Ryan Porteous’ mistake at the back allowed his former teammate through on goal as Middleton scored his second winner since arriving in Perth from Rangers. Results elsewhere mean Saints are fifth on goal difference while Hibs’ lead in third has been cut to three points ahead of a huge match with Aberdeen at Pittodrie.
St Johnstone opened the scoring with 22 minutes played through Middleton after the on-loan Rangers attacker latched onto a mistake from Hibs defender Porteous. The centre-back tried to play the ball across his own goal but his Scotland U21s teammate – who had a loan spell in Leith last season – was put through on goal by Michael O’Halloran to score.
The visitors built on their momentum, attacking the hosts a lot more down their left-hand side with Callum Booth and Middleton linking up well. Hibs struggled to deal with the pace of the winger they had on loan from Rangers last season.
Hibs’ Jackson Irvine had a half-chance blocked for a corner and Saints stopper Elliot Parish made a strong save to deny Martin Boyle’s acrobatic effort with 35 minutes played. Parish was filling for regular St Johnstone number one Zander Clark, who picked up an injury in the build-up to this clash.
Hibs chased an equaliser before the break but St Johnstone defended resolutely in numbers to deal with any threat. The visitors didn’t just sit back and try to protect what they had, they continued to push bodies forward and win set-pieces in the last 10 minutes of the match.
The Edinburgh side looked out of ideas, swinging balls into the box with no takers and little conviction. They did have the ball in the back of the net but Boyle’s effort was ruled offside in a blow for Hibs.
Saints substitute David Wotherspoon was inches away from connecting with Shaun Rooney’s flashing ball across goal but one goal proved enough for the away team who head into next weekend’s Scottish Cup semi-final flying. Here are three things we learned.
St Johnstone continued their unbeaten league run at Easter Road which remarkably stretches back to 2012. Having already won the League Cup this season, Saints are into the last four of the Scottish Cup and now overtake Livingston in fifth. An incredible season – which could become unbelievable – is understating their achievements.
Third place not settled (yet)
With Hibs losing in this match and Aberdeen winning against Livingston, only three points separate them in third and the Pittodrie club in fourth with two games remaining. Could there be a late twist at the top end of the table?
Porteous is a highly-rated defender and he’s well in the mix to make Steve Clarke’s Scotland squad for Euro 2020. But the developing centre-back had a lesson in the fine margins of football after O’Halloran latched onto his pass, setting up the winner for Middleton, who Davidson wants to bring back to Perth from Rangers next term.
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