St J’stone 1 – 0 Ross Co

St Johnstone moved off the foot of the cinch Premiership table with a priceless 1-0 victory over Ross County at McDiarmid Park.

Graham Carey’s brilliant strike following a fantastic team move clinched Saints’ second win of the season and made it seven points from their last three league encounters.

Craig Levein’s side moved up to 10th place, a point ahead of County who now find themselves in the play-off position – while Livingston have dropped to bottom spot on goal difference.

Levein made one change to the side that were pegged back against Motherwell in midweek, James Brown returning to the starting eleven to replace Sven Sprangler.

Will Nightingale and Ben Purrington returned to the County defence in the place of the suspended James Brown and George Harmon, who began the game on the bench.

How St Johnstone earned priceless win

St Johnstone’s Graham Carey celebrates scoring with Liam Gordon

A tepid first half brought little in the way of entertainment, with neither side able to enjoy a sustained spell of possession.

The visitors had a penalty claim waved away after eight minutes when the ball appeared to strike the arm of Matt Smith.

It took until just before the half-hour mark for the first effort on goal, Carey skewing a low drive past the post.

Saints goalkeeper Dimitar Mitov had virtually been a spectator during the opening 42 minutes, though he was eventually worked when he comfortably held Scott Allardice’s shot from just outside the box – the first attempt on target of the game.

County boss Malky Mackay replaced Victor Loturi with Kyle Turner at the break in an attempt to inject some much-needed attacking spark into his team.

It was St Johnstone who began the second half the brighter of the two though, passing up two good opportunities within the space of a minute.

Nicky Clark’s overhead kick beat Ross Laidlaw before cannoning back off the crossbar prior to Carey being denied by the legs of the Staggies keeper.

The game was showing signs of opening up, and a swift break by the away side led to a good opportunity for Yan Dhanda who blazed over from a promising position.

Saints were dealt a blow on 62 minutes when Clark limped off after sustaining what appeared to be a calf injury, forcing Levein to introduce Stevie May in place of the in-form striker who had scored three goals in his last three appearances.

The only goal arrived with 19 minutes remaining. Luke Robinson’s charging run led to May finding Carey on the edge of the box, and the midfielder curled a wonderful effort beyond the helpless visiting keeper.

May should have put the game out of sight after 85 minutes when he linked with Daniel Phillips, but he fired his effort straight at the County keeper.

The home supporters erupted on the final whistle, as they had the opportunity to savour three points that could prove to be very significant come the end of the season.

St Johnstone manager Craig Levein: “I talked to them [the players] after the Motherwell game about us getting spooked, well I think we’ve dealt with the ghosts now and that is evidence enough that we can cope with pressure in a situation where we are in front.

“I can’t off the top of my head remember a clear-cut opportunity for Ross County so that pleases me enormously.

“The second half, I think we had more control of the game and what a goal to win any game – that’s the quality Graham has got.

“There’s some glimpses of good stuff, some really good things today but hopefully we can get more of them.”

Ross County manager Malky Mackay: “When I look at it in the end, we didn’t have enough that were showing that extra little bit of responsibility today and that’s not like them – if nothing else we are a brave team.

“Over the last couple of weeks – the three away games at Dundee, Motherwell and Hibs – we’ve shown up really well.

“It was a scrappy game today, I said at half-time that one moment of quality was going to change this game between both teams and Graham Carey scores a very good goal.

“We just didn’t have that extra little bit of cutting edge and quality all over the park actually that we’ve shown in the last couple of weeks – especially away from home.”

What’s next?

St Johnstone’s next Scottish Premiership match is away to Hearts on November 25 while Ross County host Kilmarnock.

Both games kick-off at 3pm.

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