SAM McClelland has predicted that St Johnstone can put their dire start to the new season firmly behind them and enjoy a good campaign - when their new signings have settled in to life at McDiarmid Park.

The Perth club lost three of their four League Cup group games to lower league opponents last month and failed to qualify for the knockout rounds of that competition.

And Steven MacLean’s men slumped to a 2-0 defeat to Hearts at home in their cinch Premiership opener on Saturday after conceding second-half goals to Yutaro Oda and Lawrence Shankland.

But McLelland, the Northern Ireland internationalist who made his debut at the weekend, thought that St Johnstone performed well against the Tynecastle club and were unfortunate not to get a result.

The centre half is confident that MacLean’s men, who face Ross County in Dingwall this Saturday, have the quality and strength in depth which they need to compete and survive in the top flight this term.

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“I’m still getting fully up to speed, but hopefully I can build on that start,” he said. “From a team point of view, there were plenty of positives for us to build on as well.

“Everyone knows the results in the cup weren’t great, but I could see in training this week that we have good players here. The ones being brought in will add to that too.

“It’s going to be a long season and I’m sure we’ll do well. I think everyone could see it was so much better. We’ve lost the game, but the match was definitely something to build on.

“Myself and Dare (Oludare Olufunwa) have gone straight in, Jephs (Luke Jephcott) is still fairly new and Matty (Smith) only arrived on Friday. There are a lot of us still getting to know our team-mates and how we play. That’s not an overnight thing. It will take a bit of time.

The Herald: Rangers loanee Alex Lowry, right, in action on his debut against Hearts during his debut against St

“But good players can make it happen quicker. As a team, we want quality players to keep coming in because it pushes us and makes the team better.

“When we have periods of dominance – like we did in the first-half against Hearts – it’s about translating that into goals. They took their chance that fell to them. Football is about both boxes – taking them at one end and stopping them at the other.”

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Bulgarian goalkeeper Dimitar Mitov, who joined St Johnstone from Cambridge United last month, pulled off a string of good saves against Hearts and McClelland is excited about playing with him in the coming months. 

“As a centre-back it’s great to have a goalkeeper of his quality behind me,” he said. “That relationship will build as the games go on and we get to know each other’s games.

Meanwhile, McClelland has revealed the role that his countryman Tommy Wright, who spent seven years as St Johnstone manager, had in his move to McDiarmid Park from Chelsea.

“I spoke to Tommy a couple of days before I came up,” he said. “He was obviously here for a long time and he spoke very highly about the club. It was all positive and good for me to hear when I was doing my homework.”