Steven MacLean’s first game as permanent St Johnstone manager ended in a convincing Scottish Premiership win against Livingston.
The Perth legend signed a three-year contract during the week after guiding Saints to safety and Drey Wright helped ensure his tenure got off to the perfect start with a first-half goal.
Chris Kane secured the victory, slotting home from the spot at the end of a season which he has largely missed through injury.
The victory means the Perth side finish the season in ninth, one place and three points behind their opposition at McDiarmid Park.
It was an afternoon of emotional farewells and new chapters for both clubs on the final day of the season.
Before kick-off, St Johnstone chairman Steve Brown waved farewell to the Perthshire faithful after 11 years in charge – arguably the most successful years in the club’s history.
Murray Davidson also made his final appearance in dark blue, after 416 appearances in 14 years and three major honours, as well as a Scotland cap. Nicky Devlin pulled on the golden Livingston kit before his departure north to Aberdeen.
And despite the fact that there wasn’t a huge amount on the line – even if they had won, Livi wouldn’t have finished seventh – the game was often end-to-end with plenty of chances.
MacLean talked about his front-foot philosophy before the game and he got exactly that from his new charges. Ryan McGowan had an overhead kick well saved and Wright hit the side-netting a minute before he opened the scoring.
It was a nothing chance that came from McGowan thundering into an aerial battle and lobbing his header over the Livi backline. Wright raced onto it and finished between the keeper’s legs, allowing McGowan to claim an agricultural assist.
Wright should have had a second after the break. Graham Carey put the ball on a silver plate with his low cross, but from the dead centre of the goal and about four yards out, the Saints winger skied it.
Carey was guilty of a bad miss, too. Cammy Ballantyne won the ball and sent a tame effort towards the Livi box. It deflected kindly to Carey, who hit the side netting from close range. Maybe it was on his wrong side.
It wouldn’t matter, as an emotional Kane doubled the lead from the spot. James Penrice felled James Brown in the box, with Kane – who has only played once this season due to injury – stroking home. It could prove to be his final Saints goal, as his contract expires this summer.
Player of the Match – Drey Wright
Positivity in Perth as Livi trudge over the line – analysis
For the first time in a long time, there is a good feeling around McDiarmid Park.
Steven MacLean is a well-liked figure and his appointment has been well-received by fans. If this showing is anything to go by, his team will play good football next season. However, he needs to recruit better than Callum Davidson did.
Plenty of his current crop showed they’re up for it next season. Ballantyne has impressed in recent weeks. McGowan was exceptional in midfield, with Wright and Carey threatening on the wings. If MacLean can harbour that positivity, next season could be good fun.
Livingston are just glad the season is finally over. They’ve limped wearily towards this point since Christmas, aware that cuts are coming.
There will be departures, and a few incomings. It’s hard to know what they’ll look like in August, but Martindale has pulled rabbits out of hats before.
What they said
St Johnstone manager Steven MacLean: “I’m delighted, it was a great result for us. I didn’t actually think we started well and I wasn’t best pleased. We grew into it, got better. The first goal was important.
“I’ve been in for six games and they’ve given me everything they’ve got. The reaction I’ve had has been fantastic, so massive credit to the players. We’ve created standards now. We need to build on that and improve. I want to get better. There’s good building blocks now.”
Livingston boss David Martindale: “Go back to Motherwell, St Mirren, any away game since January and you’ll pick the bones out. It’s very similar. Terrible goal away from home, again. An easy ball that we don’t deal with. We leave it for the keeper, it’s not his ball.
“If we keep conceding goals in the manner that we have away from home, then next season we’ll be in a precarious position. I will rectify that over the summer.”
- 14WrightSubstituted forWotherspoonat 75′minutes
- 18MacPhersonSubstituted forPhillipsat 75′minutes
- 25BallantyneSubstituted forDavidsonat 90′minutes
- 7MaySubstituted forKaneat 63′minutes
- 2DevlinSubstituted forBrandonat 70′minutes
- 23De LucasBooked at 66mins
- 4ParkesSubstituted forOméongaat 72′minutes
- 29PenriceBooked at 40mins
- 18HoltSubstituted forShinnieat 58′minutes
- 24KellyBooked at 89mins
- 16BradleySubstituted forBahamboulaat 58′minutes
- Graham Grainger
Match ends, St. Johnstone 2, Livingston 0.
Second Half ends, St. Johnstone 2, Livingston 0.
Attempt saved. Andrew Shinnie (Livingston) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by James Penrice.
Corner, St. Johnstone. Conceded by Andrew Shinnie.
Substitution, St. Johnstone. Murray Davidson replaces Cammy Ballantyne II.
Sean Kelly (Livingston) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Sean Kelly (Livingston).
Graham Carey (St. Johnstone) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Andrew Shinnie (Livingston) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Ryan McGowan (St. Johnstone).
Jamie Brandon (Livingston) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by David Wotherspoon (St. Johnstone).
Attempt missed. Luiyi De Lucas (Livingston) header from the centre of the box is too high. Assisted by Stephen Kelly.
Scott Pittman (Livingston) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by David Wotherspoon (St. Johnstone).
Attempt missed. Graham Carey (St. Johnstone) left footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the right.
Attempt blocked. Cammy Ballantyne II (St. Johnstone) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Foul by Dylan Bahamboula (Livingston).
Adam Montgomery (St. Johnstone) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Delay over. They are ready to continue.