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St.Johnstone butcher table toppers Caley Thistle

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As Terry Butcher and his team travelled south along the A9 they sat proudly atop the Premiership and deservedly so after starting the season in fine form, their hosts on the other hand had stumbled after a blistering start taking only two points from their last five matches.

With the form book pointing towards a comfortable afternoon for the visitors no one could have predicted what was about to transpire at McDiarmid Park.

The Perth side started the match brightly, but it was Inverness who had the first chance of the match when Doran fired wide after a mix up in St.Johnstone’s reshuffled defence.

Surprisingly that was pretty much all she wrote for Butcher’s boys as the Saints pressed up the pitch high and hard not giving the Inverness back line a moment’s peace, the movement of MacLean and May was causing constant consternation for a normally reliable back line.

It would have been no surprise if the home side had taken the lead and controversy reigned in the 12th minute when MacDonald forced a Wotherspoon cross toward goal and as Brill excellently clawed the ball back the Saints to a man cheered that the ball had crossed the line but referee Conquer waved play on.

St.Johnstone continued to keep their visitors on the back foot and when they eventually took the lead it was no real shock, neat interplay between Mackay and MacLean saw the full back clear in the box and when he centred it, Stevie May was first to the ball sliding it past a helpless Brill.

With momentum and confidence coursing through the home side they continued with a passing game sorely missing in the past five games, Inverness on the other hand must have wondered how they were so far out of this game, for in truth they hadn’t really done much wrong in the opening exchanges.

St.Johnstone’s excellent form in the first half was epitomised in their second goal with some excellent passing and moving which saw the ball move from left to right and again Mackay pushing high up the pitch proved pivotal as he was slipped through by May to finish coolly past an exposed Brill.

Inverness plugged away gamely as they tried to carve an avenue back into a game which had passed them by and a half chance for Billy McKay which bounced harmlessly passed Mannus’ upright was all they could muster against Saints who were relentless and passed up several chances to increase their lead before the break.

As the second half started Brill was called straight into action as Saints carved open a great chance for Hasselbaink who thundered a strike goalwards which he tipped expertly over the bar.

Inverness seem to spring into life after Brill’s save and had there best period of the match matching the home side for long periods and finally forcing Mannus into a save as Doran struck from distance, but for all St Johnstone’s great forward play they had to rely on a solid back line and a colossus performance from Wright who seemed to stifle every attack Caley could muster.

It was on the back of this strong unit that the Saints increased their advantage, with the game balanced on the Inverness resurgence the next goal would be vital in the outcome of the match and it was the home side who grabbed it.

As another Inverness attack faltered the home side broke quick as May raced diwn the right he had time to square to MacLean who rifled home from the edge of the box leaving the excellent Brill stranded.

Inverness to their credit never gave up but in truth it was no surprise when the team who pipped Inverness to last seasons Euro spot added a fourth, May again with the assist as he beat Shinnie to fire in a cross which MacLean was grateful to slide in from close range for his second of the match.

Saints manager Tommy Wright was unsurprisingly satisfied with his team and after the match emphasised that it was a team performance, he said: “When you win four nil it’s often overlooked what the people at the back did but the two centre half’s were excellent.”

Terry Butcher was frank and honest, he added: “I can’t take one positive from today. We weren’t here today we didn’t turn up, I can;t take anything away from St.Johnstone short of applauding them myself from the sideline which I don’t like doing, they were tremendous.”

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