An unfortunate 4th minute own goal by Scott McMann was enough to give Saints all three points in this rearranged league fixture at Perth.
Darian MacKinnon made a very speedy comeback after being out with ligament damage and came through the 90 minutes ok.
Martin McConnell reports from Perth…
McDiarmid Park, Perth
Wednesday 28th March 2018 at 7.45pm.
St. Johnstone 1 Hamilton Academical 0
We had hoped to steal a march on the bottom three, instead, defeat leaves us winless in the last three seasons at McDiarmid Park. With one more game in hand, we remain in ninth place, ahead of a challenging run of games before the split.
Accies manager Martin Canning said afterwards, “It’s frustrating because there wasn’t much between the teams. I told the boys coming here we had a chance to look upwards instead of over our shoulders but we didn’t take the opportunity. We were not good enough in the first half but I thought we played well in the second half and probably deserved to take something.”
The Accies boss turned to the tried and tested after his side went on a three-game unbeaten run. Darian MacKinnon made a welcome return from injury with Dougie Imrie joining him to captain the side. Georgios Sarris came back into the defence, with Rakish Bingham up front to partner Marios Ogkmpoe. Jenkins, Van der Weg and Rojano dropped to the bench, with Lewis Ferguson rested after his exertions with the Scotland under 19s.
Saints meanwhile made just two changes, with Williams and Kerr in for Liam Gordon and Chris Millar, as they sought to continue a nine-game unbeaten run against Accies.
Saints looked good for continuing that form, making an ominous start to the game. Accies fell behind on just four minutes, as the hosts won a succession of early corners. Alston’s delivery was met by Craig and deflected off Scott McMann high past a helpless Gary Woods.
We looked vulnerable at the set piece again five minutes later, as the ball broke to Kane inside the penalty area. Fortunately, Bingham was back to make a crucial goal line clearance. Accies were living dangerously, with Kane and Alston giving a platform for the early Saints attacks.
The two combined again on 24 minutes when Kane sent the ball just over the cross bar with a free header inside the box. Templeton looked sharp for Hamilton at the other end, but Saints were showing the better width and cutting edge for the opening half hour.
The home corner count continued to stack up, with Scott McMann redeeming himself for the own goal just short of the half hour, with a spectacular blocking tackle on Alston’s shot from Tanser’s cut back.
Every Saints delivery into the box seemed to cause consternation in the Accies area, with Craig’s goal bound header blocked to safety by Lyon. Woods finally dealt with Kane’s effort from the rebound as the pressure mounted.
Saints will have been the more disappointed side not to be out of sight at half time, while Accies hadn’t really got a foothold in the Saints half and brought on Jenkins and Rojano at half time to try and make an impact.
Accies looked much more lively and purposeful from the start of the second half, without seriously testing Allan Mannus for the opening hour. But a chance finally arrived from Imrie’s inswinging corner, headed out toward Darian MacKinnon inside the box on 69 minutes, his shot was kept low but Mannus managed to grab a hold on his goal line.
Templeton looked Hamilton’s best hope of salvaging anything whenever he had the ball at his feet. His shot from the edge box went just wide on 75 minutes after taking a slight deflection, then his resulting corner kick found Imrie inside the box, but the Saints defence scrambling clear.
It rushed from end to end, Saints almost wrapping things up, as McLean found Kane on a swift counter attack, but Gary Woods did well to palm wide.
But for this, the goalmouth action was few and far between. A disjointed affair came to an end, Accies never quite out of it, but unable to conjure an equaliser. For Saints the top six is still a mathematical possibility, as they move seven points clear of Accies in the table.
Saints: Mannus, Tanser, Alston, Shaughnessy, Anderson, Davidson, MacLean, Williams (Willock, 72), Kerr, Kane, Craig Subs Unused: Clark, Millar, Johnstone, McClean, Watson, Gordon
Goals: McMann 4 og.
Accies: Woods, McMann, Tomas, Imrie (c), Bingham (Rojano, 45), Templeton, MacKinnon, Lyon, Want, Sarris, Ogkmpoe (Jenkins 45) Subs Unused: Fulton, Redmond, Hughes, Van der Weg.
Cautions: Want, Sarris.
Referee: Euan Anderson. Assistants: Mark McLean & Ivan Stankovic. 4th Official: Nick Walsh.