Callum Hendry’s early penalty was enough for St Johnstone to see off a valiant Livingston.
Last time out in Perth saw Livingston thump the Saints by three goals to nil however it was not to be on Saturday as the Lions were beaten 1-0 by a resurgent side.
Just off the back of a two-week international break, Livi made the trip north to face Callum Davidson’s St Johnstone in a game which had huge value for both sides, St Johnstone attempting to escape a relegation scrap and the Lions still pushing for a top six spot.
Ali Crawford got the match underway for the hosts who after just two minutes were awarded a free-kick following a foul on Callum Hendry by Ayo Obileye. Melker Hallberg swung the free-kick deep into the Livingston box but the cross was only half-cleared by Sebastian Soto forcing Callum Hendry and Jack Fitzwater to challenge for it in the air. As the pair jostled, Fitzwater’s elbow appeared to catch Callum Hendry’s face leaving referee Kevin Clancy with no choice but to point to the spot. Hendry stepped up and coolly placed his penalty down the middle handing Saints an early lead.
The Lions immediately tried to get back onto level terms as James Penrice attempted a shot from around 20 yards out, but it flew wide and failed to trouble goalkeeper Clark. Shortly after, Sebastian Soto showed some neat skill to guide himself towards goal however his attempt was well saved by the Saints’ keeper.
With 36 minutes on the clock, St Johnstone were forced into a first-half change as Tony Gallacher made way for Callum Booth following a tough 50-50 challenge with Nicky Devlin.
Just before the break, The Saints were handed a chance to double their lead as forward Nadir Çiftçi nodded down for Ali Crawford, but he saw his long-range effort pushed away by Max Stryjek.
Half-time struck and although it had been a very even game, it was Callum Davidson’s side with the lead following Hendry’s early spot kick.
A quick attack from St Johnstone on the hour mark saw Shaun Rooney whip a high cross into the box however Çiftçi could not guide his header towards goal.
Kevin Clancy was busy again when James Penrice did well to wriggle past Shaun Rooney, but he took a very heavy touch and was left to face a 50-50 with St Johnstone’s Dan Cleary. The Saints defender beat Penrice to the ball which resulted in the Livi defender wiping out the St Johnstone man. Penrice was handed a yellow card however some may say the punishment should’ve been harsher.
With a few minutes to play, Andrew Shinnie’s delivery from the right wing seemed to strike Dan Cleary’s hand as he stumbled to the ground. This was met by wild penalty claims from both the players and supporters which were dismissed by referee Kevin Clancy. The loose ball ended up at the feet of Odin Bailey who tried his luck, but his shot was once again saved by Zander Clark. Livingston were, quite rightly, furious with the referee and in disbelief as to how a penalty hadn’t been awarded.
Moments before full-time, Sean Kelly delivered an inviting ball into the box which met an unmarked Ayo Obileye, however the defender failed to direct his header on target and the ball drifted wide leaving Obileye with his head in his hands.
The Lions fought hard throughout the game but were unable to pick up any points on the road. Only a victory against Motherwell will see David Martindale’s men climb back into the top six, depending on results across the country.
Match Report: Allan Strachan
St Johnstone: Clark, Rooney, McCart, Gordon, Cleary, Gallacher (Booth 36), Davidson ▊, Hallberg (MacPherson 88), Crawford (Butterfield 89), Hendry ▊, Çiftçi (May 74)
Subs not used: Parish, Middleton, Gilmour, Mahon, Blair
Goals: Hendry (3 pen)
Livingston: Stryjek, Devlin, Fitzwater ▊, Obileye, Penrice ▊ (Lewis 80), Holt, Omeonga (Kelly 66), Pittman ▊ (Shinnie 80), Forrest, Nouble, Soto (Bailey 74)
Subs not used: Konovalov, Boyes, McMillan, Montaño, Sibbald
Referee: Kevin Clancy