St Johnstone came from 2-0 down in the first half to win 3-2 against Kilmarnock after a stunning second 45 minutes at Rugby Park.
Kilmarnock opened the scoring after four minutes through Chris Burke before Aaron Tshibola handed Alex Dyer’s side a comfortable half-time lead. But Guy Melamed pulled one back for Callum Davidson early in the second half and then Murray Davidson and Ali McCann goals sealed an excellent second comeback and three Saints points.
This was set to be a tight affair. St Johnstone have played the most amount of games without a goal away from home this term while Kilmarnock had scored in the joint-fewest matches in the league prior to kick-off. But with both needing a win to ease any lingering bottom two fears, goals were needed.
And the trend looked to be bucking for Saints early on, McCann then Davidson watching efforts trickle past the post inside the opening two minutes. But Killie were to strike first after four minutes.
Ever-reliable Burke danced his way past the entire left-hand side of St Johnstone, firing low past Zander Clark for 1-0. Chances tailed off after this in the first half-hour but it was still a back and forth game that some might not have expected.
Tshibola then handed the home team full control. A drive on the right found its way to Nicke Kabamba, who’s shot was saved by Clark but turned in by Tshibola after 31 minutes. Saints had more chances overall in the first 45 but Killie had taken their opportunities when they presented themselves.
A big second 45 awaited both sides and perhaps things would be more open from a St Johnstone point of view as they needed three for the win. They got an almost immediate response, Scott Tanser’s cross eventually finding Melamed, who tapped into an empty net following a Chris Kane effort.
53 minutes into the half and this one was well and truly alive again and it was Saints who were in the upward trajectory by some distance.
Killie were getting slightly deeper and eventually that proved too much. Tanser launched another good ball into the box and after a scramble in the penalty area, Davidson came out claiming the goal that had leveled proceedings after 67 minutes.
No sooner than four minutes later and Saints were ahead and what a goal it was. Some brilliant link-up play from defence to attack found Melamed, who teed up McCann outside the box, leathering the ball home from 18 yards.
Dyer’s men threw plenty into the Saints box during the final 15 minutes but were very open to the counter, which Saints almost exposed on a few occasions. But eventually Davidson’s side grinded it out to secure a brilliant win. Here are three things we learned.
While both of these sides have shown their Premiership credentials this term, they aren’t out the woods yet in terms of safety due to how tight it is at the bottom. With the bottom three all not playing this weekend, this was a chance to pull away.
It’s the Saints who have managed that, moving seven points clear of 11th and eight of 12th. Killie meanwhile have an extra game and sit four points above 11th, Motherwell below them in 10th having two games in hand.
This was a good battle again between these ties and predictably it was another tight one. You would have to go back to 2016 to find a game where this has been separated by more than two goals, and before that, 2010.
Nine of the last 34 matches have been split by more than a goal, the rest just one strike of a difference or a draw. Again it was close but it’s St Johnstone who are on the right side of the fine margins. That said, this was the highest scoring clash between the pair since a 3-1 St Johnstone win in 2013.
Given the lack of goals from Saints on the road this season, seeing them score three probably wasn’t what everyone expected. But they did just that and in all shapes and angles too.
The first made the most of a situation, the second a scramble and a third of sheer quality. It’s a great three points for Saints to cap off a great week but Dyer will wonder how his side have managed to lose this one.
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