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Ross County 1 St Johnstone 2: St Johnstone hit the spot, even without their talismanic marksman

St Johnstone began life without Stevie May with a stirring victory in the Highlands yesterday and a performance which suggested there are enough players left in the squad who know how to score goals.

Lee Croft of St Johnstone finds a way past Yoann Arquin as the Perth side triumph in their opening league match. Picture: SNS
Lee Croft of St Johnstone finds a way past Yoann Arquin as the Perth side triumph in their opening league match. Picture: SNS

There was a notable freshness and creativity within the side which had just lost their talismanic striker and had endured the rigours of European competition three days earlier, but were still able to win their opening league fixture against Ross County.

A 2-1 victory - following goals for the visitors from Michael O'Halloran and Steven MacLean - might have been the headline of the day for the Perth club too, had another good news story not superseded it later in the evening. Tommy Wright is this week expected to sign a new three-year contract as manager.

That details of that deal have been discussed over a number of months. The facts of his side's win against County were made clear in just 90 minutes, with St Johnstone playing eagerly and without apprehension, despite having lost a striker who contributed 27 goals last season. A deal to sell May to Sheffield Wednesday was completed on Saturday but Wright is confident that he still has players capable of finding the net regularly this season.

"It's always good to get the first win, particularly on the road, particularly after the tough European game we had last week," said the St Johnstone manager. "We effectively lost 27 or 28 goals from midfield last season and people asked, 'where are the goals going to come from?' Stevie May stepped up. He's gone now and it's probably natural that people feel we will struggle for goals.

"But you saw how we played today. I think we created enough chances and other people are going to have to step up to the mark. If we keep producing quality and getting the ball in good areas and committing people forward, we'll score goals. I've no worries in that regard."

He has bolstered his attack in part with the acquisition of Adam Morgan, who has moved on loan from Yeovil Town. He is 20, and has arrived with a promising pedigree following an earlier spell at Liverpool, albeit while also having lofty expectations placed on his shoulders. Morgan had to settle for a spot on the bench in Dingwall and, in the end, remained there. It was left instead to MacLean to score the clinching second goal.

Michael O'Halloran had given the visitors a foothold already when he scored against the run of play after 29 minutes. David Wotherspoon's high cross was punched under pressure by goalkeeper Antonio Reguero, but unconvincingly, allowing Dave Mackay to drill the loose ball into a ruck of players and O'Halloran to sweep it into the net.

County responded with an effort from the impressive Graham Carey but the Highland side fell further behind three minutes after the break as MacLean powered a diving header past Reguero.

County's reaction was positive, though, and they clawed back a goal on 55 minutes. Yoann Arquin lifted a cross into the six-yard box and Jake Jervis - who was making his competitive debut for County - leapt high above all others to send a header into the net.

The County striker had a penalty claim waved away on 66 minutes after Tam Scobbie leapt all over him just inside the box, but neither the Englishman nor his side were able to produce an equaliser.

Derek Adams was encouraged by his side's display, however. "It was a good performance from us - we created a lot of the chances in the game, hitting the bar twice," said the County manager.

"I don't think we deserved that after controlling large aspects of the game. As the season goes on we'll get the breaks we probably deserved."

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