Match Report by Ross Gardiner
Saints headed into Sunday’s televised clash with Ross County looking to bounce back from their dismal defeat to Montrose on Tuesday night with a strong performance and three points.
Zander Clark and Chris Kane returned to the starting XI from injury, with David Wotherspoon also coming back into the fray. Danger man Matty Kennedy also came back to the bench.
The Perth men started in spritely fashion, with Kane’s run from centre culminating in a Davidson cross within 20 seconds, but there was nobody in royal blue on hand to convert.
Davidson again found space behind the Highlanders’ backline, but former Saint Keith Watson was able to divert his cross from the left out for a throw.
Saints were awarded a penalty on seven minutes when Chris Kane was clipped at a corner and like the two he converted in preseason, Scott Tanser made no mistake from 12 yards, sending Laidlaw the wrong way and grabbing Saints’ first goal of the season. 1-0.
On 16 minutes, Saints were granted a gilt0edged opportunity to double their advantage. Davidson again raced through he back four and squared for Swanson, who blazed over from close range.
Saints were dominating and O’Halloran raced onto a through ball from Wotherspoon, rounded the keeper and lashed a low drive from a tight angle off the post.
County were awarded a route back into the game when Ross Stewart went down in the box on 29 minutes. Billy McKay stepped up and Zander’s brilliant one anded save rebounded back to the Northern Irishman who converted second time around. 1-1.
Saints nearly bounced back immediately as Davidson’s glancing header danced agonisingly across the goalline.
The home fans were left fizzing when Danny Swanson broke through and was brought down clumsily in the box, but ref Madden waved play on when the incident appeared to be more clear cut than County’s spot kick situation.
A rasping effort from Kane as the clock struck 45 minutes was tipped over and Saints were presented with a late corner. County eventually gathered and broke up the park, and Billy McKay grabbed his second after a swift counter attack. 1-2.
Matty Kennedy replaced Wotherspoon at the break but it was County who ramped up the pressure and Clark was forced into an spectacular early double save.
Iain Vigurs curled a 20-yard free kick at goal as the visitors looked to add a cushion, but Zander matched the whipped effort with a confident save.
Saints began to regain possession and O’Halloran’s mazy run was intercepted before he could square for an equaliser on the hour mark.
Kennedy was running rampant down the right and his lofted cross was nearly nodded in by both O’Halloran and Davidson, but neither could make a clean connection.
Callum Hendry replaced Swanson after County found the side netting on 67 minutes, as the hosts looked to claw a way back into the game.
Hendry forced corner shortly after coming on, but Liam Craig was ruled offside when he converted from the set piece.
Hendry again looked menacing up front, nodding a Kennedy cross inches wide when Laidlaw was well-beaten.
Saints golden opportunity came when Kane broke through one-on-one with the keeper but blasted his effort straight at the stopper. It was looking as though it would not be Saints’ day.
McMillan replaced the number nine with just over ten to go and at least a goal needed to rescue Saints League Cup campaign.
A late drive down the left culminated in Hendry nicking the ball goal bound, but the effort dribbled past the post.
O’Halloran’s late long-range blast couldn’t weave through the tangle of County defenders but there was no late leveller. FT: St Johnstone 1-2 Ross County.
SAINTS: Clark, Foster, Kerr, Anderson, Tanser, Wotherspoon (Kennedy, 46), Davidson, Craig, O’Halloran, Swanson (Hendry, 67), Kane (McMillan, 77).
UNUSED SUBS: Parish, Duffy, McCann, McClean.
Goals: Tanser (7) Booked: Craig (72)
ROSS COUNTY: Laidlaw, Kelly, Fontaine, McKay (Graham, 75), Vigurs, Grivosti (Fraser, 85), Mullin, Watson, Spittal (Gardyne, 70), Chalmers, Stewart.
UNUSED SUBS: Morris, Power, Paton, Dixon-Hodge.
Goals: McKay (30, 45) Booked: Vigurs (63)
Referee: Bobby Madden Man of the Match: Murray Davidson
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