CONNOR Smith remains confident St Johnstone can haul themselves away from the foot of the cinch Premiership table and survive in the top flight this season – thanks to the experience of Craig Levein.

Smith came off the bench against Celtic at Parkhead on Saturday and netted a late consolation goal for the McDiarmid Park club – his first since moving to Perth from Hearts back in January.

But the 22-year-old midfielder was still bitterly disappointed at a result which left his new side facing a relegation dogfight in the final weeks of the 2023/24 campaign.

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St Johnstone are now just a point above second bottom Ross County, who defeated third-placed Hearts 2-1 in Dingwall at the weekend, with only eight matches remaining.

Smith, though, is upbeat about their prospects of staying in the Premiership with former Dundee United, Hearts, Leicester City and Scotland manager Levein in charge. 

“I thought the boys did well for the first half hour or so against Celtic,” he said. “We kept them quiet. They didn’t have many chances. But once they scored that first goal their fans got right behind them and they were a stronger team for the rest of the game.

The Herald: “But we’re still above Ross County. Keeping it that way is our main aim and we’ll be looking to win as many of our last eight games as we can.

“That’s matches against Rangers and Celtic out of the way as well. We’ve got another free weekend with the international break. We’ll train hard and get ready for Dundee.

“We knew last time we let ourselves down with the way things finished at Dens (St Johnstone conceded two late goals and lost 2-1 last month). Winning against them next time can change everything for us.”

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Smith added: “The manager spoke to me after the Dundee game. I knew myself I wasn’t good enough when I came on. My energy levels weren’t what they should be. A big part of my game is running about and getting stuck in. It was one of those games that just didn’t go well for me.

“He told me, ‘That can’t happen again’. I apologised. I knew it wasn’t good enough. I made sure that it was better on Saturday. I got a goal – my first for the club – and I’m buzzing for that. Overall, I thought I made an impact, which is what I was asked to do.

“The manager is a straight talker. He was like that at Hearts and it’s been the exact same here. I’ve always respected and appreciated that. The manager has been brilliant for me. His experience will be really important over the next couple of months.”