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St Johnstone 4-0 Inverness CT (agg 6-2): Perth side preserve top-flight status in Scottish Premiership play-off final

Shaun Rooney scores for St Johnstone against Inverness
Shaun Rooney scored the first and final goals of the Scottish Premiership play-off final

St Johnstone emphatically sealed top-flight football for a 14th successive season against Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the Scottish Premiership play-off final.

With the sides tied 2-2 following Friday’s first leg, Stevie May came off the bench to put the hosts in front 51 seconds into the second half.

Cammy MacPherson’s first St Johnstone goal gave Callum Davidson’s side some breathing space before Callum Hendry and Shaun Rooney made sure of victory with identical chips.

Inverness had been the better side in the first half but remain in the Championship for a sixth campaign in a row.

  • Reaction & as it happened

With much for St Johnstone to lose, their play was hurried early on. MacPherson was booked for taking out Kirk Broadfoot and Dan Cleary’s rushed pass back sliced wide by goalkeeper Zander Clark.

Inverness midfielder David Carson followed MacPherson into the book after catching James Brown late as the opening half became ever more scrappy.

Brown nodded clear Wallace Duffy’s dangerous header and a further chance came the visitors’ way when Billy Mckay released Austin Samuels into the box, Clark saving well.

Saints could not find space in behind the Caley Thistle defence as they had in the first leg and a chance that fell Hendry’s way was snuffed out before the break.

Then, the pivotal change. Glenn Middleton was withdrawn injured by at half-time, heralding May’s arrival.

And Saints’ three-time domestic cup winner made his mark on the final with the opening goal, pouncing on the rebound to strike after Melker Hallberg’s header was saved.

The visitors had most of the second half to respond but soon found themselves two down. MacPherson collected Brown’s pass on the edge of the box and his powerful drive took a nick off a defender past Mark Ridgers.

Inverness had to replicate their feat of coming back from two down in the first leg and Samuels tested Clark before Aaron Doran swiped an excellent chance wide.

And Reece McAlear, who scored twice on Friday, found his way to goal blocked by desperate St Johnstone defending.

While the visitors threw players forward, Hendry peeled off to receive Hallberg’s pass and stay onside. The forward had a clear run at goal and lifted the ball past Ridgers.

St Johnstone were not finished there and Rooney, who scored the opening goal of the play-off final, took Cleary’s pass and produced a carbon copy of Hendry’s finish just two minutes later to secure a resounding victory.

Man of the match – Melker Hallberg

Melker Hallberg makes a block for St Johnstone against Inverness
The midfielder (left) made his presence known in both halves of the pitch as St Johnstone battled to victory

What did they say?

St Johnstone manager Callum Davidson: “Probably relief more than anything else. It’s a fantastic achievement from the players. We were in a really dark place November, December. The chairman backed us and we managed to bring some players in.

“All credit to everybody involved. This is probably a bigger achievement than winning the cups. It’s mentally really tough when you’re losing games. Big thanks to my staff, my players and everybody involved.”

Inverness CT manager Billy Dodds: “Proud and disappointed. Proud of the players for the season. Disappointed the way it turned out. We played really well first half. I thought we had them.

“The goal changed the game. When they get the goal and then the deflection, we had to chase and then we’re open and they catch us. I think 4-0 was harsh on my boys. We gain experience from it and get ready for next season.”

What did we learn?

St Johnstone’s season started juggling domestic and European matches following the previous term’s domestic cup double. It has ended with a close shave with relegation.

While a handful of Premiership managers have lost their jobs in recent months, Davidson has emerged as the obvious argument for keeping faith with an incumbent, his animated celebrations at full-time exuding both joy and relief.

The last thing he or anyone else associated with the Perth club will want is another relegation fight next term.

Inverness had defied the odds time and again in their three play-off ties – coming from behind to oust Partick Thistle, beating Arbroath on penalties after having two players sent off and scoring twice to peg back St Johnstone on Friday.

But getting a win at McDiarmid Park proved to be a bridge too far for Billy Dodds’ side.

They will start the next campaign as one of the favourites to win the second tier but will have at least one major obstacle in newly relegated Dundee.

  • Line-ups
  • Match Stats
  • Live Text

Line-ups

St Johnstone

Formation 3-4-1-2

  • 1Clark
  • 5Cleary
  • 6Gordon
  • 16Mahon
  • 19Rooney
  • 18MacPhersonBooked at 5mins
  • 8Davidson
  • 2Brown
  • 29Hallberg
  • 14MiddletonSubstituted forMayat 45′minutes
  • 22Hendry

Substitutes

  • 7May
  • 11O’Halloran
  • 12Parish
  • 15Gilmour
  • 23Çiftçi
  • 26Craig
  • 27Sang

Inverness CT

Formation 4-3-3

  • 1Ridgers
  • 2Duffy
  • 15BroadfootBooked at 71mins
  • 6DevineSubstituted forHardyat 82′minutes
  • 5Deas
  • 8CarsonBooked at 20minsSubstituted forHarperat 74′minutes
  • 4WelshSubstituted forAllardiceat 81′minutes
  • 23McAlear
  • 24Samuels
  • 9Mckay
  • 17ChalmersSubstituted forDoranat 65′minutes

Substitutes

  • 3Harper
  • 10Doran
  • 18Allardice
  • 20Hardy
  • 21MacKay
  • 28Hyde
Referee:
Nick Walsh

Match Stats

Home TeamSt JohnstoneAway TeamInverness CT
Possession
Home47%
Away53%
Shots
Home9
Away11
Shots on Target
Home5
Away4
Corners
Home5
Away5
Fouls
Home6
Away11

Live Text

  1. Post update

    Match ends, St. Johnstone 4, Inverness CT 0.

  2. Full Time

    Second Half ends, St. Johnstone 4, Inverness CT 0.

  3. Post update

    Attempt missed. Austin Samuels (Inverness CT) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Joseph Hardy.

  4. Post update

    Corner, Inverness CT. Conceded by Daniel Cleary.

  5. Post update

    Aaron Doran (Inverness CT) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  6. Post update

    Foul by Cameron MacPherson (St. Johnstone).

  7. Goal!

    Goal! St. Johnstone 4, Inverness CT 0. Shaun Rooney (St. Johnstone) right footed shot from the right side of the box to the centre of the goal. Assisted by Daniel Cleary.

  8. Post update

    Offside, St. Johnstone. Melker Hallberg tries a through ball, but Stevie May is caught offside.

  9. Goal!

    Goal! St. Johnstone 3, Inverness CT 0. Callum Hendry (St. Johnstone) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the bottom left corner. Assisted by Melker Hallberg with a through ball following a fast break.

  10. Post update

    Robbie Deas (Inverness CT) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  11. Post update

    Foul by Callum Hendry (St. Johnstone).

  12. Post update

    Attempt blocked. Reece McAlear (Inverness CT) left footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked.

  13. Substitution

    Substitution, Inverness CT. Joseph Hardy replaces Danny Devine.

  14. Substitution

    Substitution, Inverness CT. Scott Allardice replaces Sean Welsh.

  15. Post update

    Hand ball by Stevie May (St. Johnstone).

  16. Post update

    Offside, St. Johnstone. Liam Gordon tries a through ball, but Stevie May is caught offside.

  17. Post update

    Murray Davidson (St. Johnstone) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  18. Post update

    Foul by Austin Samuels (Inverness CT).

  19. Post update

    Attempt missed. Melker Hallberg (St. Johnstone) left footed shot from the right side of the box misses to the right.

  20. Post update

    Corner, St. Johnstone. Conceded by Austin Samuels.

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