St Johnstone have shown battling qualities to keep up their impressive run of form, drawing with Rangers 2-2 in Perth.
Callum Hendry had given St Johnstone the lead eight minutes in before Florian Kamberi scored a brilliant equaliser early in the second half. He set up Joe Aribo for a second Gers goal but Saints were to deliver a sucker punch.
Stevie May made the most of a loose ball in the six yard box, burying a first time effort in the bottom corner to hand Tommy Wright’s side a valuable point. They may have delivered a pivotal blow in the title race too as Rangers drop more pivotal points.
The resurgent Saints were heading into this one in good form, losing one of their last seven fixtures. Wright’s side will have been looking for an unlikely victory to turn their outside top six push into a realistic tilt.
That objective got off to the best possible start. Hendry broke past Nikola Katic, firing a low effort under Allan McGregor as three stands of Rangers fans were left stunned.
Zander Clark had to keep on his toes shortly after his side’s opener. Ryan Kent’s powerful effort was well saved with a strong hand before Ryan Jack’s effort had to be pushed over the bar.
It had all gone to plan in the opening 20 minutes, perhaps even better than Wright thought it would have. Jamie McCart could have made it even better but fired over the bar from 12 yards out after finding himself in acres of space.
St Johnstone were frustrating Rangers, denying them any big goalscoring opportunities after Clark’s initial two stops following the goal. They were getting into decent attacking positions themselves too.
James Tavernier was next to test the Saints’ resilience but Wright’s men got enough bodies in the way to block Rangers’ route to goal. Wright’s side got to half time with the advantage in their favour.
A test of nerve was to come in the second half but they could do very little about Rangers’ equaliser. Tavernier’s cross found substitute Kamberi, who proceeded to send a wicked half-volley into the top corner.
St Johnstone came close after this through a May flick but it was saved by McGregor. Rangers were increasing their attacking pressure and there was only so much the Saints could take.
Eventually it was Kamberi causing them problems again, cutting a ball in from the left into the path of Aribo, who made no mistake with a finish past Clark. It gave the home side a big task but they were able to rise to it superbly.
David Wotherspoon’s corner into the box was poorly cleared by Katic and May was there. He swept the ball home to restore level pegging between the sides as a big final ten minutes looked set to play out.
In the end St Johnstone held on for what is a good point on home soil. Here are three things we learned.
Hendry proving to be a talisman
Often dubbed an impact sub at times this season, Hendry is more than a capable starter. In his last four games now he has three goals as the forward continues his hot streak of form.
Wright may only have started him in six games prior to this match but Hendry can surely expect to at least double that tally before the season’s end. His goals are helping St Johnstone up the table.
Top six not out of Saints’ sight
It wasn’t too long ago that St Johnstone were looking for points to get out of relegation trouble. Now in a brilliant run of form, this result and performance keeps their outside top six hopes alive.
They sit five points off Hibs in sixth and are still to play the Hibees and fifth placed Livingston before the split. It’s a big ask, but don’t write the Saints out the top six race just yet.
McDiarmid Rangers run is halted
St Johnstone might not have won this fight but a draw is a good result. It also brings an end to a Rangers run that stretches all the way back to 2011.
They had won the last ten league meetings between the two in Perth. Wright’s men showed determination and skill to make sure Rangers didn’t make it 11 this time around.