St Johnstone have waited a long time to feel this good about being in Dundee, their 3-1 win at Dens Park yesterday marking their first outing there as a top-flight club in over 10 years. That it also exacerbated Dundee's winless home record since returning to the SPL this season offered further incentive to let their hosts know all about it.
Any revelry turned to something much more sombre with the news that Steven MacLean suffered a suspected dislocated elbow late on. The St Johnstone striker, who scored his side's third goal, was stretchered off having tussled with Iain Davidson and the image was on his manager's mind afterwards.
"He looks like he's dislocated his elbow," said Steve Lomas. "I thought he was unbelievable, for a boy who's not played that much."
Such an appraisal will have been intended to comfort the stricken striker, but Lomas's side were certainly accommodated by their hosts, the make-up of the Dundee rearguard looking somewhat unconvincing before the match got under way. That was exposed further when they started defending. The full-back roles were occupied by two experienced players in Gary Irvine and Matt Lockwood, but it was the heart of the defensive unit that looked most likely to haemorrhage.
On-loan Celtic defender Lewis Toshney is lean and quick, but needs a more experienced defender riding shotgun, while injuries forced Davidson to reprise his role at the back, having played at centre-half in the defeat by Celtic last week. Nominally a midfielder, he seemed discomfited by his change of environment.
Mind you, the bruising runs of Gregory Tade would make anyone uncomfortable. The St Johnstone striker made his presence felt by striding on to a low cross from Liam Craig before planting a shot into the roof of the net to end the deadlock after 15 minutes.
Dundee were unable to impose themselves as forcibly as they sought a way back into the match, but they were able to profit from some unfortunate defending from Frazer Wright. The St Johnstone man caught Martin Boyle high up on the thigh inside the penalty area after 22 minutes and referee Alan Muir pointed to the spot before issuing a yellow card. Ryan Conroy dispatched his own punishment with a goal.
That illustrated a truth about Dundee that may come to be lost under the rubble of poor results; they are capable of troubling teams in the top flight, or at least those likely to occupy the bottom six post-split. Colin Nish ensured he is a notable presence up front and his hold-up play allows such as Conroy and Jim McAlister to contribute from midfield.
Again, though, it was keeper Rab Douglas who was left to rue an opposing foray. Again his defenders seemed culpable. A high ball into the penalty area after 27 minutes was allowed to travel all the way to the far post where Craig re-directed it into the net. The St Johnstone midfielder toured the touchline, arms wide to bait the Dundee support. Their own side was already testing their patience. "We were beaten by the better team," said a solemn Dundee manager Barry Smith.
There would be further noises of indignation after the break when MacLean stooped to add a third goal for the visitors. St Johnstone fans rose to acclaim a goal which burnished their fourth straight victory, but the sight of MacLean in agony on the turf later on was more unsightly.
"We've been taking our chances well," said Lomas when his focus returned to the win. "We knew it would be a tough local derby, but it was a very professional job."