St J’stone 1 – 2 Ross Co

Ross Callachan atoned for a missed penalty by hitting a second-half winner as Ross County inflicted their seventh consecutive defeat on Covid-stricken St Johnstone.

Callachan struck a 2-1 away win in Perth and sent the visitors away from the Scottish Premiership bottom club, which are now two points behind Dundee, their closest rival.

Regan Charles-Cook gave the county a head start, which was quickly nullified by Jacob Butterfield’s deflected shot.

Callachan hit the post with his first-half penalty before scoring from close range in the 69th minute as the county struck a well-deserved balance win.

St Johnstone manager Callum Davidson revealed on Tuesday that he had lost two other players to self-isolation rules after already being without forwards Chris Kane and Eetu Vertainen.

Goalkeeper Zander Clark and winger Shaun Rooney were absent from the Saints starting lineup, though they could welcome Murray Davidson back in shape.

Callachan missed a penalty in the first half

The Saints host Celtic on Boxing Day and no Premiership manager would welcome the accelerated winter break more than Davidson given the Saints’ run and their need for reinforcements during the transfer window.

The county started well and had several attempts on goal before taking the lead in the 15th minute. Joseph Hungbo played Charles-Cook in the left channel and the wide man sank the ball into Elliot Parish.

The lead lasted only four minutes. Butterfield picked up the ball at 22 yards and landed a powerful shot that deflected past Ashley Maynard-Brewer.

Jacob Butterfield (right) celebrates his tie for St Johnstone
Jacob Butterfield (right) celebrates his tie for St Johnstone

Saints defender James Brown approached it with a powerful shot that flashed just above via a player from the county.

The penalty came in the 29th minute when Hungbo’s free-kick hit Craig Bryson’s arm in the wall. The former Derby midfielder did not complain after Willie Collum pointed to the spot.

Callachan made a staggered run-up and Parish dived on the wrong side, but the former Hamilton player hit the ball off the post.

Hungbo spared an effort as the county continued to look like the most enterprising team until halftime.

    Ross County players celebrate Regan Charles-Cook's goal
Ross County players celebrate Regan Charles-Cook’s goal

Saints got off to a better start in the second half but didn’t have the green advantage in the box.

The guests stepped up their march and regained the lead. Charles-Cook did the hard work, receiving a cross from the backline which White directed into the inside of the far post. The rebound was inviting for Callachan, who hit the ball at home from six yards.

St Johnstone didn’t really seem to equalize, although Maynard-Brewer repelled Stevie May’s strike from 25 yards.

The county could have increased their lead. Subsidiaries Dominic Samuel and Hungbo both hit the goal frame from long range and squandered better opportunities up close.

What the managers said

Callum Davidson, St Johnstone coach: “After losing a goal, I thought we reacted very well. In the second half, we tried to come out and be the team that was pushing.

I keep talking about us who didn’t score goals, but in defense we were really poor. We didn’t repeat first contact and one-on-one enough, and we gave Ross County too many chances.

“I asked them to show the character and try it out and I thought they did it in some parts, but there were other parts that weren’t good enough.

“Last year we were very good on the defensive and for me now we are not good enough in that department and it is a concern for me.

“It’s something we have to fix and I take responsibility for it. We obviously had some problems, but I expect better: I expect the guys to fight and do better in certain situations.”

Malky Mackay, Ross County Coach: “I’m happy to have come here and to play like we did. Another day we silenced the game. We hit the post and the crossbar and hit the target.

“We don’t catch them and that allows them the last five minutes in which we have to defend well, which we do.”

What’s next?

Sunday 26 December at 12:00

Kick-off 12:30

Both teams will return to action in the Scottish Premiership on Boxing Day. St Johnstone will host Celtic, live on Sky Sports; kick-off 12:30. Ross County also travels to Hearts; kick-off 15:00.

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