141220 stjohnstone draper 001St Johnstone 1 v 0 Inverness Caledonian Thistle

So the Scottish Cup holders, on a six match unbeaten run prevailed against Inverness in Perth by the narrowest of margins. The history books will only record that the Perth side were awarded the three points, not that they were beaten on possession and shots on goal and required quite outrageous fortune to prevail in the game. Inverness, meanwhile can only curse the slings and arrows. How did this come about?

The first sixty minutes of the game were steady from both sides, neither creating any golden opportunities to score although Ross Draper signalled intent before the first thirty seconds had elapsed. MacKay had Graeme Shinnie to thank for the disappointment of his shot being cleared off the line just before half time, O’Halloran always looked lively and Brill had a couple of tidy saves to make but in truth that was that. Inverness had played their usual patient game of containment and counter attack, Doran and Christie starting in place of Watkins and Williams.

John Hughes said: "Even in defeat they show spirit. We're maybe just looking at heavier pitches and asking if this is slowing our football down. If it is we just need to adjust and get back to winning ways. What these have boys have done since I came to the club has been outstanding. I have no doubt whatsoever we will regroup.”

141220 stjohnstone raven 001Regroup they will have to, because St. Johnstone won the game just after the hour mark, beginning with a highly debateable penalty being awarded when Graham latched on to an under hit pass from Ryan Christie. There appeared little danger as Graham took the ball wide in the area and Dean Brill got out to challenge. The Saints man went down and Brian Colvin awarded the penalty. Graham converted. It’s not the place of this website to fuel the controversy, but the referee and his assistant will be chastened when they examine the award.

141220 stjohnstone doran 001As far as danger to Inverness goes that was that. St. Johnstone never looked like creating much more although they should have when a second instalment of controversy added to the already bitter recipe that the game was becoming. Ross Draper played a ball to the right touchline, facing his own goal. Simon Lappin, at full pace to make the challenge, clattered into the big Englishman. He had turned his shoulder into the challenge, arms in a protective posture and the Saints man went down. Mr. Colvin produced a red card for violent conduct. Those are the bare facts, but the St. Johnstone players hounding the referee and baying for the card hardly helped.

141220 stjohnstone tansey 001Inverness might have been forgiven at that point if they had simply packed up and gone home, but it prompted their best chance of an equaliser when David Raven, contender for man of the match again, hit a shot that scraped the post with Mannus beaten. It wasn’t to be.

As ever in the SPFL, there is no respite and whilst the rest of us are pursuing some kind of recovery between festive binges, spare a thought for the players who will be preparing for the visit of Aberdeen and the small matter of a Highland derby shortly after it. May you and your own have the Christmas you desire and please accept our best wishes for the festive season.

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