The Sunday Post (Newcastle)
Hopes dashed as Saints gaffer rues missed chances
ST Johnstone manager Callum Davidson’s hopes of rounding-off a memorable debut campaign with a European qualification were dented by the Dons.
Despite being thrashed by Celtic and their goal difference suffering, Livingston remain in the driving seat for fifth place, with a four-point advantage going into the final stretch.
And after losing out to Jonny Hayes’ second-half strike, Davidson admitted his Saints suffered the consequences of failing to exploit their first-half superiority, with striker Chris Kane guilty of blazing away an early opening.
“I’m frustrated we didn’t make more of the first 20 minutes,” said Davidson.
“When you play a team of Aberdeen’s quality you have to take your chances when they come along.
“We put them under pressure early in the game and when you do that you’ve got to score.
“If Kano had taken his chance in the first half it would have been us controlling the game.
“But the first goal is so important, and when they scored it allowed them to play on the counter-attack and we had to leave ourselves more exposed.”
Saints pressed hard for an equaliser in the closing stages but defender Shaun Rooney saw a close range header smack the post and Dons keeper Joe Lewis prevented midfielder Ali McCann netting in the final minute.
“The final ball was the one criticism I had of the players. We got ourselves into good positions but it just wasn’t good enough.
“But I have to credit the players’ attitude.”
Since losing at Aberdeen on Boxing Day, only Rangers and Celtic had got the best of his Perth side in 16 games, which included the Betfred Cup final win over Livingston.
“We have achieved top six and won a cup this season so it would have been easy to take the foot off the gas,” observed the Perth manager.
“But they haven’t done that and the attitude was excellent.”
The Dons have had the edge on his side this term but Davidson believes his players have the quality and desire required over the last five league games, and a weekend Scottish Cup tie with Clyde could pave the way for a glamour quarterfinal clash away to Rangers or Celtic.
“When you are in the top six it’s difficult, you play good teams,” said Davidson, whose side clawed their way into the top half of the division at the expense of St Mirren.
“Aberdeen have been there and done it, finishing third most seasons so it was always going to be a tough game,” he said.