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Hibernian 0 St Johnstone 0: Sequel to on-off affair

PERHAPS St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright should forget about using his bench.

Two weeks ago, at home to Aberdeen, substitute Rory Fallon took around 50 seconds to get himself sent off. Yesterday, Patrick Cregg beat that time - comfortably - by immediately launching himself full throttle into a tackle on Paul Cairney. Referee Alan Muir reacted instantly, sending the furious replacement straight back down the tunnel.

Cregg had been brought on after half an hour for Murray Davidson, who was struggling with an ankle knock. His midfield partner, Gary McDonald, was, meanwhile, sporting a blood-stained head bandage. The red card meant Wright was forced into two changes before half-time, with Gary Miller coming on in a reshuffle after the sending-off, a Chris Millar made way.

"I thought it was a red card, he was slightly over the ball," admitted Wright after his 10 men held out for a draw, although he insisted there had been a foul by James Collins just beforehand. "It was a magnificent point. To play for over an hour away from home with 10 men is always difficult ,but I thought we limited to them to very few chances. I think Alan Mannus only had to make one save - what a save it was, though."

That save came from a late Collins header, thumped powerfully across goal. Mannus dived quickly to his right and pawed the ball away to safety. It meant St Johnstone salvaged a point after an impressive rearguard display against a hard-working but far from incisive Hibernian attack.

Although the hosts emerged determined after the break and put the visiting defence under near-constant pressure, in truth they only sporadically looked as if they might score.

They did create half-chances, though. A brilliant touch by Scott Robertson killed a difficult long ball stone dead before he skimmed it low across the box. The ball took a huge deflection and Mannus had to dive sharply and instantly to his left to clear. Liam Craig then sent in a deep cross which somehow eluded Jason Cummings. It looked as if the striker only had to stretch out his foot and tap it in, but the ball bounced wide.

By then hosts were constantly on the attack. At one point, the ball was crossed back and forth across goal four times as St Johnstone desperately tried to clear. A Craig shot from outside the box rasped straight down Mannus's throat and a Collins volley deflected out for a corner. The pressure soon eased, though, and boos rang out as the hosts' touch deserted them - passes were misplaced and balls left for others trundled safely back to the defence. St Johnstone's best chance had come in the first half. David Wotherspoon did brilliantly down the wing, dancing past Paul Hanlon then fooling Ryan McGivern with a faked cross and skipping past the full-back. His cross found its way somehow to Stevie May, who had two attempts at poking the ball home, the ball not quite sitting up for him in the six-yard box, before Ben Williams was able to gratefully snatch it.

"I don't want to ever be sitting up in the stands again," said Hibs manager Terry Butcher, who had been serving a touchline ban. "It was very frustrating. I could hear the crowd behind me and blimey, all you want to do is give them what they want and that's goals and wins. But the boys worked hard, you can just see the confidence is not there. There's a fear of winning there."

As the rain lashed down, the game went out with a bang. As the ball fell for Collins in the box and there appeared to be contact between the Hibs striker and St Johnstone defender Brian Easton. The crowd screamed for a penalty, as did Collins, but referee Muir shook his head.

Contextual targeting label: 
Football

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