Graham Carey shoots wide
2 minutes were added on at the end of first half and Saints would finish strongly as a good move down the right saw James Brown deliver an inviting ball into the box which no one in a Saints shirt could get on the end of. Play continued as Chris Kane laid the ball off to Carey who unleashed a left-footed strike from just outside the box which was blocked by a County player.
County made a change before the second half could get underway as Kyle Turner came on to replace Victor Loturi.
Saints made a good start to the second half and on 51 minutes Clark came agonisingly close to giving Saints the lead as he saw his overhead kick comeback off the crossbar. Play continued as Carey gathered the ball on the right and cut inside before unleashing an angled strike which Laidlaw made a good save with his feet to turn the ball behind for a corner.
A minute later the Staggies tried to hit Saints on a quick counter attack as Simon Murray set Yan Dhanda free as the midfielder broke into the box before blasting his effort high into the North Stand.
PHOTO: Nicky Clark's shot hits the crossbar
Saints made their first change of the game on 64 minutes as Stevie May came on to replace Nicky Clark, who hobbled off after picking up a knock.
2 minutes later Carey set Robinson free down the left and his cross was met by Kane however, the header from the Saints forward didn’t test Laidlaw in the Staggies goal.
The breakthrough finally came with 19 minutes remaining as Saints took the lead. It was a great move by Saints as Carey switched the ball to the left as he played in Robinson who broke forward before cutting the ball back at the bye-line to May. The forward did well to hold the ball up before playing it back to Carey, who had continued his run to the edge of the box, and he unleashed a fabulous curling strike that went past a helpless Laidlaw and into the top corner of the net.
PHOTO: Graham Carey celebrates his goal with Liam Gordon and Ryan McGowan
Craig Levein introduced fresh legs on 81 minutes as Chris Kane made way for Sven Sprangler.
Saints should have put the game out of sight with 4 minutes remaining as Carey played the ball to Phillips and the midfielder brilliantly set May free who broke forward before unleashing a strike which was saved by Laidlaw.
County pushed for an equaliser in the closing stages and the closest they came was on 87 minutes as Jack Baldwin’s cross was met by Will Nightingale however, his header was comfortably gathered by Mitov as Saints saw the game out to secure the win that sees them move off the bottom of the table and up to tenth.
PHOTO: Craig Levein celebrates with James Brown at full time
Saints: Mitov, Brown, Considine, McGowan, Gordon, Kane (Sprangler 81’), Clark (May 64’), Carey, Robinson, Smith, Phillips
Unused Substitutes: Richards (GK), Gallacher, MacPherson, Kucheriavyi, Jephcott, Olufunwa, Turner-Cooke
Booked: Robinson, Carey, Sprangler, May
Scorer: Carey (71’)
Ross County: Laidlaw, Randall (Sheaf 89’), Purrington (Harmon 52’), Baldwin, Allardice (Samuel 73’), Dhanda, Loturi (Turner 45’), Murray, White, Nightingale, Leak
Unused Substitute: Munro (GK), High, Reid
Booked: Loturi, Harmon, White
Referee: Nick Walsh
VAR: Euan Anderson
Match Report by Daryl Scott
Picture: Graham Carey shows his delight as the final whistle blows