i: St Johnstone (3) – Livingston (0)

St Johnstone vs Livingston
Scottish Communities League Cup Round 2
FT: 3 (Wright 13; Sandaza 18, 25) – 0
Attendance: 2,439
Wednesday 24th August 2011

I’m just in from Saints second-round League Cup tie against Livingston, and although not wanting to write a full blog post on the game I thought I’d try to note down some quick thoughts.

Having been to all three home games so far this season, I think this is the most confident I’ve seen Saints in a while. Although you could argue that Livi are “only” a First Division side, I had expected them to present a serious challenge to Saints – they’ve had a great start to the season, scoring 23 goals in six competitive matches, with ex-Saint Kenny Deuchar in particularly fine form. By contrast, until Sunday’s win over Celtic Saints had continued to struggle in front of goal. The poor show in our last home game against Dunfermline hardly gave me confidence that we’d turn over a side that would be well fired up to take an SPL scalp. As you may have guessed, I do rate Livi pretty highly, so despite some nagging fears thought it would be a good game so headed along on my own (for the first time ever!).

Turned out my fears were misplaced – Saints started strong, with Murray Davidson firing over the bar after a matter of minutes, soon followed by an opening goal attributed to Fraser Wright in a goal-mouth scramble. Cillian Sheridan shot just wide in a repeat of his near-miss at Parkhead on Sunday before Fran Sandaza scored his first two Saints goals, the first of which was a screamer from 20 yards, to complete the scoring well before half an hour had passed.

For once, the chances didn’t stop there. Even though I’m delighted with the result, there’s a little part of me that was disappointed it didn’t end up four or five. According to the BBC match report Saints had 6 shots on target and 11 off. I remember Davidson putting another one over the bar then injuring himself in a later collision with the keeper, Jody Morris put a couple of shots in the second half, and in the dying minutes new loan signing Willie Gibson put another just over. A great bit of build up play from Gibson and Sandaza found substitute Marcus Haber in front of the box with a clear chance on goal, however the ball had gone between his legs and his attempt to backheel it in went awry – just one of those things I guess, if he’d pulled it off it would have been a cracker.

To give Livi their due, despite going three down they came back into the game (sense a theme?), made a few chances of their own and saw quite a bit of possession in the second half, though ultimately struggled to make the break through. The Good Doctor himself Kenny Deuchar was taken off at half time, presumably due to an injury, but seemed fairly anonymous while he was on the pitch.

I don’t know if it was just because I’d switched ends at half time and was closer to the moaners so it became more obvious, but Saints did fall back into frustrating spells where they continued to pass the ball back rather than pushing forward when in Livi’s half – there were a couple of occasions on particular where there appeared to be good opportunities to get the ball towards the box that weren’t taken. I’ve read elsewhere (but didn’t spot myself) that McInnes was raging about it.

A really good team performance tonight, with everyone on the park doing themselves proud over the full 90 minutes. Sandaza lived up to a lot of the early promising, showing the imagination that’s maybe been lacking in the final third for a while. Gibson made a strong debut, looking like he could team up well with Sandaza and Sheridan. The defence was solid, Enckelman looks like he’s got his confidence back, Jamie Adams looked like a player that should be on the pitch regularly and Dave Mackay had another great game.

It’s still early days in the season, but the last two games have definitely given me a more positive outlook – I’m now looking forward to Dundee United’s visit on Saturday!

Michael Lambert

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