WHILE some managers might bristle at being described as pragmatic, Derek Adams would likely view the depiction as a compliment.
And why not? The Ross County manager's adherence to the basics has, after all, enabled him to nurture a burgeoning coaching career which has encompassed a Scottish Cup final appearance and the Dingwall club's unlikely ascension to the Clydesdale Bank Premier League.
Some of that success was soundtracked by criticism, with rival first division managers uniting last term to deride County's style of play as direct and lacking the subtlety needed to forge a campaign of mid-table mediocrity. Adams' riposte was to win the championship. Now ensconced in the top flight, he is once again allowing his side's league position to convey his argument as quiet carping over County's defensive approach begins to grow in volume.
Take Saturday. The Highland side were determined to avoid defeat in Perth, so set out to frustrate St Johnstone. The hosts enjoyed most of the play and almost all of the clear opportunities but were let down by their own profligacy; County seizing upon a lapse of concentration at a free-kick and benefiting from a generous deflection to earn a point.
A job well done. Yet still the post-match chatter was coloured with references to their lack of ambition. But what is Adams supposed to do? The calendar dictated that County start with a schedule of gruelling away engagements, while the departure of playmaker Michael Gardyne in the summer necessitated an adaptation in approach. The manager's job is to prolong his club's stay at this level so he has schooled his players to maximise their strengths.
"They fed themselves on our mistake and they play with what they've got," conceded Gregory Tade, the St Johnstone striker, whose lapse in concentration allowed Iain Vigurs to force the equaliser. "They travelled for the draw and I don't think they were set up to attack us the way we attacked them. They've got promoted and we are near the top of the league so any points they can get they will be happy with."
Tade talks as someone who has been in that position himself during a storied journey through the ranks of the Scottish game. St Johnstone, too, were initially little more than obstinate opponents upon their return to the top division three seasons ago but have grown in to an established Premier League side. No longer is it enough for them to simply be difficult to beat.
It was a mark of how far they have progressed that they were disconsolate at missing the opportunity to move into third place on Saturday. "We should have won by a mile," said Tade. "But we will have other chances to get there."
51' 1-0 Dave Mackay breaks into the right side of the area, cuts inside Marc Fitzpatrick too easily, and slides a shot inside Michael Fraser's near post.
69' 1-1 A quick Richard Brittain free kick finds Iain Vigurs. His shot is fizzing wide before striking Liam Craig and spinning away from Alan Mannus.