THE Specials' Ghost Town seemed a fitting musical post-script as it rang round McDiarmid Park at the conclusion of St Johnstone's low-key goalless friendly against York City of England's League Two yesterday, but manager Tommy Wright and his players hope to be spurred on by a much more spirited atmosphere in their stadium on Thursday night.
The return of the 8,000-strong crowds that took in the home legs of the Perth club's Europa League qualifying adventures against Rosenborg and Dinamo Minsk 12 months ago could be a significant difference-maker in whether they can capitalise on last week's 1-1 first-leg draw in Switzerland with an FC Luzern side who by all accounts look a more accomplished team than either of those two.
"It would be great to get a crowd like that again," said defender Tam Scobbie, a veteran of last year's run, as well as an unhappier Europa League venture with Falkirk against Liechtenstein's FC Vaduz, who also play in the Swiss league system.
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"First and foremost, it would be great financially, but I think everyone who was at the Rosenborg game remembers the atmosphere, the jubilation and congratulations we received at the final whistle.
"Hopefully we can get more of the same. It is going to be a difficult game, we know that and I am sure our fans will realise it too, particularly the 1,000 or so who travelled to Switzerland. But when we get a crowd of 8000 or 9000 in here it makes you feel better, like you have that extra man. If they could come out in those numbers again it would be much appreciated."
The good news for any Saints fans who are still swithering over attending Thursday's match is that Stevie May, the club's talismanic striker, will be fit to play. The Scotland under-21 player spent the first match on the bench as he nursed a thigh injury.
He was rested again yesterday, but Wright will unleash him against a Luzern side which finished fourth in the Swiss league last season, and were good enough on their travels to win 3-0 in Basel.
Centre-half Steven Anderson, one of the scorers in last season's Scottish Cup final triumph, remains sidelined by a hamstring injury meaning Dave MacKay and Frazer Wright seem likely to continue in central defence. "I didn't see the point in playing Stevie May today to be honest," Wright said. "But he is fit, he didn't need the run-out. He will play [on Thursday], he is ready to go. Hopefully he will help us cause them a few more problems.
"Anyone who was at the first leg will see they are a threat but I feel we will have a bit more about us in terms of going forward, and give them more to worry about. Even if the tie stays at 1-1 then we go through.
"The atmosphere for the Rosenborg game in particular last year was incredible and if we can get 8,000 or 9,000 fans in here again then that could be a huge help."
Wright rested all of those who started the European match but Scobbie - along with Michael O'Halloran, one of only two established outfield first-team squad members playing yesterday - was grateful for his first full 90 minutes in around four months. The defender was used as a late substitute at the end of the match in Switzerland.
"The way Luzern moved the ball, pressed and interchanged made it difficult for us to settle," Scobbie said. "But once we got the goal it made a hell of a difference.
"Alan Mannus had a couple of world-class saves, and they hit the bar and the post, but as a whole the squad was great over there and for Liam Caddis and Scott Brown to come in and do so well says a lot for them. It was good to get 90 minutes today and if called upon I am ready to go."