Unless otherwise noted, all photos copyright PPA (www.ppapix.co.uk). Used with permission.
April 30th - Alan Main was apparently set for one final game this season for Saints until his injury. He's one of several players out of contract and as Del starts planning for the next campaign, the manager told the Courier, "It was my intention to allow Alan to play before the end of the season. He has served this club well and you could see the frustration and disappointment in him when he got injured. But Alan has been in the game a long time and he knows these things happen. Football can be hard on you and the timing of it just compounds it for him. Players often have an idea if they are likely to get a new contract. If they are not playing regularly, then it is in the player’s interest to move on anyway. We will cross that bridge with them in the next week or so. A lot of players have served this club well and some decisions are harder to take than others. But every decision is made in the best interests of the club—and there can be no compromise with that."
April 27th - Martin Hardie(right) is in the papers today talking about his rehab. He's recovering from his cruciate and reckons he'll be raring to go by September but whether that's with Saints remains to be seen. The 34-yr old told the Courier today, "I would say I am ahead of schedule already and I am delighted with that. My next assessment will be in two weeks’ time when I will see the surgeon and I am sure he will be very pleased. Compared to the fracture operation this one is like night and day—a lot better. I was informed I needed six weeks between the two ops and that was the best advice I could have got. That time allowed me to do a lot of rehab and that has helped me to come out the other side of the cruciate op as well as I have done. They took part of the tendon from my right knee and put it into my left but I only needed to be on crutches for two days and that was it. I have been fine since then. I always said I was looking forward to the cruciate op because I knew I would be kicking on and getting moving. That is the way it has panned out so far."
As for his future he went on, "It will be up to the manager if he wants to keep me, then, in turn, the manager has to speak to the chairman. The manager has players who are playing for him right now and I am just unfortunate that my contract is up in the summer. But by the time next season starts I will be buzzing. Come maybe the middle of June I will have started back running. I will miss the start of pre-season but I think I should be back playing friendlies or bounce games in August and hopefully be back properly some time in September. It is entirely up to the club if they want to keep me but when I was fit I don’t think I was left out of any squads. I felt I did well enough when I was on but I realise we have a stronger squad than we did last year and we are in a higher league. I still feel I have something to offer, though. I don’t feel there are many who are my type of player. I have always been able to score goals from midfield and that is something that never leaves you. I want to stay here as I have always enjoyed my time here. I am just really looking forward to the season finishing and doing my stuff during the summer then coming back refreshed and raring to go."
Meanwhile the plans continue for next season and Del has been linked with a move for Leigh Griffiths after Scumdee's failure to make the most of their financial advantage in the First Division this season. There was no comment from the manager - instead he's heaping the praise on comeback kid Andy Jackson saying, "We were not at our best on Saturday against Aberdeen but I prefer to see the positives and one of those was Andy Jackson getting back involved. I am delighted for wee Jacko, not just for his part in the goal but for his general play. He is starting to look fitter and stronger. It has taken him a while to get to this level. The loan at Arbroath didn’t work as well as we had hoped but we decided to bring him back and in the Motherwell bounce game during the week he looked great and made me think about involving him against Aberdeen. I thought he took a few hits, imposed himself on the central defenders and looked better than he has been."
10pm - Any hope of seeing Alan Main make an appearance before the end of the season vanished today after the keeper injured a finger in training ruling him out for the rest of the season.
April 26th - Chris Millar has admitted to the Courier that there's plenty for the players still to play for this season. As well as pride, their bonuses increase the higher up the table we finish and he told the paper, "We all know we are safe and have reached the point where it might appear we have nothing to play for. But for the second week running we’ve showed good character to come back and get something from the game. There’s always that temptation to switch off but the gaffer keeps banging on at us to keep going. And, of course, every place higher up the league we finish carries a bonus for the boys. We’ve all got holidays to pay for and families to support. And with the wife I’ve got I definitely need the money! But finishing high up the table isn’t just about finance. It’s also about pride. After the season we’ve had we don’t want things to finish flat. We want to go out on a high. You go into the summer only remembering the last few games and we wouldn’t want to drop from seventh to ninth."
April 24th - Another Saturday and another soft goal saw us go behind in a game we dominated for long spells. But Andy Jackson(right) made his comeback from the bench and notched a late equaliser after getting on the rebound from a Liam
Craig freekck in a 1-1 draw with the Sheep.. After the game the manager told the BBC, "It was a bit flat and had a kind of end-of-season fell to it, which we're stressing we don't want. There's nothing worse than that. We hate having nothing to play for. Of course we're glad we're out of the relegation dogfight. We've got a lot to prove and a lot to work for with the next three games. We started the game really brightly. We had a real impetus, forced a few opportunities and the keeper had a couple of saves. When the goal didn't come, we ended up losing a really sloppy goal. I thought it was a free-kick in the build-up to it, Dave MacKay was blocked off, but we should still deal with it better than that.
We let the goal affect us a wee bit and it looked like a huge effort to get us up to speed, but credit to the players for keeping going. Once we got that goal, there only looked like one winner. The subs made an impact, none more so than wee Andy Jackson. With another five or 10 minutes, we possibly could've won it, but it was too little too late to win the game."
As for Andy Jackson he said, "Before I went to hit it, it hit a bobble and hit off me. It's my goal anyway - I'm claiming it. Hopefully, that's my injuries out the way - maybe I've got them out the way at an early age. It's been a long two years, but I'm delighted to be back. The fans were brilliant when I came on. When I scored, they were singing my name."
April 23rd -There will be on change to the starting lineup this weekend with the news that Michael Duberry is set to miss out after accumulating enough yellow cards for a free weekend in the stands. Meanwhile with our future secure the contracts are starting to be signed with Graham Gartland and Steven
Anderson last night putting pen to paper on new 2yr contracts. The latter told the Courier, "At 24, I’m not a young boy anymore and I want to stamp my authority on the team. I’ve not managed to nail down a starting place. But this new deal gives me a bit of security and I’m going to get my head down now and try and do that. It didn’t take long to agree things with the manager. He said he wanted me to stay and I was keen to remain at the club so we got everything agreed really quickly."
Meanwhile Garters commented, "I came here on a six months contract, then got a year. This new agreement gives me the chance to put down roots in Scotland. Although I’ve had injuries and illness to contend with this season it’s gone well enough. I’ve played the games I should have. I got a few bookings early on but that happens and whereas when I was younger I was a bit petulant, not one of the yellow cards I’ve received this year has been for kicking the ball away or talking back to refs."
He went on, "Now with the experience of a first season in the SPL under my belt I’d hope to go on from here. I had five years at Drogheda where things went well and I was settled. Then it started to go wrong and I did seriously wonder about continuing in football. I looked at a couple of degree courses—journalism and PE—and if I’d gone down either route I’d have had to go part-time. But I’ve been involved in the game since I was 16 and wanted to stay in it. And moving to St Johnstone has shown me I made the right choice."
Derek McInnes meanwhile told the paper, "Ando works really hard and as defenders tend to become more consistent the older they get I can only see him improving further. Gartz has done well for us this season and is both a driven person and the type I want about the club. We aim to keep the nucleus of the squad and add to it during the summer. And I’d hope for more good news over the next fortnight or so. But there are four games to go and our main focus, rather than being on wheeling and dealing and players contracts, must be on these and finishing the season strongly. We were all disappointed with the performance last weekend when we only approached things in the right manner for 15-20 minutes. But knowing the players as I do they’ll be out to make amends on Saturday."
April 22nd - Stuart McCaffrey(right) is in the Courier today talking about his future. Out for ages through injury. he at least has the security of a contract extension signed last year to take him to summer 2011. But given the form of the defence, the defender has admitted that he's fighting for his future in the Saints first team. He said, "I am quite hopeful that I will be back training next Monday as the problem has been fixed now.
I haven’t played since the Kilmarnock game here on December 5. I have had two operations. I had keyhole surgery initially, but there was then a difficulty at the front of the groin where a piece of mesh had slipped across and was pressing on a nerve.
I think that was what had been causing the main problem. The mesh was put in during another op 10 years ago and I also had a bit of scar tissue which the surgeon cut away during the second op.
I am now feeling a lot better about it."
"It would be lovely to think I could play in the first team before the end of the season but I’m realistic,” he said. “When you are out of the picture for any length of time it is difficult to get back in. We have Kevin Rutkiewicz on the way back and looking for a game, too, while Graham Gartland has been out through illness. I would say both are well ahead of me in the pecking order. That is an unfortunate thing for me, but that’s the way football is - people go in and take your job and it’s up to you to get it back. I have always felt you should play on merit not on sentiment, and our manager is too clever just to play people to give them a game. I am fortunate because I signed a contract extension last summer. If I hadn’t signed that deal then I think it would probably have been 50-50 for me as regards the manager looking to keep me. Football doesn’t stop or slow down for anybody. It motors on whether or not you are taking a ride or not. That is the nature of the game. Initially my fight has been to get back fit, but now I have to think about getting back into the side and it will be tough. This time last year when we were heading for the championship and looking ahead to pre-season you would probably say Kevin and I were favourites to be the first choice central defensive partnership for the SPL campaign. We were at the head of the queue but, personally speaking, I feel it is the other way around now, and I have to work my way back up the ladder."
And just to spit in the eye of certain ex-players and their media pals, he went on, "I have to say that the club has been excellent with me and I have not been at a club as good as Saints when it comes to looking after people with injuries. So I am determined to put it all behind me and look to the future."
We lost in a closed doors came to Motherwell yesterday but several players were involved in their comebacks. But even if they're not playing at the weekend, they can be happy with cheap admission to the game against the Sheep after Saints announced that admission to the game would be cut to £10 and £5.
April 20th - There's an air of sadness in the Courier today with an interview with the Wing Wizard Paul Sheerinho(right) as he faces up to a likely departure in the summer. Scorer of the penalty that got us a point at the weekend, a six-year spell at McDiarmid looks likely to end this summer. He told the paper, "I am long enough in the tooth now to know the score and age catches up with the best of us eventually. I would be surprised if I got another contract here but that’s football and I would understand it. It has been a frustrating season for me after being accustomed to playing almost every game in my time here. But the midfielders that have been brought in have done exceptionally well, guys like Murray Davidson, Jody Morris, Chris Millar and Liam Craig. I have been striving for success all my career and finally got it with St Johnstone. Last season, winning the First Division with Saints was the highlight of my career. I won’t lie. If I don’t get offered a new contract it would be a wrench to leave. I may have to move but I feel I am capable of playing on. I’m feeling as fit as ever."
As for the weekend draw he went on, "I can see why the gaffer didn’t enjoy the game. I was watching it, too, before coming on as a sub but we have to raise our game again for the next few weeks. The boys have been brilliant this season and surviving in the SPL is definitely a greater achievement than winning the title last year. It’s just that there isn’t a trophy to go with it. We have acquitted ourselves well and have bettered most people’s expectations. We still want to finish as high as possible. There are cash incentives for the players and for the football club. I know the lads will still be doing their jobs until May 8."
And to add to the gloom from the club Peter MacDonald has had a "setback" in his comeback and is off to see a specialist.
April 19th - After seeing his shot handled on the line, Murray Davidson(right) was as perplexed as everyone at the weekend about the time taken for the penalty decision to be made. He told today's Courier, "The ball came to me and I hit it and from where I was it looked like a clear handball. People are saying it was over the line anyway. I heard the ref say ‘Penalty, sending off a player’ when he was walking back but nobody was sent off so I don’t know what happened there. I was asking him why if it was a handball that nobody was sent off but he kept saying to go away and wouldn’t answer me. Personally I don’t like to see players going off but it was a decent save, to be fair. It did take a while but it looks like the right decision was made. We know we weren’t good enough and we got out of jail with a point so can’t complain."
April 18th - Del was less than enamoured with the point yesterday. Speaking after the game he told the Official Site, "I didn’t enjoy that at all - we’ve mugged St Mirren today. They worked harder than us, covered the ground better than us and were more aggressive than us. We are normally the team doing those things but not today. We only played properly for 20 minutes in the entire game and we didn’t deal well with losing the goals – normally we react well to that happening but not today. Our first goal spurred us on and we started to play and with St Mirren tiring I felt we were capable of getting a second. Today has to act as a wake up call. I will not allow the players to undo all the good work they have put in this season. They’ve been brilliant his year – they have way surpassed last season’s achievements but the approach today was wrong."
Meanwhile there's a bit more controversy over Liam Craig's substitution after their first goal midway through the first half with a barney between the player and the Saints dugout apparently leading to the switch.
April 17th - Danny Grainger returns from suspension today and he's just happy that we're already safe. Comparing his current employers with his spell "living the dream" with Gr£tna, the defender told the Courier, "It has been so much different at St Johnstone. I admit at the time I joined I thought we might be battling it out at the bottom, but I quickly realised things would be much better than that. There is stark contrast between how things were at Gretna and how they are here. Gretna was never going to be a club that would be around for a hundred years. It was always going to hit a wall at some point. I think the worst thing that happened to Gretna was that they got promoted to the SPL. It was never a club that could live there. It should have been St Johnstone that went up instead but that’s history now. This season we have reached a cup semi-final and beaten one of the Old Firm and now we have a chance to finish seventh, which would cap the season for me. It has been a great experience. There are teams down there like Aberdeen, a massive club but who are not out of it. They could get dragged right into it. There are some teams down there who you would not have predicted would be down there. I wouldn’t like to call it when it comes to relegation. Whoever goes down this year it could take a big toll on them financially. There are not many who bounce straight back up, although Inverness look like being the exception to the rule."
There are no new injury worries but Dave Mackay(right) is still a major doubt with a calf strain.
6.30pm - A last-minute penalty from sub Paul Sheerin added to an earlier header from Michael Duberry spared our blushes as we came back from two down to draw 2-2 with St Midden in a game packed with incident and controversy. Elsewhere results now mean that the Sheep are safe meaning next Saturday is more of a meaningless game than before.
April 16th - Well there's not been too much happening in Sainteeland. Derek McInnes is in the Courier today ahead of tomorrow's match against relegation candidates St Midden. He's not planning to take things easy now we're safe. "We have to treat the remaining games the way we have treated our matches from day one in this league. When we opened the season against Motherwell there was enthusiasm, determination and energy about us. I want that from now until the end of the campaign. We are not a good enough side to be able to come off the gas and still expect to take points. Not many teams are, to be fair. Anyway, there are a few things to play for. Professional pride is the biggest thing and our approach will be the way it has always been. Another factor is an obligation to finish as high up the league as possible. Financially for the club it is important and that cannot be underestimated. We also simply want to finish seventh if we can’t get into sixth spot. Every team we are going to be playing against is going to be bang up for it. You quickly get undone if you don’t have the same kind of approach as your opponents. There is not a lot of difference between all the teams. It is very tight and on any given day you can get undone if your attitude is not right. But I don’t think you could ever aim the charge of complacency against our team. We don’t think we are so much better than anybody else—there is no arrogance that way. You see clubs that get into a kind of middle ground where they can’t get relegated and can’t win the league or get into Europe and they let it go. But we won’t be one of those teams."
Dave Mackay is a slight doubt for the game with a calf strain but both Peter MacDonald and Steven Milne have trained and are in the squad.
Finally congratulations to Stephen Reynolds who scored the winner for the Scotland U-19s against Luxembourg.
April 12th - Although we didn't make the top six, Derek McInnes was happy with yesterday's win over the hapless Dons. He told the Courier, "Today’s result means we are finally safe and I am really pleased with that. I spoke with the players after the Hearts result to make sure there was no anti-climax today and that we need to continue to play with the freshness and enthusiasm we have shown this season."
Finally - I'm on a pre-post-split break so no updates till Thursday night.
April 11th - Despite going behind, goals from the Kenny Deuchar and a brace from Cillian Sheridan saw us run out easy 3-1 winners at Pittodrie as the last game before the split turned into fun in the sun for the Saints support (despite us being hemmed into two crappy sections of seats). The result sees us safe for next season in the SPL and comfortably clear in seventh slot in the table.
April 10th - Saints go into tomorrow's game with a chance of 6th slot but that depends on Killie defying the odds to beat the Jambos today. Speaking in the Courier though, Derek McInnes reckons thats unlikely but it won't affect our approach for the Dons game. "We’ll be approaching the Aberdeen match in exactly the same manner regardless of what happens between Hearts and Killie. If we can’t finish sixth, then we’ll try our best to finish seventh. The way I look at it is we had our opportunity on Monday night against Dundee United. There’s still an outside chance but Hearts can only really throw it away to be honest. I would much rather be in their position. It’s certainly not a question of us being up for the game if Hearts don’t get a result, but not being up for it if they do. This season teams have realised that they get a hard game when they play St Johnstone and we need to make sure that continues to be the case. It was always about staying up for us—we want to do it as comfortably as possible and can’t afford to take the foot off the gas now."
"We know the importance they are putting on the match and we have to meet fire with fire. When we played them three or four weeks ago I thought we merited our win, but I know how much quality they have in their squad. For one reason or another, it hasn’t happened for them yet, but I use the word ‘yet’ because I expect them to start winning games some time soon."
Danny Grainger is suspended but Murray Davidson is back in the squad.
5.30pm - Well in the end Killie let us down with a 1-0 defeat for them at Swinecastle consigning Saints to the bottom six. Still at least there's going to be a bit of drama with the relegation battle hotting up and hopefully we can be in on the kill. Finally, congratulations to Ross Co for notching another cup win for the SFL and shafting The Forces of Evil in Wegieland.
April 8th - Liam
Craig is out to make amends this weekend after his penalty miss on Monday. He told the Courier, "What a difference six days make. “We beat Rangers 4-1 and the top six was in our own hands. Then I miss a penalty for the first time this season. And to make matters worse I then miss a tackle in the lead up to their winner. I feel I’ve had a good season personally, with 10 goals so far, but Monday night was a huge disappointment. If I’d scored it would have given us the kick on we wanted. Instead United took confidence from it and came back at us. It was a rough night for me. But the lads have been great and I’d love a chance to put things right. We know what we have to do—we have to beat Aberdeen on Sunday. That may be enough depending on how Hearts have gotten on against Kilmarnock the previous day. Hopefully Kilmarnock can do us a turn.". Admission for Sunday has been cut to £11 for adults and £8 for concessions.
A closed doors 2-2 draw with Scumdee saw Saints goals come from Collin Samuel and Andy Jackson.
April 7th - After slipping up on Monday night, Graeme Smith(right) is looking for his old club Killie to do us a favour on Saturday. We'll know before Sunday's match in Sheepland whether top six is still a possibility and he told the Courier, "Losing to United was a sore one. It was one of those games where the first goal was always going to win it, and we of course missed a penalty at 0-0. But if anyone had suggested at the start of the season that we’d be in this position, vying for the top six with a game left, we’ve have bitten their hand off. Having worked so hard to give ourselves this chance then we’ll give it our all against Aberdeen—and hopefully my old club will give us a helping hand. Unfortunately it’s out of our control now. We can win our last game and it might not be enough, so we have to hope for a wee bit of luck. I keep in touch with Cammy Bell and David Fernandez and I’ll certainly be sending them a ‘good luck—do us a turn’ text. The fact it is a far from meaningless game for them might help us. They’ll be going to Tynecastle ready to give it their all for the three points. But then Hearts will be similarly minded. If things work out for us this weekend, great. If not, then we’ll just set about winning our last five games and finishing as far up the table as we can."
April 6th - Derek McInnes was disappointed with the result last night if not the performance. After the game he told the Courier, "Any defeat where you lose late in the game is sore and when there is so much riding on it the disappointment is all the greater. But Dundee United are a good side on a fantastic run and we’ve shown we’re not far away from them. It was very close tonight but there are defining moments in games. Unfortunately we missed ours along with two or three other things around the box and have been punished for that. But I can’t complain about the players’ efforts. We can play better than we did but it is easier said than done playing well against good players. We’ll pick ourselves up from this. Hearts can only throw it away now but we’ll go to Pittodrie on Sunday and look to get a result."
April 5th - Saints go into tonight's derby clash knowing that three points will see us move to the top 6 on goal difference. Danny Grainger(right) is the media darling today, mainly because he's pals with some of the Arab players. Speaking in the Courier, he said, "United was my first club where I was away from my family and my home and I still get on great with a lot of the guys. They have been telling me they are pushing on for Europe and clearly they have a lot to play for. It’s not just third place—Celtic are looking over their shoulders now, but we’ve plenty to go for too. As the newly-promoted team your first aim is to stay in the league, then your next aim is to finish as high up the league as you can. We play United at home then face Aberdeen away and we have beaten both of them this season. If we can get points off of them then there is no reason why we can’t be making it into the top six. It would be a remarkable achievement for us and would show that we are not just happy to sit in seventh and stay in the bottom half. If we don’t finish in the top six then we will look back with regret at the recent games against Falkirk and Hamilton, when we didn’t do ourselves justice. No disrespect to the rest of the league but we want to be finishing the season going to Parkhead and Ibrox, and playing against teams like Dundee United, Hibs and Motherwell."
He has no regrets about moving to Perth either. "Last year was probably the worst year I have had in football. I started the first five games then only played four from then until the end of the season. I lost all enjoyment out of my football. Training all week just to sit in the stand or on the bench—that’s not what you want to do, is it? I had to look at myself. I could have sat there and waited for my chance, and with Paul Dixon being injured as he has been this season I’d probably have played a fair bit—but I don’t regret anything I have done. I love being at St Johnstone. I love playing week in, week out. The boys are fantastic and I get on really well with them. I have a confidence in myself that I have not had for a long time, and I think I have done myself justice."
Murray Davidson misses out tonight through suspension while Paul Sheerin should play despite turning an ankle in training on Saturday. Kevin Rutkiewicz is added to the squad.
11pm - A close game tonight saw Liam Craig miss a penalty for us before a Daly header gave the Arabs a 1-0 win at McDiarmid. The result means we now need to win at Pittodrie and hope Killie win at Tynecastle to make the top six. Not a great night's entertainment.
April 2nd - We're not due to play until Monday night (well you don't get home games on a Saturday these days) but given the derby aspect of the game the Courier have started their coverage early. Today it's Steven
Anderson they're focussing on after the ex-Arab got back into the Saints side this week. And he's up for the game telling the paper diplomatically, "It would be really good for the area to have two teams in the top six. I don’t come from this neck of the woods but having been at United, and now playing for Saints, I recognise how much of a boost it would be for football here if both finished the right side of the split line. This match that’s coming up is a big deal for the two teams, as we each have a lot to play for. They are chasing third place while we want to peg back Hearts. It would be good to come out of Monday night with the three points."
Meanwhile though we're all still smiling after Tuesday. He went on, "I’d been out for a while after stretching a lateral ligament against Motherwell and now I’ve tweaked my hamstring but I should be okay for United. It happened against Hamilton last weekend when I came on as a half-time sub and I felt it again in the second half against Rangers. But I wasn’t playing on one leg or anything like that. That was a good result against Rangers the other night but it wasn’t as much of a thrill as beating them 2-0 at Ibrox. Back then, we were a first division club winning away from home and knocking them out of the cup. After losing at Hamilton we had to give it a go on Tuesday. We were at home and had to go looking for the victory we needed to keep alive our prospects of making the top six. If we’d lost to Rangers there would have been no margin for error. It would have been a massive ask to get past Hearts. We are still two points behind, and we have to hope Hearts slip up and we win our games against United and Aberdeen, but the bonus is that we will know the outcome of their matches before we play. Making the top six would be good financially for the club and we would get more experience of playing the bigger clubs. Another incentive is finishing high enough to avoid being involved in the initial stage of the CIS Cup and having to come back early for pre-season. And, having beaten Rangers, it would be nice to have a crack at Celtic in the final weeks of the season."
April 1st - Like the rest of us Jody Morris(right) was still buzzing yesterday. Speaking of the Routing of Rangers the midfielder told the Courier, "The manager has stressed to us that we should look to be surprising people. This is just another example of our doing that. Last season there were people doubting we’d win the league but we did. This season people thought we’d go straight back down and it doesn’t look like that will happen. One of the other things Derek McInnes wanted us to do was beat one of the Old Firm which we’ve now done. So that’s another step we’ve taken down the road the manager has us on. To have won by 4-1 made it a really amazing night. We felt we’d played well against them here the last time but were made to pay for not putting away chances. But this time we scored the goals and although we dropped off a little bit in the second half thankfully we’d done enough to hold out. It was particularly pleasing the way we defended and restricted the number of opportunities they had. They absolutely pumped us at Ibrox so to limit them to half chances and shots from funny angles was great."
He reckons that other clubs can follow our example and that of the Midden last week. "Celtic and Rangers are streets ahead of the rest of us, as has been demonstrated over a number of years. But too often people go out against them believing they can’t win. You’re never going to beat them with that attitude. We’re fortunate here to have a group of boys and a management that have a belief in themselves. Now St Mirren and ourselves have shown both the Old Firm are beatable. Results like these can only make for a more exciting SPL.". As for being singled out for praise by the manager he was fairly modest. "When you play a side like Rangers everyone has to be on the ball, particularly in midfield. I thought we worked hard as a team. I will admit I enjoyed the night though. I have worked under some decent managers and I’d put him up with the best of these. With his attention to detail, what he instills into players and his passion then there will be clubs trying to take him from here. But we’re hoping he goes nowhere. "
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March 31st - Still smiling? Yup same here. Anyway more reaction from Del who told the Courier, "You’ve got to enjoy nights like these. I was disappointed with our performance against Hamilton at the weekend. I knew we were better than that. But this team always seems to respond to a poor result so I wasn’t surprised at how we played although I wouldn’t have expected us to win it so convincingly. We were very organised and hard working. But the biggest thing for me was that we showed a lot of intelligence—something that demonstrates the progress we’ve made this season. I wouldn’t want to single anybody out but I though Jody Morris gave an absolute masterclass in that midfield role—bossing the game, putting himself about and organising the boys around him. This result will do us no harm and hopefully we can go on from here and finish the season strongly. We had four games in hand at one stage and we’ve won all four of them. And great credit to the players for that. The fact we are talking about the top six with two games to go is testament to their efforts after a lot of people tipped us to go straight back down. After losing at the weekend I knew we would need two or three huge results if we were to achieve that. That’s one and now we’ll take it on to the next game, against Dundee United, which is another match we can win."
6pm - One departure today with Euan McLean away to Forfar on loan for the rest of the season.
March 30th - Saints go into tonight's encounter with TFOD as complete underdogs. And with the odds stacked against us, Del has used his pre-match comments in the Courier to plead the case for defender Michael Duberry(right), who he feels has been unfairly treated with five bookings in 11 games. The manager said, "Of the bookings Michael’s had, I would say at least three have been very harsh. Against Hamilton on Saturday, for example, he has clearly won the ball. But because of a theatrical reaction to the challenge he ends up on the wrong end of a poor decision. For me his size seems to go against him. That, and the fact opposing supporters seem intimidated by him and the way they react, is sometimes forcing the referee’s hand. He’s not a dirty player. The timing of some of the challenges he’s been yellow carded for have been spot on. All we are looking for is for officials to judge the merits of his tackles and not be influenced by other factors."
Meanwhile Kenny Deuchar will be available tonight. He told the paper, "My dad is a GP and as my vision is fine and I only have a slight headache he’s happy for me to play. I’m comfortable with that prospect as well, as is our club doc. So it’s 3-0 in favour—which is fine. Last week was tough for me. I had the disappointment of having to come off against Celtic because of an ankle problem and missing the Falkirk game. Then I got the head knock against Hamilton and couldn’t see right. I’m hoping this week is better. Martin Canning, who I clashed heads with midway through the first half, is actually my mate. He texted me after the game to say he also had a headache—but I definitely came off worst. However, as I didn’t lose consciousness and haven’t suffered any loss of memory, I’m OK to take part. These are the games you want to feature in and unfortunately I’ve missed out on most of the Old Firm matches this season. But before coming here I got three goals in two starts for Gretna against Rangers so I’m confident about doing OK in this one.". Elsewhere in the squad Steven Anderson has a hamstring strain and is a doubt while Graham Gartland is ruled out with his viral problem - he's off to see a specialist about that.
Del is looking for the players to reignite their season after some below-par performances. "We need to be playing cup tie football week in week out, because when we don’t do that we aren’t as effective as we can be. Rangers are proving relentless in their quest for the title and when you are playing a team who see the finish line and are driven to get there then you are up against very dangerous opponents. If they are at their best we could be in for a difficult night. But if we are at our best then they in turn could find it tough. I’m looking for a performance full of energy and drive. There was a freshness and passion about the whole thing when we played them here at the start of the season. We need to treat this match the same way."
11.30pm -It was a night to remember for the Saints fans that braved the cold and turned out at McDiarmid. They were witness to a display of perfect, sexy football as we totally gubbed TFOD by FOUR goals to one with four different scorers for us in Cillian Sheridan, Chris Millar, Liam Craig and sub Murray Davidson in a game where there were no failures and we totally outclassed the blue half of the Ugly Sisters. Del spoke to the BBC after the win and said, "Earlier in the season we never took our chances, went in 1-1 and lost the game to Rangers. We were a lot more intelligent tonight so that for me is real progress. The players deserve all the credit in the world for that."
March 29th - Mark Connolly got his debut at last at the weekend but lasted only 45 minutes before he was taken off before he was sent off. The loan defender picked up a booking in the first half and struggled against Accies (he wasn't the only one though). Speaking in today's Courier he said, "The game was a bit different to what I am used to down in England. “It was good but very in your face. In the first minute, I saw everyone just running around and I was thinking to myself what is happening here? When I got on the ball, I thought I had time but suddenly there was pressure on me. It was a real eye-opener as in the Premiership you have a lot more time to pass the ball but here there are loads of tackles flying about. I tried one myself but it was bad one and I got booked. I can understand why the gaffer substituted me as the referee had warned me that I had better watch out or I could be off. That was something I definitely did not want, especially in my first game.
Whether or not he's start against TFOD tomorrow remains to be seen but its good to see another OF link in the papers as he went on, "Hopefully, we can get back to winning ways against Rangers on Tuesday. I’ll be more than ready for that match as I am a big Celtic fan and I used to go to Parkhead with a few friends back home. If we can get a result against Rangers, I will be a hero in my home town of Clones. Everyone there is Celtic daft. My family are also coming over from Ireland for the match, so hopefully I will be playing."
March 28th - Del wasn't happy with the manner of yesterday's defeat. The manager told the Official Saints site, "We have to learn from today. There was a frustration and agitation about the game today and we lost our organisation for their goal. Once they had scored it, they had something to hold onto. I actually thought we opened brightly in the first ten minutes or so and in the second half we had more of the play territorially and asked more questions of them but overall we lost our shape and our discipline. Collectively we were not good enough: there were maybe only two, three or four players who had decent performances so I’m not too pleased about the showing"
Kenny Deuchar was taken off with suspected concussion at half-time but is expected to be fit enough for Tuesday night's game against The Forces of Darkness.
March 27th - If he plays this afternoon, Gary Irvine(right) is set to make his 100th appearance in Saints colours. The right-back has had a mixed season for Saints but told today's Courier he'd like to add to his solitary goal for the club. "I didn’t realise this would be my 100th game until my grandad told me. He follows my career closely, hardly missing a match, and keeps me up to date on my stats. It’s come around quickly, and I look forward to reaching that landmark. I wouldn’t mind a goal in the SPL as well, though. Fans still come up and talk to me about the one goal I’ve scored for Saints, down at Dunfermline. They ask if I think I’ll ever score a better goal and my answer is, ‘Hopefully’. But I’d settle for any kind of goal—I really do want to add to my tally. As a youngster playing in midfield for Celtic at youth and reserve level I got my fair share. Now playing at the back I’ve found goals hard to come by. But even Danny Grainger and Steven
Anderson have managed one each this season and as they are both full-backs the pressure’s on.". He's still targetting a top 6 slot even if the odds are against us, "We’re giving getting into the top six a right good go, and hopefully we’ll get a helping hand by virtue of other results going our way. We came up just looking to stay up, but there’s an expectation now among the boys that we should keep ticking boxes. And the big goal is top six. We’re that close now, the eyes are lighting up— although there’s still a lot of work to be done to achieve that."
The injury problems have eased a bit - both Kenny Deuchar and Steven Anderson are in the squad along with Collin Samuel to give Del some more options. The manager said, "It’s good to have two or three boys back because a week ago our injury situation had become ridiculous. And we’ll need them because every time we’ve met Hamilton, be it in the SPL or first division, we’ve come away knowing we’ve been in a game. I watched them beat Kilmarnock in midweek and they were impressive. The result was never in doubt, so this will be a hard one for us. We’re still half looking over our shoulder at the moment. We’re not quite there yet in terms of having the points required to be sure of staying up. But at the same time we continue to look to try to reel in the team immediately above us, knowing if we did that we’d make the top six."
6.30pm - Another poor performance saw us losw out 1-0 at Hamilton with bookings galore for the Saints players and Kenny Deuchar replaced at half-time following a head knock. Not a good day.
March 26th - Collin Samuel(right) is out to make up for lost time after his spell on the sidelines. Speaking to the Courier, he said, "It has been a long time out with injury and a difficult spell for me. I had the cartilage op and then I picked up another little niggle. It was possibly caused by all the training on artificial pitches and was something out of nothing. I tried to come back a couple of times but it just wasn’t happening for me. I was delighted to get on the pitch on Tuesday and it is now a case of me building my fitness up again and trying to force my way back into the team. I have not started a game this year, which is incredibly frustrating. So I am keeping my fingers crossed that I can pick up where I left off. I do not know what the gaffer has in mind for me but I am desperate to take part on Saturday at Hamilton as I normally get a goal when we play them.". His spell out means that his travelling companionLiam Craig has overtaken him in the scoring charts and Sammy went on, "Liam is just two goals ahead of me so one game could make a big difference. So whenever the opportunity comes, I have to be ready to take it. Liam has been playing really well this season and I am sure he will score a few more before the campaign ends. But I am also determined to get into double figures so we will just have to wait and see who comes out on top. From a team point of view, I am sure that we are capable of finishing in the top six."
March 25th - With results last night putting a bit more pressure on us to get a win this weekend, it looks like we'll be boosted by the return of Kenny Deuchar. He looks set to win his fitness battle after limping off at the TattieDome with an injured ankle last weekend.
Meanwhile this year marks Alan Main's Testimonial and a new website has been set up by the people involved. Get all the details here
March 24th - Del was realistic about last night's performance against the Bairns. Speaking to the Courier after the game he said, "I think a draw was a fair result. I was disappointed with the goal we lost but we have responded with a great one of our own. We have 10 players out injured and there were more than a few out there who were patched-up and running on empty. We weren’t our normal selves but that was a match that we would possibly have lost at the start of the season. So I am delighted with their efforts to dig deep and that is another point towards safety."
March 23rd - Saints take on Falkirk tonight with even more players out than at the weekend. Despite that Liam Craig(right) is out to get another win over his old club to help us to safety. He told today's Courier, "We’re not safe yet. But if we were to win this one Falkirk would need to win six of their remaining games to catch us. And that would be a big ask for a team that’s only won four in the league all season. It’s a massive game in that regard but also because it offers the chance for us to keep our top six hopes alive. I’d love to make the top six. But I also don’t want to see Falkirk go down. They saved my career at one stage, my girlfriend works for them and I still live in the area. So in an ideal world, we make the top six and they remain in the SPL.".
He was on the bench at the weekend but looks set to start tonight. "The gaffer wanted to freshen things up with games coming thick and fast, that’s why I didn’t start at the weekend. If we are to make the top six we’ll have to use the full squad so he mixed it up for Saturday and I’m sure he’ll be doing the same for this match. I think I’ve played everywhere for St Johnstone and we are a bit short up front at the minute. I’ll play wherever the gaffer wants me to—but it would be a new one sticking me up there. Mind you I’m desperate to get into double figures. I’ve got a bet on with one of my big mates that I’d get 10 or more league goals this season and without going into details it would be a nice one to win. I’ve got seven so far. So three more and I’d be happy."
Del has plenty of problems with his team selection but still expects us to win. "I hear other managers talking about missing a couple of influential players. But we find ourselves without 10 or 11 all told, which is incredible. We won’t let that affect what we are trying to achieve however. Whoever is stripped, I would expect us to go and play well enough to win this game. The two matches we’ve had so far have been tight and competitive and I wouldn’t expect anything other than this tomorrow night. But if we produce a performance similar to the one we gave against Aberdeen then that would go a long way towards our being an SPL team next season. Falkirk are fighting and scrapping to stay in the league but the three points are every bit as important to us so I want the hungriest team to be in the St Johnstone dressing room."
Cillian Sheridan will return tonight but Jody Morris and Filipe Morais are doubtful with niggling knocks although the manager's hopeful they can play.
11pm - A scrappy encounter tonight finished in a 1-1 draw with Falkirk as a poor defensive goal for them was cancelled out by Filipe Morais' equaliser. Not too many positives to take from the game where both sides looked nervous but there was one pleasing sight for Saints fans as Collin Samuel made his comeback from the bench.
March 22nd - Just in case you had your hopes up that Saturday football would be the norm again, the powers that be have decided that we're to be treated worse than the OF - the latest cock-up for the travelling fan is to move the match at Pittodrie to a 12.15pm kick-off on Sunday April 11th - that of course means it'll be the Sunday night before we know who we're playing the following weekend. SPL dontcha just love it.
Closer to home and the problems continue to mount ahead of tomorrow's game with both Kenny Deuchar and Steven Milne ruled out of the Falkirk game - at least Cillian Sheridan is available again.
March 21st - Del was philosophical after the defeat yesterday. Speaking to the BBC he said, "The way Celtic keep the ball, it's physically demanding. There was a lot conspiring against us in terms of injury but Celtic were worthy winners. We lost Kenny Deuchar when we were already four strikers down for the game. But young Stephen Reynolds went on and that's a positive. He's just turned 17 and he came on and battled away well, playing in a position that's slightly alien to him over on that left-hand side. Steven Milne, our last striker standing, so to speak, was feeling his hamstring and had to come off as well, more as a precaution and we've got two or three boys out there patched up a bit. Murray Davidson limped through the last 25 minutes of the game and we had one or two who played who haven't played in a long time. In an ideal world, we would've liked to have really freshened the team up against Celtic, that was always my intention. You're not giving up the Celtic game but you're saying our priority's Tuesday night without question and we've got another massive one on the Saturday against Hamilton. So, if we're prioritising things then Tuesday was seen as the bigger game for us but we thought we could come here and be resilient and go and compete and hopefully carry a threat to get something. But we never had the luxury to freshen things up. We've got a few walking wounded and we need to assess everything and see where we are and try to pick a team for Tuesday. "
As for the chance of the top six, he went on, "There are five games now left before the split. I think we have to go and win possibly three or four of those. Hearts got a great result today. First thing's first, we need to make sure we get away from the bottom team again. For us we've got our opportunity to do that on Tuesday and if we can get a win, we've got three games at home out of the five. Hopefully we can take full advantage of the opportunity we have on Tuesday but we're up against a team who are fighting and scrapping so it'll be difficult."
March 20th - Graeme Smith(right) reckons we have to go all out, despite the injuries in the side, at the Tattie Field today if we're going to have any hope of a top 6 slot. The keeper said in the Courier, "I think the position we are in means we have to give it a real go at Parkhead. With our having the games in hand on Hearts and trying to stay ahead of the chasing pack, why not go there and have a go? Nobody expects us to do well but we have scored in 12 successive matches so we know if we keep a clean sheet then we have a great chance of winning any game. In saying that, going to Parkhead is a difficult thing as they are looking to finish the season as strongly as possible. They will also want to put Rangers under as much pressure as they can. Although people are saying the title race is over Celtic won’t be saying that. As for us, we don’t want to be involved in a relegation battle and prefer to be looking up the way. Picking up six points from two games in such a short period has left us in a good position.". And despite the 4-1 defeat last time we faced this half of the Ugly Sisters, he reckons there's nothing for us to fear. "I thought we were the better team in the first half but we got a man sent off at the start of the second. That totally changed it and Celtic are at their best when they have the upper hand and can pass the ball about. It will be 11 v 11 this time and we are hoping to put them on the back foot rather than the other way around. Rather than it be one-way traffic we will look to cause them problems. They do have Robbie Keane, of course, and he has done well since he came in. I think he has scored the last seven goals that they've got and that shows you just what a class act he is. However, if you go to their place and perhaps go in level at half-time—the same goes for Rangers—you do get some fans turning on their team. If you can keep their fans quiet and then do well when you have the ball then you can cause them problems."
As for the side today, there's no new team news so a lot depends on whether the manager wants to rest players ahead of Tuesday's, arguably bigger but definitely more winnable match against the Bairns.
Finally, congrartulations to Gavin Swankie whose wife gave birth to a baby boy on Wednesday.
7pm - It was another fruitless trip to the war-torn third world that is Wegieland as a freekick, the inevitable penalty and a late mistake from the Saints defence did the damage in a 3-0 defeat to TFOE with an additional cloud added to the day as Kenny Deuchar went off with an ankle injury early in the first half. The result combined with the Jambos 2-1 win over the Hibees means a top six slot is a wee bit further away tonight. Still at least we got to hear more of their quaint Irish folk-music.
March 19th - There was worst news for Kevin Moon(right) today - he's damaged his cruciate ligament in the accidental collision with the Dons' Mark Kerr and has been ruled out until September. Del is backing him to make a comeback though and told the Courier, "It is an absolute tragedy for the boy and he is going to be out for seven or eight months. It is the worst possible news but, luckily, this isn’t the career threatening injury it was 20 years ago. I came back from it stronger than ever and so did Jody Morris. Mooner will be absolutely fine even though he is still taking it in. It is a real blow for him and for us because I felt he would play a vital role in the latter stages of the season. Obviously he has had injury problems with his groin before and we were nursing him along in training. No one is a bigger admirer of his talents than me and I genuinely believe Kevin will come back fitter and stronger. Right now it is hard to find anything positive in this but the break may even help with the mechanical issues which have caused him problems elsewhere. He has the right attitude and he will be disciplined enough to handle the rehab, which is vital. He has a lot of hard work ahead of him but he will be back to work with us in pre-season training. Mooner will go on and have a top career and fulfil all his potential because he has too much going for him to let this get to him."
The manager hasn't hung about though and 19yr old midfielder Josh Falkingham(right) formerly of Leeds who has been training with the club has been signed up until the end of the season. With a dozen missing for tomorrow's trip to Parkhead he goes straight into the squad. The manager said, "Josh has impressed everyone here with his attitude and determination. In the light of the current circumstances, this is a good chance for Josh to impress us over the remaining seven weeks. Given the injuries which have hit us he will be in the squad. We aren’t downtrodden or feeling sorry for ourselves, although it will put more demands on the players who are available."
Looking ahead to tomorrow and apparently only Steven Milne has an outside chance of making the game.
March 18th - After winning a lot of doubters round midweek Cillian Sheridan managed to blot his copybook a bit today by touting the OF line. The on-loan striker is ineligible to play this weekend because of his loan terms but told the Courier he's glad of that. "It’s a pity to have got back in the St Johnstone team and scored and not now be able to play the next game. But at the same time I wouldn’t want to be playing against Celtic. If I scored it could be a bit awkward. I couldn’t play against them last season when I was on loan at Motherwell. To be honest, I prefer it that way. I’ll be there on Saturday watching, but I’m not sure who I’ll be wanting to win!". Still at least he understands the importance of his goal on Tuesday, "That was a pretty important result for us. We want to take any chance we get to progress up the table. While beating Aberdeen didn’t take us above anybody, we are now only three points behind Hearts. Overhauling them is the next target. It’s good to be able to look forward rather than at what’s happening behind us. We’ve not quite reached the stage where the teams below us aren’t a concern, but we can now definitely aim for the top six. That’s something the players here have been talking about between ourselves and now there’s a good belief that we can push on. If we win our two games in hand we’ll go above Hearts and we really want that top-six spot. Last year I missed out with Motherwell who were clear of relegation. As a result the last five games, while not meaningless, we’d nothing to play for in. I’d much rather having something riding on the closing weeks of the season."
Kevin Moon is still having his injury assessed but it's looking more and more likely that his season will be over. Of the other ten missing through injury, Graham Gartland, Steven Milne and Murray Davidson are the ones most likely to return at the weekend, although there is an argument for resting players this weekend to save them for the arguably more winnable games against Falkirk and Accies.
March 17th - The bad news first is that Kevin Moon looks set to be ruled out for the rest of the season after picking up a knee injury last night.
Meanwhile Del was full of praise in his post-match comments. He told the Courier, "That was a good night’s work. The players treated the game the way it had to be treated. Our application was first class. We were relentless in our pressing, trying to force errors and matched that with some good play. That’s us taken maximum points from three of the games we had in hand which the players deserve enormous credit for. And now we’ll look to keep our foot on the pedal and see where that takes us. We’ve been looking over our shoulder since coming up but now we’ll see if we can get above Hearts. We are, however, having a helluva time with injuries. We went into this match with 10 players out. Now Kevin Moon has picked up a medial ligament strain and Cillian Sheridan is ineligible to face Celtic on Saturday"
March 16th - It's Aberdeen tonight and Danny Grainger(right) is out for revenge after the Pittodrie side's dodgy penalty in their win over us earlier in the season. He told the Courier, "I felt really aggrieved at that decision,” he said. “I’ve only scored once this season - at Hamilton - so hopefully I can get a bit of revenge by scoring the winner. I’m not saying we are safe yet, but it would take a lot to turn over 11 points at this stage of the season. Staying in the SPL has been our priority from day one, but from the position we are now in why shouldn’t we try to claim the last top six spot?"
Del is still being cautious. He told the paper, "Before the season got going assistant Tony Docherty and myself set a points target privately that we felt would keep us in the SPL. We still haven’t achieved that, so there’s no question of the players switching off and downing tools—we got a massive three points at Falkirk, but there is still work to be done. It’s all very well having games in hand, but they have to be turned into points. We have done that against Hibs and Falkirk and now we have to beat Aberdeen. We have just got our noses in front of them and the approach has to be right again. So far we haven’t had any real consistency of results—we haven’t had a series of defeats to hit a slump or wins to get us further up the table. The challenge now is to get a few wins. Every game brings its own challenges—Motherwell came here on a great run, Falkirk are fighting for their lives and now Aberdeen will be trying to end a poor run of results. They will see this as a chance to reverse their fortunes and get back to winning ways, but we have to make sure their run starts elsewhere and not in Perth."
Graham Gartland is back in the squad for tonight's game after recovering from a virus. Collin Samuel is still out though.
11pm - The result was closer than the performance suggests but Saints ran out 1-0 winners over the Sheep thanks to a first-half Cillian Sheridan goal. There was a down side though as Kevin Moon was stretchered off in the second half after landing awkwardly. The result moves us just that bit closer to the top six.
March 14th - Del was a happy man after the win last night, despite his opposite number going off on one about the penalty. The Saints manager told the News of the Screws, "I said at the start of the week this was as important a game as I've had as a manager with St Johnstone and I wanted the players to realise that. It is three points like every other game, but it was a significant three points. We knew we were facing a team desperate to stay in the league. Towards the end of the season there is a lot of pressure on clubs and a lot of the time games will be settled by set-pieces and mistakes. That was how it turned out today as we equalised with a set-piece and won it with a mistake. My initial reaction was it was a penalty and I think the referee had a good view of it. We've been on the wrong end of a lot of poor penalty decisions this season, but I thought that was a penalty and you have to give credit to Liam Craig for putting it away."
March 13th - Michael Duberry(right) does the pre-match spiel in the papers today. And of course with us playing the Bairns, it's a chance for him to plug his babywear business (www.mummysonlinebabyshop.com) and all the tenuous cliches that generates. Speaking in the Courier, the Saints centre-half said, "Me and the missus do have a business called mummysonlinebabyshop.com and it has been up and running for a year or so. Natasha was a buyer before we met and we got into it through that. We have always loved kids and have four of our own—daughters Kayci and Aaliyah, and sons Jayden and Koby. Natasha runs it more than me but I am still hands on and it has opened my eyes to life beyond football. When you play your brain gets a bit lazy because it is just football, football, football. This has helped me broaden my education and to get the brain working. I have been trying to plug it to the rest of the boys but they are a bit tight with their money. Half of them won’t tell their wives in case they start spending so I have been slipping business cards to the women, going straight to the money source."
All that goes to one side today as we head to Falkirk for the big match. He went on, "This is a big game as it gives us a chance to pull away from the bottom end and get closer to the top six. A win will keep the momentum going as we get nearer to the end of the season. This has been a positive-thinking club since I joined and, of course, well before that so we don’t want to get involved in a dogfight. We would much rather be pushing up the table. The top six is the target for a lot of clubs so why should we not think like that? You could say our priority is to stay in the league but we can have greater ambition and aim to be a force in this league. We are working well as a back four just now and have become a good defensive unit. I don’t think we look like conceding other than just personal errors. We showed against Motherwell that one mistake can let a team back into a game. That is the difference when you are in the top flight—you get punished for errors, whether it be against Falkirk, Celtic or Rangers. We don’t want to give them a lift. We want to impose our game on them. If we play like we can play then we will get the right result."
Collin Samuel will face a late fitness test and Del has doubts over two other unnamed players.
7pm - Despite another Graeme Smith howler putting us behind and a pretty scrappy performance, Saints managed to take all three points with a 2-1 win at Falkirk with goals from Liam Craig courtesy of a penalty and a late lob from Kenny Deuchar. The result sees us move above the Sheep and eleven points clear of bottom place.
March 12th - More in the Courier today about tomorrow's big game at Falkirk. The Saints manager told the paper, "I can’t stress enough the importance of this game. It is as big as any I have been involved in as a manager. The players will be treating it in exactly the same way. We can’t wait to get out there and get going. The match can’t come soon enough. It is one we are really looking forward to and I am convinced we won’t let anyone down. We fought hard to get into this league and we know the potential importance of this game. There is more of an edge to this than many others. There is a genuine sense of anticipation in the dressing room.".
There's set to be over 1,000 Saints fans there and he went on, "When we have taken a big travelling support to matches we have rarely let them down. We are all determined to do our bit and hopefully together we can get the result we all want."
Teamwise, Collin Samuel is still a doubt with his calf injury but Jody Morris and Murray Davidson are both fit. There's also a new face at the club this week with the teenage ex-Leeds midfielder Josh Falkingham training with the club. He's a free agent but no word of any move yet.
March 8th -Saturday sees us take on Falkirk in the game rearranged from the dark snowy days on early January. The manager reckons this is one of the biggest games of the season and has put our a plea for the fans to make the trip to back the team. Del said in the Courier, "It is a massive game for us—as big as any I’ve been involved with in my time here, and I’m hoping for a big support. I’d like the fans there in numbers to back us.". Steven
Anderson is the only doubt so far after going off against Well with strained knee ligaments.
Meanwhile Saints have today confirmed that chief executive Stewart Duff(right) will retire at the end of the season. Marking the end of an era, tribute was paid by chairman Geoff Brown who told the Courier, "Stewart has, during the football season, been working at the club six days a week and now that he has turned 60 he no longer wants to be doing that, which I understand completely. He has been here over many, many years, in a difficult position which brings with it a lot of hassle. For me he has been tremendous. The difference from most clubs is that Stewart is a true St Johnstone supporter and everything was always done with the best interests of the football club at heart. He was always sensible about things. We all want to see the team winning but the club is also a business which has to survive into the future. Stewart has been my right arm down the years. He has never made any major decisions without referring to me while I would never make a decision going over his head. It has been a partnership. It’s Stewart’s decision to make a clean break and I respect that. I tried to talk him round but he feels if he can’t offer anything to the board in practical terms he doesn’t want to be a hanger-on. He has had to put up with a lot of flak down the years and probably kept a lot of it away from myself. But no one should ever underestimate the work he has put in and just how big this business is now. When we first came in the turnover was £103,000. We were bottom of the second division in September 1986. Now we are in the SPL again and it’s now in excess of £4 million with more than 80 members of staff. Unlike other businesses, decisions and the implications are played out in the public eye and that makes things more difficult. "
The man himself said, "I feel a clean break is for the best. I don’t believe I’d have a meaningful contribution to make moving forward and I wouldn’t want my successor maybe thinking he has me looking over his shoulder. I have been lucky to have had great staff and fantastic support over all the years I have been here and I have no doubt they will continue to take the club forward."
As for his own future, Geoff Brown went on, "Stewart’s presence at St Johnstone is one of the reasons I’ve kept going. But I’ve got younger guys on the board and one way or another I’ll be handing over a heck of a lot more responsibility to them now. I certainly don’t see myself bedding in someone else doing a similar job to the one Stewart has. We’ve not done anything as regards advertising for a replacement but in my view we may not necessarily want someone who is administration led. There are a lot of other aspects to the club which might be more of a priority for anyone coming in. We could appoint someone else to handle the administrative side. But I remain of the view that it is impossible to work for a committee and a board of directors can act as a committee. So we’ll see. I’ve not decided whether I will continue as chairman. We’ve not reached that stage. There are born chiefs and born Indians and you have to consider the implications of any decision."
March 7th - Graeme Smith held his hands up (and didn't catch anything) about the first goal at the weekend but is reluctant to take the blame for the second. Speaking after the game he told the Courier, "The last couple of weeks we have been getting punished for every mistake we make, which is maybe indicative of the standard of the SPL. And we all—myself included— need to cut out these errors. I made a bad decision for the first goal, coming when I should have stayed. I then jumped thinking he was going to try and lob me when he’s actually made no contact and the ball has bounced under me. I always look back at my performances and analyse them. I’m already thinking I should have done things differently for their opener. But with the winner I’m not sure. The boy has had a good early hit and I’ve tried to knock it into a safe area. The ball was too far away from me to try and take it so I’ve gone for pushing it away. When you do that you look for a bit of luck. But strikers try to anticipate where the ball is going to go and it’s just one of these things."
Everyone seems to think we deserved a draw though and Del said, "Losing was really harsh on us. I was disappointed to hear our fans booing the boys off at the end. I can understand their being disappointed but we all need to remember where we’ve come from and that we are doing OK"
March 6th - Jody
Morris and Murray Davidson are both doubts today but Graham Gartland, Kenny Deuchar and Kevin Moon are all in the squad. Filipe Morais has done the pre-match spiel in the papers as he continues his comeback from an ankle problem - with a diet of pineapples apparently the recommendation to help this. Speaking in the Courier, he said, "The physio recently found out that there’s an enzyme in pineapple which speeds up the recovery process. So I am icing the joint and eating loads of pineapple every day—I am chomping chunks and chunks of the stuff. I will do anything to help my recovery but it will be a while before I can look at another bit of pineapple again."
As for his form this season, he's mostly been used from the bench and went on, "That’s been the frustrating thing about all my injuries this season. They have all been niggling, annoying things that take a few weeks to recover from. Then you have to work on your fitness again which takes another week or two. I would get back in the team and then pick up another injury. But it is something you have to deal with and I now just want to get as many starts as I can to finish the season well for the team and for me personally. I was desperate to get on at Easter Road. Obviously, despite the pain I am in, I was raring to go from the start, especially against my former club, Hibs. I really thought we could have won the game as well. As it was, I came on as sub and just wanted to make as much impact as I could. It was also good to see Sammy coming on and doing well. With him and myself coming back, it gives the manager more options for the Motherwell game. My contract finishes at the end of the season and we will see what happens. To be honest, I am not thinking about that at the moment. The manager knows me well and if he wants to keep me, I will sign. But we have always said we would leave it until the end of the season."
6.30pm - A really poor performance saw us lose 2-1 at home to Motherwell with Steven Milne drawing us level after a poor opener only for another slipup four minutes from time to give the Steelmen the winner. The only plus was that the teams around us failed to gain any ground, but that was little comfort for Saints fans.
March 5th - With the daft decision to move the Arabs game (and that's got both sets of fans well pissed off) it means that tomorrow's match against Well is the last home 3pm Saturday kick-off we'll have before the split. It also mark's Del's (right) 100th game in charge and (assuming he takes part) Collin Samuel's 50th game for the club. The manager knows it'll be tough against the league's form team and speaking in the Courier he said, "I was surprised when I was told about the 100 games, but to be honest I have loved every minute of it. The job is everything I thought it would be and I am really, really enjoying it. I love coming in every day and preparing the team for training and for matches. I still relish the buzz of a Saturday at three o’clock. I have had great support from the chairman and the directors as well as the players themselves. Playing football is the best thing, there is no question of that, but my focus totally changed when I was given the job and decided to stop playing. I thought I might have to hang up my boots when I became manager but I still played against Morton in my first game in charge. I gave the big Churchill-like speech beforehand—and then we went behind in a minute after a mix-up between Steven Anderson and Alan Main led to an own goal. So that was a welcome to the reality of management. I was going to have a blast at a few players at half-time and maybe change things but I ended up taking myself off. I was actually face to face with Chris Millar that day and he made feel every one of my 36 years. After that, I sat on the bench a couple of times but I never physically went back on the pitch again. So my last game was against Morton but I made the decision to stop playing because the players needed me to focus full time on the management side of things."
As for tomorrow he went on, "Motherwell are on a great run at the moment. They have dragged themselves up to the top end of the table with the help of two really experienced men in charge. Craig and Archie came in when the club was looking a little fragile but they have more than steadied the ship. I worked with Archie when he was assistant manager under Walter Smith at Rangers. I must say I loved working with him. I thought he was a great foil for Walter and I still keep in touch with him. In fact, I met him on Wednesday night at Hampden and he was asking for my team for Saturday—so I told him to read about it in The Courier! But seriously, I also have a lot of respect for Craig Brown. I am expecting a really tight, competitive match against a side who are flying, but there are signs our confidence and belief is getting stronger and hopefully we can make that count for something."
5pm - Well whether or not fan power had anything to do with it, the Arabs match on Easter Monday has moved again this time to a 7.30pm kick-off. Meanwhile Murray Davidson's groin injury is the only doubt for Saints tomorrow.
March 4th - With another trip to the Zone of Bigotry due a fortnight on Saturday, Saints have announced ticket selling details for the trip to Parkhead on the 20th. Prices are £25 for adults and £16 concessions for a chance to see the pitch and £22 / £13 if you'd rather stare at a pillar. They're on sale next week to season ticket holders with a general sale the following week. Bet you can't wait.
Elsewhere Stuart McCaffrey(right) has resorted to sugar jabs to try and clear his injury problems. He's seeing the same specialist that helped Martin Hardie and Kevin Moon and he told the Courier, "I’ve been down to Leicester to see the guy Mooner and Martin went to for sugar injections. It seems the hernias I had were caused by my pelvis being a little bit out of position. He’s the top man for sorting that kind of thing out, one of only three people in the country who do these injections, which are geared towards strengthening and re-aligning joints. I was down there last Thursday and again on Tuesday. I’m due to get the last of three jags on Monday. The double hernia op I got three weeks ago was carried out using keyhole surgery and that went fine. And with this treatment I’m getting at the moment I should hopefully be back training in a couple of weeks’ time. It’s been a rubbish season for me with injuries. I started to have problems with the groin back in mid-October. I went for jags at the start of November and then played three games. But after that it flared up beyond the point where I could train and play through the pain. Hopefully that’s me on the way back at last, though. We’ve a couple of free mid-weeks coming up before there’s a flurry of matches. I’d like to think I’ll have the opportunity to be involved in these. But first I need to get myself fit then play the odd bounce game to get my fitness up, because there’s no substitute for playing to get your sharpness back. "
6.30pm - The latest SPL cock-up has seen the Saints v United fixture originally set for Saturday 3rd April moved to Easter Monday, April 5th with the wonderful kick-off time of 4pm - all to satisfy ESPN but pretty much ensuring that plenty of real fans won't be able to get to the game. Bloody shambles.
March 2nd - Graham Gartland has been diagnosed with a serious chest infection, but should be ok for the weekend. After missing out at the weekend he told the Courier, "The doc tells me I’ve got a bad chest infection. That’s not a big deal but I’m still feeling pretty rough. Looking back I probably went on the antibiotics a bit late. I only started them Friday. I’d begun feeling rough on the Tuesday night and although I trained Thursday I didn’t feel good. But Friday I was OK and thought I’d be alright to play. But come Saturday I was struggling. I tried to do a bit of running with Tony Docherty before the boys started their warm-up and felt really weak. The decision to take me out of the team was the manager’s and he probably called it right. Watching the game I didn’t feel too bad but that night I couldn’t sleep and I’m still not breathing properly. I’m really annoyed at having had to drop out of the team. But the boys did really well without me. After the first 10 minutes I thought we were the better team and although a draw was probably a fair result we might have nicked it in the end."
There's a possible bounce game with Scumdee today but Kenny Deuchar and Kevin Moon will miss out after picking up knocks at the weekend. Jody Morris and Murray Davidson will also miss out and both are doubts for the visit of Well. The manager said, "I feel for Murray but his time with Scotland will come. As far as Saturday is concerned we’ll have to wait and see. Jody has had another injection and we were told two weeks’ rest would help his stomach tear. But he has to be rated doubtful for the Motherwell game. We’ll see how he progresses but don’t want to risk rushing him back too soon."
March 1st - With the Edinburgh-based Hootsman reckoning that keeper Graeme Smith should have seen red for his first-minute challenge on Pish that gave Hibs the lead at the weekend, the keeper himself took the Nish out of the paper himself with the classic quote, "I was lucky to stay on the park. I'm colour blind anyway – I thought he'd maybe have given me a green card. I can't have any complaint about the award, but a few of the boys have said they were tucking in behind, so I'll take their word for that."
Meanwhile Liam Craig's 100% record from the spot means he thinks he's taken over the mantle from the legendary Paul Sheerin. "We are just taking every game as it comes. At the start of the season we would have been happy to finish eleventh, anything above that is a bonus. It's not easy to come to places like Easter Road but we have taken a point and we are delighted with that. It's possible to get into the top six, it's okay having the games in hand, but you have to win them. Paul Sheerin was the penalty taker when I first came to the club. That's three out of three this season and four out of four last season, so, hopefully I've got a wee chance of taking the next one."
7pm - More bad news for Murray Davidson. His U-21 call-up will be on hold again after a knock he picked up against Hibs, meant he had to drop out of the squad today.
Top Of News
February 28th - Del was happy with the performance yesterday. He told the Screws of the World, "It was a good point on a day when we knew there would be a lot of emotion within the Hibs camp. We knew there would be a reaction to the heavy defeat we gave them, their two former players who had passed away and the East Stand being knocked down after the final whistle. So we knew Hibs would be quick out of the traps. Yet we lacked concentration, fell behind and that gave them and their fans an early lift. But from ten minutes onwards, the majority of the game was played in their half. The players kept knocking on that door and the very least they deserved was a point for their efforts. I thought two or three incidents could have gone our way, but in the end we got one of them. I did think we were unfortunate not to get something earlier when Murray Davidson went down in the box, but I haven't seen it again. Once we equalised, even though it was at the end, I thought we looked like the team that would go on and win it. Chris Millar made a great run at the end, but just rushed his shot a wee bit."
Meanwhile its been revealed that Graham Gartland was set to play but suffered a reaction to a bug he's been suffering from all week when he arrived at Easter Rd (must have been something in the air) meaning a late change to the teamsheet.
February 27th - After a double against Hibs last time out, Liam
Craig(right) reckons he's got bragging rights as joint top scorer with 7 goals along with Kenny Deuchar and Collin Samuel. The midfielder told today's Courier, "I just tell them I’m the one with the league goals and their’s have come in the diddy cup so mine count more. I work every day with Doc on the training park and after training I like to do a wee bit extra. That’s why I was so disappointed last year and a couple of times this year when I’ve got into positions and not taken them. It’s not for lack of extra practice on the training park but I’ve learnt to relax a bit more in front of goal. This is the most I’ve scored in a season and it’s part of my game, getting into the box and scoring goals and I’m delighted with the return so far. Looking back at games I should have a few more actually. I don’t like to set targets. I always know I’ll get at least one good chance in a game and its whether or not I take that. I’m in a position now to go on and get into double figures if I can go on a run of games and perform well - I don’t think its an unrealistic target but as long as I’m performing well and the team’s getting results I’ll be happy."
As for today he's not expecting the easy ride we had the last time the teams met. "The game last time’s in the past. We need to approach the game right and see where that takes us. I’ve worked under John before and I know what they’re all about and it would have hurt them the other night. I’ve got the most respect for them in the world because they gave me the chance in Scottish football and it will be good to see them again and a couple of players I played with before. Hibs aren’t third for no reason - they’re a great side. They’re having a blip at the moment but every team, even Rangers and Celtic, have gone through that this year but it’s how you recover from that and they’ve got the right two in John Hughes and Brian Rice behind them to do that."
There will be a minute's silence today in memory of ex-Hibs players Bobby Smith and Alan Gordon.
7pm - A Liam Craig(right) penalty to counter an earlier home spot kick saw us get a 1-1 draw with Hibs at Easter Rd although it's hard not to be disappointed after the way we played, to only get a point.
February 26th - Saints head to Easter Rd tomorrow looking to continue our good run over Yogi's bottlers. With the strikeforce hit by more injury, Steven Milne(right) is looking to start to get amongst the goals for the first time this season. The hitman told the Courier, "I’d rather everyone was fit but if there are injuries and I play then I’m happy to do so. I’ve been injured and playing through injury and I’ve only had the chance to play two full games in a row once this season. It’s been in and out, 45 minutes here and there. When I first came back from injury I played five or six halves and was coming off the bench—because there are no reserve games you have to do it that way to try and get fitness. It’s been really frustrating in that I’ve never been able to put games together at all especially after last season when I had a good run. I’ve always felt I needed a few games in a row and when you’re in and out you always feel you need to score or you’re going to be out again. The manager would never put that pressure on you—it’s coming from myself, knowing that having struggled to play two games in a row, when I do get a chance I’ve got to take it. I played against St Mirren and hit the bar and in the next game against Kilmarnock I was in the stand but that’s the way it is when there’s competition for places. The other strikers have done well and I’m not complaining."
Meanwhile the scan on Jody's stomach revealed that there is no major damage and the player has a good chance of playing tomorrow.
5pm - Del's wary of the Hibs desire for revenge as we head to Easter Rd tomorrow. He told the Official Saints site, "Hibs are a quality side with the ability to really hurt you. When we were last there on league business we could have been out of sight within half and hour but didn't take our chances while they made the most of what came their way and we found ourselves on the end of a 3-0 defeat. We were positive from the word go in the last game and I want the same again but Hibs will be aware of this so if should be interesting.".
The Doc's out but Jody and Filipe Morais are in. Meanwhile Liam Miller's managed to get his red card overturned so he can play for the home side tomorrow.
Finally the TFOD match from last weekend has been rescheduled for Tuesday March 30th at 7.45pm
February 25th - Not too much happening this week. Latest on the playing front is that Andy
Jackson has extended his loan deal to Arbroath by another month.
5pm - Some off the field stuff today with the official launch of the We Are Perth FANZINE a new online fanzine tied into the WAP forum with plenty of articles and updates for Saints fans.
February 23rd - The fallout from the weekend continues. The latest is that it's believed the SPL match delegate who was at McD for 9am told the club not to bother with an early check since he thought the ground would be playable. Stewart Duff told the Courier, "The pitch was playable on Wednesday night when we beat Hibs here and the undersoil heating was on full pelt from Thursday onwards. But Infoworks Engineering, who installed the system, are coming in tomorrow to check whether there may have been some kind of malfunction. We are conducting a detailed internal investigation because we want to get to the bottom of what went wrong. We accept that as a club we are entirely responsible for ensuring our matches here go ahead."
Meanwhile the Doc is set to miss out on the Hibs game this weekend.
February 22nd - The shit is still hitting the fan after the weekend. The SPL statement is expected to be delayed but Saints chairman Geoff Brown has said he's launching his own inquiry. He told the Courier, "It’s too early to judge the rights and wrongs of the timing of this postponement. Obviously, I am not happy about what happened and I don’t know the full details yet but questions will be asked. It’s never happened before so we will have to assess the situation quickly and get to the bottom of it. The undersoil heating had been on and no one had anticipated a problem. It had worked perfectly well before the midweek Hibs game. We are not yet in a position to say what has happened. We will have a maintenance crew in to have a close look at it. Obviously it had done its job for most of the park but not an area around one of the penalty boxes. The first priority could be to flush out the system. I just wonder if there was a problem created when temperatures went to minus-16 last month. That was enough to freeze diesel so maybe the anti-freeze was affected and has created a clog-up. I am really, really disappointed for everyone, including manager Derek McInnes and his players who were coming off that great 5-1 win over Hibs and were raring to go against Rangers. Something like this really knocks you back and I know everyone at the park was really gutted by what happened."
As for the £2 discount on offer for the next game (something derided by Chic the Pric and his fellow pundits, the chairman went on, "I don’t think any club has done this before and it is a gesture towards the fans who were inconvenienced and frustrated."
February 20th - The TFOD visit of course means that the coverage is more about our thoughts on them as opposed to anything to really do with Saints - Del is quoted in the Sun saying he expects a tough encounter (no shit Sherlock). "I don't think there is any way Rangers will have any complacency. That is why we need to be at our very best. Having worked under the manager, I really don't think relaxing will be an issue for them. They have gone 18 games without defeat and they are flying.".
There's a better in-depth interview with the manager in the Scotsman. Of course it's not just about the game and asked about his future plans (given our ex-manager) he said, "I hate the Owen Coyle question. Hand on heart, I didn't see myself doing any other job than the St Johnstone one. I had done well to get here, brought a lot of people in and I just wanted a chance in the Premier League. My only immediate aim is to keep St Johnstone in the SPL, that's it. I want us to get to a cup final, to beat an Old Firm team, and to keep it moving on. If we stay in the SPL this season, can we move it on next season? But my immediate aim is to keep this club in Premier League. Last year we were quite dogged. We didn't score a lot of goals but were difficult to beat. This year's been different. We have been able to flourish. Rather than have teams sitting in against you they are opening up, looking to beat you. They are thinking: 'St Johnstone – it's a great chance to get three points'. I felt the players could enjoy the SPL and that's been the case. "
1.30pm - Well another shambles and a frozen pitch led to the postponement of today's beating of the Forces of Darkness only an hour before kick-off. The Ormond stand end was frozen solid although the rest of the pitch was fine and a 3pm kick-off would possibly have gone ahead. Saints are getting slagged rotted on the radio just now (Chic the Pric and Billy Dodds the main culprits surprise, surprise). No word on a new date yet although its unlikely to be this week in case we upset the preparations for the OF game next weekend. Saints have made concessions to the Bigots with a reduction in price for the next game against them by £2 as some compensation for the travelling support today (as exclusively revealed on Radio Scotland in an interview with TFOD chief executive Martin Bain - why didn't they just speak to someone at McD instead of another OF mouthpiece?).
There could be more trouble for Saints as well - the SPL will issue a statement on the matter on Monday once they get the match delegate's report..
February 19th - TFOD come to town tomorrow and while confidence is still
brimming after the destruction of Hibs, Saints know it'll be a tough
game. Del is looking forward to the match and he told the Official
Site, "We should have taken something from the game when
Rangers were in Perth in October but we have developed as a
side since then and if we can show the same sort of attitude we
did on Wednesday then there is no reason that we cannot win the
game. Rangers are a quality side but we won't be sitting back
admiring them and by the same token I am sure they will be
aware of our capabilities as well."
After 10 games in 34 days though the squad has been stretched to the limit. Peaso had his knee op yesterday and is out for four weeks while the Doc is likely to be out for a couple of weeks. Filipe Morais is back in the squad as is Jody although whether or not either will get a start given the midfield heroics in midweek remains to be seen.
February 18th - While the confidence and spirits are still high from last night, the
latest on the Doc is that his ankle injury might not be as bad as
first feared. He's due a scan today. Meanwhile Jody is set to try
and win a slot in the midfield for the weekend visit of the Forces of
Meanwhile Cillian Sheridan has been called up to the Rep of Ireland U-21s and at last, Murray Davidson has been selected for the Scotland U-21s to face Azerbaijan on Tuesday March 2nd at the Falkirk Stadium.
February 17th - Graham Gartland(right) is out to improve the defence tonight after more slack defending cost us at the weekend. Up against one of the best strikeforces in the SPL though it'll be tough but the Irishman told the Courier, "We were really disappointed that we couldn’t hold on at Kilmarnock on Saturday as I felt we should have done. It is something we need to address. We should not be worrying about it but we should be working even harder as a team to get it right next time. I think we have to tighten up at vital times in games, for example just after losing a goal, just before and after half-time and the closing stages. We need to keep our concentration high because we have lost too many goals and there is no getting away from that. It is tough to take as a defender because you want to be proud of your record at the end of the season and that means conceding as few as possible. It is probably something everybody in the team needs to take notice of and try to change, starting with this match. Against a side like Hibs that has so much talent, you have to be aware of what’s happening all over the park. They play to their strengths, are neat in midfield and good at passing the ball. Having watched them on telly they seem to have moved up a level from last season. They are now one of the top sides in the country."
11.30 - Its been a long time coming but we were going to gub someone this season and despite several surprising changes to the Saints side tonight we ran rampant with two goals from Cillian Sheridan, one from Kenny Deuchar (sadly stretchered off near the end of the game) and a double from Liam Craig(one a penalty) in a 5-1 drubbing of the Hibees, with the Edinburgh side finishing with only ten men after substitute Nish was red-carded for violent conduct midway through the second-half.
February 16th - Peaso is being philosophical about his latest injury. He's had surgery and faces a four to six week layoutt. He's quoted in today's Courier saying, "I heard a crunch when the tackle came in from Simon Ford and it was innocent enough because Si isn’t a dirty player. He was just trying to stop me scoring and caught my standing leg. I got up to celebrate the goal with Paul Sheerin and Jody Morris but couldn’t straighten my knee. I was being told to get back to the halfway line but I couldn’t get going. It turns out there was a nick to the cartilage and I will be out for four weeks or so. Mind you, I am being very positive about it because this is minor league after what I have been through. I have worked hard to get here and this won’t stop me. I might not be able to run after the surgery but I will be on the weights. I am determined to keep up my fitness and get back playing as soon as possible. It is just a bit of bad luck."
The injury problems for Del don't end there. Jody Morris is a doubt with a stomach problem while Filipe Morais faces a late fitness test, but at least Kevin Moon is back.
February 15th - Kenny Deuchar(right) reckons more work is needed on the training pitch to fix the defensive problems. With the worst goals against tally in he SPL he told the Courier, "I believe we were confident going into the game. I don’t think the fact Killie have beaten us twice already this season was preying on our minds, even although they seem to be a bit of a bogey team. After going ahead twice it is really disappointing not to come away with anything from the match. I thought when we went 2-1 up, we should have killed the game off and learned from our mistakes in the first half, but obviously it was not to be. We have scored a good few goals in recent weeks so it is disappointing not to be able to keep them out at the other end and come away with more victories. So we will just have to keep working on the problem. In some ways it is harder to score goals than it is to stop them going in so it should be something we can fix on the training field. It is vital that we defend from the front. We have lost a few goals from set-pieces but that is when we are all back defending. So we simply need to defend better as a team. We feel we are playing well but are not receiving the correct reward in terms of results. We continue to believe we are a good team but there are a few things we aren’t getting right at the moment and we just need to keep working hard to fix them."
February 14th - The rotten weekend continued with the news that Peaso is out for a few weeks. The Saints striker left Kilmarnock on crutches yesterday after a cartilage injury. Del told the Official Site, "He’s on crutches and it looks like he’s nicked the cartilage. We won’t be sure of the severity of it for a few days but I would imagine we could be looking at four weeks anyway."
As for the game he went on, "Our organisation and concentration have to be better. We played well and I felt that we dealt with the threat of what they had for the majority of the game. When we went in front a second time we should have seen the game out and I felt we were comfortable so I didn’t see their second coming let alone their winner. We caused them anxiety and we should have taken something from the game but we have to concentrate better - one lapse can do you in."
February 13th - Graeme Smith is out to stop Killies run of form today. The Saints keeper told the Courier, "I enjoyed my years at Kilmarnock because it’s a great club and town and the supporters were good to me. I came up through the ranks and there were a few top-six finishes and a League Cup final along the way. Jim Jefferies did so well but maybe he had done as much as he could there. I spoke to Jim and Billy Brown, who are now at Hearts, recently and the only disappointment they felt was not getting a holiday between jobs! A lot of the guys I played with are still there, including David Fernandez, Danny Invincible, Alan Combe and Cammy Bell, who has really grabbed his chance in goal. I don’t really know Jimmy Calderwood but people talk highly of him and his backroom staff. He certainly has had some good results and they will be on a high after their win over Falkirk. It will be good to go back to Rugby Park but that’s where the sentiment ends. There will be no favours either way. I am going there to try to keep a clean sheet and come away with three points."
Kenny Deuchar should be back in the squad but Kevin Moon misses out with his hamstring problem and Filipe Morais is a doubt after a leg knock midweek.
7pm - Another crap performance with a lacklustre Saints twice taking the lead thanks to Peaso and Graham Gartland but sloppy defending and bad refereeing put us on the wrong end of a 3-2 defeat at Rugby Park. The result puts us further down the league and we weren't helped with the sight of Peaso limping off with a thigh injury picked up as he scored.
February 12th - Dave Mackay reckons that its easier playing centre-half for Saints. After returning to the right-back slot at Paisley he told the Courier, "It took a bit of getting used to going back to the right. It’s totally different to playing in the middle and to be honest I was a bit tired. It really hit me in the first 10 minutes just how much running you have to do compared to playing in the centre. They have it easy in central defence these guys—they only do a quarter of the running the full-backs have to. "
As for the St Midden goal he confessed he got the last touch which took the shine off his goal at the other end. "It was good to get my first goal. I’m normally good for a few every season so I’m pleased to finally get off the mark. I don’t know why it has taken me so long. Maybe I’m being used more as a decoy at corners than I have been in the past and of course it is a better league I’m playing in now, so it’s harder to get chances in the box. It’s a pity I scored the own goal as well. I saw Michael Higdon run away celebrating like he’d scored. He didn’t, but he can have it—because I don’t want to claim it. Their boy played a good ball in and Steven Anderson has jumped in front of me. I’d have sworn he was heading it but he’s missed it and it’s hit my head and gone in the corner. There was nothing I could do about it."
Kenny Deuchar looks like being fit for the trip to Kilmarnock tomorrow.
February 11th - In a rare outbreak of common sense, the elimination of both us and the Bairns (who are set to part company with Eddie May today) has resulted in moving the rearranged game from January at Falkirk. Due to take place on Wed March 10th, they've moved it to Sat March 13th with a 3pm kick-off. One other change is our home match against Falkirk which has been brought forward 24 hours from Wed 24th to Tuesday 23rd March with a 7.45pm kick-off.
February 10th - Chris Millar(right) is looking forward to renewing some old rivalries tonight. The ex-Morton midfielder is heading to Paisley knowing he'll be singled out for special treatment from the home neanderthals. Speaking in the Courier he said, "It’s fair to say there’s a considerable rivalry between St Mirren and Morton and nobody with a Cappielow connection is exactly popular with Buddies supporters! After the last game we had with St Mirren just before Christmas I’d to pick somebody up in Paisley. He’d taken a cab to meet me and the taxi driver was asking him what he was doing and who he was meeting. I’d scored the winner that day and once the guy found out it was me—he starting calling me a wee bleep, bleep!".
He recognises thst Saints need to recapture some form after the disappointments of the last week. "The boys who played on Saturday were really unhappy with the performance and will be out to make amends. In hindsight we were suffering a wee hangover from the Rangers defeat. There was a quietness about the changing room beforehand and I certainly felt tired in the second-half which contributed to United being a step ahead of us. St Mirren’s confidence will be high but we’ve got to put the cup defeats behind us. Our league form prior to these matches was good. We need to re-discover that. The next few games are really important for us. A few wins now would really push us up the table."
Collin Samuel is in the squad for tonight's game.
11pm - Honours even as despite a Dave Mackay strike giving us the lead, tired legs saw us concede a second-half equaliser in a 1-1 draw with St Midden, although the result still keeps us four points ahead of the Paisley tinks. Derek McInnes told the BBC, "We were the better side in the first half. In the second half St Mirren had more of the game. There was a 15-minute period when we were forced deeper - we could have lost the game then. But I was delighted that we picked the game up again. In the scheme of things, I think a draw is a fair result. Dave Mackay is a very good user of the ball. He has been a great signing for us. He has done so well. I think he has played every minute of every game. He is a determined player. I think he was wasting too much of his career in the First Division. I always felt he had the quality to be playing here and he has shown that in abundance this season. Today was very competitive and it showed what is at stake for both teams."
February 9th - Despite returning to action yesterday Kevin Rutkiewicz won't be risked at Paisley tomorrow, but Collin Samuel has a chance of making the squad. Graham Gartland is suspended and Kevin Moon will miss out due to his hamstring injury.
Meanwhile, assistant Tony Docherty was being a bit more positive about the performance on Saturday. He told the Courier that the penalty claim was a key incident. "I don’t think anyone who has seen the incident would disagree that it was a stonewall penalty. You would struggle to find a more obvious spot-kick. And if we get the decision and score off of it, that changes the complexion of the game. So we definitely feel aggrieved because in cup- ties, and especially coming off a disappointment as we were, it’s vital decisions go for you. There’s no doubt that the past week has been a sore one for us. The Co-operative Cup semi-final took so much out of the players and led to us not being on the front foot, as we would normally be, against United. I don’t think we were outplayed by them. We just weren’t sharp. But there’s no time to dwell on what’s happened in the two cups. We now have to focus all our energies on the league campaign starting with the game at St Mirren on Wednesday."
February 8th - There was some good news for Saints today with Kevin Rutkiewicz and Collin Samuel returning to training and playing 45 and 60 minutes of a closed doors game against Morton. Saints won that 1-0 thanks to Stevie May with Mark Connolly also getting a run out.
February 6th - Despite missing our best chance of the night Murray Davidson(right) is out to put the semi-final defeat behind Saints today and progress in the other cup. He spoke to the Courier ahead of the cup game and said, "We let ourselves down badly against Rangers, especially in the first half. We just didn’t get going. I missed a great chance, which I’m kicking myself about, because if we had gone 1-0 up it would have been a completely different game. That’s a massive dis- appointment, but there’s a game tomorrow to try to turn it round. I recorded the match but deleted it without watching. I knew myself what had happened. I’d lost track of where I was and when the cross came over I was there standing. I lost my bearings for a moment and the chance was gone. You see the chance in your mind afterwards, and I was still thinking about it all yesterday. There’s no getting away from it - I should have scored, simple as that. If it had gone in, who knows, we could have been sitting in a final. That’s something I’ve got to deal with, but I won’t dwell on it. Until we get a good result it will prey on my mind, so it’s up to me to try to fix it. I’m going to keep getting into the position to score and I know that if I do that it will turn for me sooner rather than later. Hopefully I can get a goal tomorrow but I’ll be just as happy if I don’t and we still win."
His manager meanwhile is glad it's a big cup game today. Derek McInnes said, "We’re really glad we’ve got this one. It will be a proper atmosphere and is probably the perfect game for us. There have been plenty of goals, as well as twists and turns, in our previous games with United and I don’t expect this to be any different. You can’t mask the disappointment of losing a semi-final because we had expectations of winning, but we’ve got to move on. We can either feel sorry for ourselves or pick ourselves back up and meet the next test head on. I want to get back to Hampden as soon as possible and try to make that next step into a final. Dundee United have the same motivation as us — we can’t win the league but we can win a cup. This is our only chance left this season."
Speaking of our new signing Michael Duberry he said, "Jody is a childhood pal of Michael’s and they played together at Chelsea. I had Jody badgering him to try Scotland and it’s paid off. This is an experienced player with a Premiership and European pedigree.". Doobs (as he's apparently known) drove for seven and half hours to come north and trained yesterday. He said of the move, "I put the kids to bed and kissed my wife goodbye and headed off. But the sat nav stopped speaking to me at Carlisle and I was all over Scotland before I got here! But it was worth it because I managed to train with the lads and I’m ready if the manager selects me for the cup game. I have been best mates with Jody since we were teenagers at Chelsea and we also played together at Leeds. He has been the link and it will be great to play again with my best pal. I’ve seen how happy he has been playing with St Johnstone in Scotland and hopefully it will work out just as well for me. Saints gave him a home after going through a tough spell in his career. He has talked highly of the club and the manager. Derek McInnes had shown an interest before but I’d been planning to play my football nearer home because of the family. That hasn’t worked out so I widened the radius and the opportunity came up to move to Scotland. I’m desperate to prove myself here. The hunger is still there. I last played in mid- December but I’m no couch potato or slouch. I’ve kept myself fit and I’ll really push myself."
8pm - It was a case of too many tired players underperforming today as we lost a soft goal to go out the cup in a 1-0 defeat at home to United. No complaints from Derek McInnes who told the BBC "We're obviously a bit flat. There was a slight hangover from the game on Wednesday night, with a few boys who were a bit tired. We were not at our best, and we have to be at our best - but we didn't have the spark to our play that we normally have. We didn't have any sustained play, and I thought United were the better team. They played sharper, with more intensity, and they deserved their win. We shouldn't lose goals the way we did, but I felt there was a challenge on my keeper from Darren Dods that the referee should have seen, but he didn't. But on balance, I thought United were the better team."
February 5th - After a day of trying to forget the Hampden Experience, thoughts have turned to tomorrow's tie in the non-Diddy cup competition as we play host to Dundee Utd tomorrow with the potential for a grudge match on both sides following the bad-tempered end to the game at Tannadump last week. Danny Grainger thinks we can bounce back tomorrow though to make it up to the fans. He told the Courier, "Win, lose or draw, we have so many games just now there is no time to dwell on any of them. Now we have another cup tie against United and it would be great to get back to Hampden quickly. The Rangers defeat was our own doing and I can only apologise for the let-down. We shot ourselves in the foot. At times we fell short of the standards we have set for ourselves—but we will be up for the United game, no question."
3.30pm - Surprise news ahead of the cup-tie with another defender coming on board as Saints moved to sign ex-Chelsea and Leeds defender Michael Duberry(right) on a deal until the end of the season. One of Jody Morris' pals, the 34-yr old goes into the squad for the cup-tie tomorrow subject to international clearance. Stuart McCaffrey has undergone an op on his groin and is likely to be out for 6 weeks and while Kevin Rutkiewicz resumed training this morning, he's well short of match fitness and with Graham Gartland definitely out of Wednesday's trip to St Midden as part of his suspension, the defence obviously needed strengthening.
February 3rd - It's the big semi tonight and a chance to play for the right to face the "mighty" St Midden in the final (accompanied by their "Paisley Legions" - copyright Chic the Pric). Anyway Savo(right) reckons that our experience of Hampden will help us a bit against the Forces of Darkness. The striker spoke to the Courier and said, "This is the fourth semi-final in my time at the club and I have only been here for five years so that’s not bad. I would like to think we do know what it takes to play well on the big occasion. We have been there before and not let ourselves down in semi-finals. OK, we have not made it through to a final during that time but we have always played well, going to extra-time against Hibs, losing narrowly to Celtic and then going out on penalties to Rangers. It is as low as you get when you lose semi-finals so we have had a lot of disappointments. Hopefully, remembering how we felt after all those games can spur us on to victory this time."
Of course this being a game against the Dark Ones, the CIS victory at Ibrox a couple of years ago has been brought up again. He went on, "We have been close in the past and we feel good about this game. We are doing quite well in the league and got a really good win over Hearts on Saturday. So confidence is quite high. We definitely feel as if we can win the match and we are not just going there hoping to do well. We know we can do well. Hopefully, this will be the time when we go that bit further and knock Rangers out. I remember when we beat them at Ibrox. That was a big moment for me and for the team. That was a quarter-final and it was just a pity it wasn’t the semi. That night gave me great memories, scoring both our goals. We were pretty comfortable and could have won by more. Mind you, it has all changed since then, with different teams and managers."
Derek McInnes meanwhile reckons the defence will be the key. "Rangers are used to situations like this, used to picking up silverware, so they won’t be fazed by the occasion but I don’t expect my players to be either. The motivation is there because we know what it feels like to lose a semi-final and we have to do everything within our power to ensure we don’t feel that way again. I think we are in good form going into this match. We had won three games on the spin until we lost to Celtic. Circumstances dictated that we got a bit of a chasing in the second half but against Dundee United last midweek we were very close to winning that one and it was a good point at Tannadice. We then beat Hearts comfortably on Saturday and I thought we were the better team. What we want is for Rangers to know they are in a game. I think being sound defensively can give us a platform to win the tie. Being organised and aggressive at the back can instil confidence throughout the team. On the other hand, if we are not right at it then that can spread anxiety throughout the team. So to give ourselves a chance we have to make sure that when we are asked to defend we do it well. We have good options up front and in every game we have played this season with the odd exception we have carried a threat in attack. So if we do well at the back then we will always be in with a shout."
Mark Connolly trained with the boys yesterday and is in the squad but is unlikely to start.
11.30pm - The jinx continued as two first-half goals were enough to do for us with a 2-0 defeat to TFOD at Hampden in front of less than 18,000. Saints did themselves proud though and we even managed to save a second-half penalty. Derek McInnes was a bit pissed off after the game and said, "Ultimately, it's just a feeling of disappointment. There's no real satisfaction in terms of how we played and our approach. I thought we had some good performances. Maybe I expect too much from us at times and I expect us to be better and defend better. Rangers are through because they took a couple of opportunities and they defended better throughout the game. I thought we had some really good performances, but I do think certain the goals were very, very poor and ultimately that's cost us."
February 2nd - There was a surprise signing yesterday with the arrival of 18-yr old Irish centre-half Mark Connolly(right) on loan from Bolton until the end of the season. He's due to travel up today and will go into the squad for the CIS tie. Derek McInnes told the Official Site, "Mark comes very highly recommended by Gary Megson and I have seen him in action on a couple of occasions myself. I’ve obviously been able to speak to Owen Coyle about him and he also rates Mark but feels he needs a bit more experience and I am sure he will be an asset to us for the remainder of the season."
Meanwhile the hype is building for tomorrow's trip to Hampden and the manager told the Courier, "What we don’t want is another maybe, could’ve, should’ve match. We want to move the whole thing on. The club has already played three semi-finals in recent years—outwith the Old Firm does anybody else beat that? Now we want to take that next step. A lot of the boys have had experience of losing semis so there is plenty of motivation to get to the final.". He remembers the last semi at Hampden when we lost to TFOD on penalties and went on, "As a player it was bad enough to lose a semi-final but as the manager against Rangers last time I thought we were there because we had looked comfortable. We knew by the time our match was played that there was a team from our own league (the first division) awaiting the final because Queen of the South had beaten Aberdeen. That was a real opportunity to win a trophy. It’s gone now but we have another chance to get to a final, with either Hearts or St Mirren awaiting the winners. If Rangers show their quality then we will be up against it, but we have to ensure they have to work very hard for anything they get.". There's still plenty of time to get a ticket and with everyone (including our favourite media pundits) no doubt preparing to slag us off the players need all the backing they can get.
If tomorrow goes to penalties, Jody Morris(right) is prepared to step up to the mark again despite his miss in that last semi. "I have enjoyed every minute of my time at St Johnstone—well, apart from maybe a certain penalty kick. I will never be able to take away what happened that day. To miss a penalty in such an important game—that feeling will live with me forever. It is not even as if I will look on this game as a chance to put it right because even if we win on Wednesday I will still feel exactly the same about the other semi-final. When it comes to matters on the pitch, it is one of my worst times in football. It was just such an individual responsibility and I felt a little bit lonely at the time, I can tell you. When I think about certain times in my career that is one of those occasions that pops up. I do wonder why I didn’t put it further in the corner. I was confident and didn’t think for a minute that I was going to miss it. In saying all that, I would have felt worse about myself if I hadn’t volunteered to take that penalty. I will always be one of the first to put my hand up. Whether I get picked or not by the management is another thing but I will always be willing to do it. I have always been like that. Over the years, I have watched on telly when England have lost a few shootouts or other sides have missed out in big games and I have often thought that maybe certain players should have been in the five but weren’t."
"It would be amazing for us to reach a final, particularly being a team that is still relatively new to the SPL. We have beaten Dundee United and Hibs already in this competition but I think we will need to step up another level to beat Rangers. They are the best team in the league, were the champions last season and have shown their quality again this season. It will be tough but we will give it a go."
February 1st - Gary
Irvine(right) got most of the plaudits after the game on Saturday (not least a BBC MoM award from his Uncle Brian) but he admitted in today's Courier that his goalline clearance was more an accident than anything else. "It’s a bit of a blur. A few of the boys were watching it on a laptop after the match. As I was coming across my momentum was taking me towards goal. I knew the striker was coming in behind so I left a leg out to make it difficult for him and it paid off. He’s passed it against my heel and it has bounced clear. It would have been a real sickener to lose a goal in injury time. We’d put in a lot of hard work to be in that position and a draw would have been harsh. But we’ve got ourselves a really big win and it will give us a boost going into Wednesday’s semi-final against Rangers. It’s a massive three points."
Derek McInnes was happy with the win and he said, "I thought we were totally dominant. We were more aggressive than Hearts and we defended really well. I don’t think there was any doubt that we deserved to win. There were some really good individual performances. It was Murrays' best game for a while. He’s had groin problems and hasn’t trained much, and he missed Wednesday’s game against Dundee United with illness. It’s a credit to him how he set the tempo and made his mark on the game, but he wasn’t alone in that. I was also delighted for Kenny and hopefully there will be more goals to come."
Top Of News
January 31st - With the league on the back burner for a while, the thoughts are now focussed on Wednesday night's trip to Hampden. Despite the apparent lack of interest (around 2000 Saints tickets sold) Del(right) still thinks we can do the business and get our revenge on TFOD for the Scottish Cup semi defeat in 2008. The Saints gaffer told the Screws of the World, "That semi-final defeat against Rangers still rankles. Until we get to a final - until we win a trophy - it'll always be there. I was delighted with my players and the way we played against Rangers, it's the penalties we missed that stick in my mind the most. With Queen of the South reaching the final, we had a real chance to win a trophy against a team from our own league at the time. How often does a chance like that come along? That's one of the reasons it still bothers me. When you get yourself in front in a semi-final and you're into extra-time, you think you're almost there. It's all could haves, should haves and maybes. They're the words we don't want to be saying after the game on Wednesday. Instead I want us to be saying we did the business against Rangers and we deserved to get to a final. I think it's a mental thing, every time you play a club like Rangers on an occasion like this. It's about having a real belief and confidence in yourself. It's no use just going out there hoping to win against Rangers. You've got to really believe you CAN win. I believe I have a lot of confident players and I need them all to show that on Wednesday. I certainly believe we can do it. It is a big ask for us but it's not beyond us. Rangers are used to being in these situations. It's second nature for them to be here in a semi-final but we've got to see this tie for what it is - a real chance to get to the club's first cup final for a long, long time."
He knows we have to improve on our performances against the Forces of Darkness so far this season. "You've got to have that mentality where you're not just going to roll over. We know we can cause Rangers problems after playing them twice this season. In the first game at McDiarmid Park we really got after them and asked a lot of questions of them and they and they were relieved to score with a late goal. The players and I took a lot out of that game. It was the total opposite of the game at Ibrox with them when we slit our own throat and rolled over for them by losing an early goal. That can't happen at Hampden. It's my third semi-final with St Johnstone - two as a player and one as a manager - so we've hit the bar on a couple of occasions, so to speak. We have actually performed very well in all three semi-finals and lost to the eventual winners each time. We've run them all very close and we've been pleased with how we've played in all three semi-finals. But for us to try and move the whole thing on now, and make progress at the club, we're trying to take that next step and get to a final. That's the motivation for us. And if you can get to a final, then you never know. "
January 30th - Dave Mackay(right) is today's pre-match interview in the paper and just to show he's not getting carried away by the midweek draw, he's told the Courier we're looking for a top six finish. "Why shouldn’t we aim for the top six? We are too good a side to worry about what’s behind us. We still have to get the points to make sure we are safe, and that was another one on board at Tannadice (where they drew 3-3 on Wednesday night). But a win over Hearts would narrow the gap. They are a strange team. They can be very dangerous and they went to Ibrox last week and almost got all three points. Then they lose heavily at home to Aberdeen. We beat them at Tynecastle and drew here earlier in the season so we know it’s a game we’re capable of winning."
He knows how tough it will be today against a Jambos side that reappointed Jim Jeffries as their umpteenth manager last night and recognises we need to stop shipping goals after the midweek result left us with the worst defensive record in the SPL. "The goals against column doesn’t lie and as a defender it is embarrassing. We’ve lost far too many goals. We lost four in the second half to Celtic last week but we were down to 10 men and faced wave after wave of attacks. In a way you could accept that. It was more disappointing to leak three after being two up against Dundee United in midweek. We conceded three goals but didn’t actually defend too badly against United. And we showed real character to get back to 3-3.". Of course there is an extra incentive today with places up for grabs for the CIS semi this coming midweek. "That’s going to be a big game and everyone wants to be involved. But there has been no let-up after the United match and the Hearts game is our number one priority. Get that out of the way and we can prepare for Rangers. There was never any chance the manager would allow us to be distracted."
Del is apparently considering freshing things up in the side in an attempt to avoid too many tired legs. With the transfer window closing on Monday night, the manager has denied a move for Morton's Jim McAllister but say he is still trying to do some business. "We’ll keep looking. I know the areas where we need to strengthen and we’re working hard to do that."
6.30pm - Kenny Deuchar broke his duck today as Saints fought hard to get a well-deserved 1-0 win at home to the Jambos today ruining Jim Jeffries return to the Edinburgh club and setting us up nicely for the trip to Hampden in midweek - and just to round things off the results elsewhere went our way as well.
January 29th - Tomorrow's home match against the Jambos has just been thrown into the spotlight with the news that Hearts boss Csaba Laszlo has quit. He allegedly told the Edinburgh club that the mere thought of Liam
Craig and Peaso turning on the style tomorrow was too much to bear.
For Saints Liam Craig and Jody Morris are carrying knocks but should make the game while Murray Davidson and Graham Gartland are back in the squad after illness and suspension.
January 28th - After the stress of last night Del was happy with a point. He spoke to the Courier after the game and said, "We are delighted to secure a point after being 3-2 down with so little time left. Great credit must go to United for coming back after being two goals behind but, equally, I thought our side showed immense character. United’s overall agenda is different from ours and this is a great point for us in the grand scheme of things."
January 27th - Saints play United tonight as we try to get back up the league. Kenny Deuchar is doing the pre-match spiel in the Courier today and say he hopes he's partnered alongside fellow tall striker Cillian Sheridan who should take some part tonight. The Doc said, "I’ve played with big strikers in the past at East Fife and at Falkirk, where I was teamed up with Lee Miller for a time. Having two guys who are good in the air can cause problems for defenders used to getting it their own way. The manager has a good squad here and we have options. But I want to play in every game possible. I have always been available and hopefully that’s the way it stays through to the end of the season. I like going to Tannadice. I’ve only played there once, with Gretna, but I scored and set up a goal in a 2-1 win. And I also went there as a youngster with my dad, in the days of the terracing. We used to watch United’s European games. And I remember the first match I ever saw at Tannadice was one against St Johnstone which Saints won 2-1. It’s a place I have happy memories of and I’m looking forward to going back there."
Del says he's looking for a reaction tonight, "The Celtic game’s gone now and it’s all about how we react at Tannadice. It’s only natural to be down and disappointed with the result, but the good thing is, nine times out of 10, the players we have respond in the right manner and are ready to go the next game. It has to be like that in a derby. It will be a tough game, as United have really picked up again. We can’t afford any hangover and I don’t expect one.". Saints have no new injury worries thankfully with the manager's main problem being whether Stuart McCaffrey or Steven Anderson starts in place of the suspended Graham Gartland.
11pm - Two up thanks to Peaso and Liam Craig after 20 minutes we again suffered from a poor second-half which saw us lose three goals before Kevin Moon earned us a well-deserved 3-3 draw at Tannadump in a game which ended with a fight on the pitch and cards dished out like confetti. So it'll be a quiet cup-tie in 10 days time then. Elsewhere and the Midden's defeat to TFOD moves us up the league a bit while Hibs beat TFOE on their own patch to give all of Scottish football a lift (and a laugh).
January 26th - Despite Sunday's heroics in goals, Graeme Smith was still being critical of his performance yesterday. The keeper told the Courier, "I always analyse my performance whether I’ve had to make 20 saves in a game or two. And I’ll look back on Sunday and maybe be satisfied with some of the stops I produced. But the most important thing is the result and we didn’t get it. The sending off played a major part in the outcome because it’s very difficult to hold a lead with 10 men against a quality side like Celtic. I thought we did really well in the first half. We were more than holding our own. But after Garts went off it was always going to be an uphill struggle. They went from maybe having two or three chances first half to the point where in the second half I lost count of the number they created. Once they equalised they had a lot more of the ball and it felt like we were having to withstand waves of attacks and we just couldn’t contain them. But the margin between succeeding and things going against you can be small. If we’d kept 11 men on the park I think we’d have been more than capable of taking it on. As Falkirk and Hamilton have proved there’s not that big a gap between the Old Firm and the rest. Obviously come the end of the season they’ll no doubt be 15-20 points ahead of everybody else but in one-off games you can get the better of them."
Tomorrow sees us head to Tannadump and Del has some injury worries. With Graham Gartland suspended, Stuart McCaffrey will hopefully be fit to step into the breach but after suffering from a virus, the coaches will assess him in training today. The manager is looking to bring in some defensive cover and said, "It’s an area of the side we are trying to strengthen and Graham being banned means the urgency of that quest has been compounded".
Finally, it's been confirmed Graham Gartland has a 2-match ban and as well as tomorrow will sit out the trip to Love St on Feb 10th.
4pm - A 2-0 win in a closed doors game today saw a mixture of fringe players and four trialists get a workout. Andy Jackson got another hour of action and he's heading off to Arbroath on a month-long loan deal. Del told the Official Site, "All the boys who took part showed a great attitude and it was a worthwhile game. I wanted to give Andy an hour to make sure there was no reaction today before he goes to Arbroath for a month and I am pleased with the arrangement. He’s been out for an awful long time and needs games now."
January 25th - Del is out to pick up the pieces from yesterday ahead of Wednesday's trip to Arabland. Speaking in the Sun after the defeat yesterday he acknowledged that the red card was the turning point. "I'd certainly suggest we were the better side with 11 men. When you go down to 10 men against better sides you try for at least the next 15 minutes to stem the tide. But for 45 minutes it's difficult to do that, although I thought initially we did do it pretty well. Celtic are probably the one team you don't want to go down to 10 men against because of the pace and trickery they've got in the wider areas. We were left vulnerable to Celtic's pace on the counter-attack. Credit to Celtic, there were some real individual goals there. You have to acknowledge that. I spoke to the ref about the red card and he told me that it was accidental. But he also said that even though it was accidental it still had to be a red. I don't know if that's entirely true. But it was a red and it was difficult for us to play against 11 men for a full 45 minutes. I have no doubt Celtic would have asked questions of us second half. But we've lost the game because we went down to 10 men. All of a sudden, players from their team who you hadn't really seen in the first half, they started to get a stage to work on. And I think they smelt blood. We still have to take the positives from the first half. We have to realise when the Old Firm come again that we looked a decent side against Celtic. We competed and knocked them out of their stride. I thought our attitude and application to the game was spot on."
As for the final scoreline, he commented, "To lose 4-1, I don't think that my players deserved that. At times, though, we just had to take our medicine and the last 20 minutes were painful. Graeme Smith was outstanding in goal. But he had to be. He made a couple of great saves. He was a bit more active in the second half and he did well on a number of occasions. The players, though, can't dwell on this and we'll be ready for Dundee United at Tannadice on Wednesday night.""
January 24th - No real team changes expected this afternoon. Results yesterday went our way for a change with all the teams below us dropping points which means we won't drop down the league tonight. For the game though Peaso reckons we've got a chance telling the Sunday Mail, "The gaffer has it drummed into us that we can beat anyone. We genuinely think we can see off Celtic."
7pm - Well you didn't expect us to win. The rarity of a Saints penalty this season as Liam Craig scored to give us the lead was soon wiped out with a 4-1 defeat at home to TFOE with all their goals coming in the second-half after we had been reduced to ten men as Graham Gartland was sent for an early bath. We played heroically at times but the TV jinx at McDiarmid continues to haunt us. The only plus side was that it was a similar defeat for Falkirk at home to the Arabs so at least we've not slipped back any further.
January 23rd - Despite the hype surrounding the green half of the OF and their recent loss of form, Jody Morris(right) reckons it'll be a tough encounter tomorrow. He's optimistic though despite Saints going down 5-2 at Parkhead earlier in the season. He told today's Courier, "I came away from the game down there thinking what an excellent team Celtic were. Even without the mistakes we made they caused us a lot of problems. I was very, very impressed. And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised they haven’t gone and beaten more teams as convincingly as they beat us. People might say we’re getting them again at a good time, but I don’t hold with that sort of thing. For me, football comes down to what happens on the day. You can play a team that’s won 15 on the spin and beat them, then get a side that’s on a bad run that beats you. The game is possibly coming at a good time for us in respect of the fact we’ve doing well and playing with confidence. I don’t think the fact Celtic have been having a hard time of it is necessarily to our advantage. I would like to think, though, we are better placed for this game than the first one. We’d only have ourselves to blame if we weren’t better equipped now. The players here are deeper into their careers in the SPL than they were when we lost at Parkhead and hopefully we’ve now stamped out the silly mistakes we were making earlier in the season. We did OK going forward down there and had a couple of opportunities to take the lead. But defensive mistakes cost us badly and it didn’t matter that we scored a couple ourselves. I don’t get many goals and normally when I do I savour them. But I couldn’t really savour the one I got that day, not when we weren’t anywhere near in contention when I scored."
January 22nd - Gary
Irvine(right) reckons that our winning run means the boys are a lot more confident going into this weekend's game against TFOE. Speaking in the Courier, he said, "I feel myself and the other boys are better prepared for this game with Celtic than we were the first one. We knew going into the match at Parkhead it would be tough. But what happened was still a wake-up call. I look back and know I didn’t do myself justice that day. It was a big occasion going back there for the first time. When the fixtures came out in the summer that was the one I was looking for. And I maybe put too much pressure on myself. It was disappointing to go down there and not do as well as I could. But that’s in the past and I’m just looking forward to getting another crack at them. Confidence is high after some good results and conceding just one goal in the last three games. We’ve worked hard on the defensive side of things both as a team and as a unit at the back. We’ve got our rewards for that. Getting this run of games has justified my decision to stay on here after we won promotion. I signed a new contract because I wanted to impress in the SPL and although I had to wait a bit longer than I’d have wanted for my chance it’s up to me now to stay in the team."
The manager is also happy with the preparation and Del said, "I was a bit concerned that people were saying before the Forfar game that we needed it as a warm up for Celtic. That was never how I saw it. I always anticipated it would be a typically difficult cup tie. And if our approach hadn’t been spot on then they’d have caused us problems. So to come through it with the win, no injuries and to be back up and running after the lay-off was great. I certainly feel better going into the Celtic game to have got a match in ahead of it. Now we have to pick up the reins and get going again in the league. We’re on a good run—three wins—and only conceded the one goal during that run. As long as we keep it tight at the back then I feel we will create chances and cause them problems. The trick against the Old Firm, of course, is taking those chances."
Filipe Morais should be involved - he missed out midweek with a tight hamstring but is expected to recover. Stuart McCaffrey is also suffering from a bug but should be available.
6pm - New dates have been announced for the three postponed games. We're now at home to Hibs on Wednesday Feb 17th, away to Falkirk on Wednesday March 10th and home to Aberdeen on Tuesday 16th March. All games with a 7.45pm kick-off.
January 19th - Kenny Deuchar went to Forfar last night straight from a shift at the hospital and dedicated his goal to his baby son. The striker told the Sun today, "I've been waiting a long time for that goal. My last one was against Arbroath in the League Cup back in August so it's been a while. I've been desperate to score and dedicate it to my son, but he's almost three months old now so it's been a bit of a wait. But that one was for him. I've got to thank my boss at Wishaw General as well. I still do shifts there as I've got to keep my hand in for myself and my family for when I hang up my boots. She let me away an hour early so I could get here for the game so I owe her a big thank you."
Del was happy with avoiding a banana skin last night. He said, "It's been a while since we last played and that was a concern. I always felt it was going to be a tricky game and our approach had to be spot-on and it was."
January 18th - With the thaw underway it's looking hopeful for the cup-tie tonight (although some of us won't be able to get there). Del is going to put out a strong lineup as we attempt to get past the Statio Park side. Speaking to the Courier he said, "My original plan, had the Aberdeen match gone ahead, was to freshen up two or three positions because I am able to do that. But that is as far as I’d have gone changes-wise because this has the makings of a tough tie and we need to set about it with that in mind. Although, because of postponements, it’s been hard to have Forfar watched, we have managed to do our homework on them to some extent. And we know they have a lot of experience and ability in their team, along with possessing a manager who will be desperate to win the tie. With a home game against Dundee United awaiting the winner there’s a real incentive there for both teams—Forfar just as much as ourselves. We have a decent record against sides from the lower divisions. And that’s down to the fact the players have shown the right approach and application and played well in the ties concerned. That’s what we will need again against Forfar."
Chris Millar(right) is expecting a tough game. "I came up through the leagues with Morton and played at Station Park a few times when we were in the third division. It was actually a happy hunting ground for me both in terms of scoring a few goals myself and being involved in some good results. But there’s no doubt it is a tough venue to go to at any time, and with this being a cup tie they’ll be particularly hard to beat. Forfar will look at this as a great opportunity to take an SPL scalp. So we will need to be on our guard if we are to ensure we aren’t victims of a surprise result. I was a wee bit worried this lay-off was going to continue. But Stevie Milne lives up there and was telling us that the weather in Forfar is mild so fingers crossed. Going all this time without a game has been really frustrating."
6pm - Tonight's game got the go-ahead after a midday pitch inspection at Station Park. I won't be there but some sort of report will be up later.
10pm - In the end one from Kenny Deuchar and a brace from Liam Craig saw Saints through to a comfortable 3-0 win over Forfar to progress to the 5th round of the cup.
January 16th - If today's game goes ahead, one man out for revenge is Danny Grainger who was unfairly penalised as the Sheep got a dodgy penalty at Pittodrie last time out. The Saints left-back told the Courier today, "I was gutted about that decision. Big Lee is good at what he does. He knows how to get defenders tight to him so he can use his strength. It worked well for him up there when the referee, in my eyes, made the wrong decision. Having said that, if we’d had the goal we scored given against us, we’d have been incensed. Aberdeen hit us hard in the first half, making good use of the pace they have in the team, but second half we came into it and probably should have won the game. The lad Peter Pawlett is a good player, one of the best youngsters in the country and he caused me a few problems to start with but once I got to grips with him in the second half he was quite quiet so I’m not worried about facing him again. He won’t have to contend with Miller this afternoon, which brought a smile to Grainger’s face. Lee Miller is suspended, which is a shame." (that last sentence might have been tongue in cheek).
Meanwhile the current alleged sexual assault by Rangers keeper Allan McGregor has a new Saints link with papers today revealing that Filipe Morais was one of the other two men involved. All three are consulting legal advice and denying all allegations with the papers hinting at an blackmail attempt on McGregor.
11.00 - The game was called off at 11am thanks to a waterlogged pitch. No word of a rearranged date. Monday night's tie at Forfar is in doubt with a 10am pitch inspection planned for Station Park.
January 15th - As expected, signing an OF player on loan has given us plenty of coverage in the paper. Del's spoken about the Cillian Sheridan(right) signing and told the Courier, "I’m delighted to finally get Cillain here. It’s the third time I’ve tried for him since I became manager. I have been looking for something different up top and Cillian will provide that, leaving me really happy with my attacking options. I asked Celtic about Cillian over the summer but was discouraged at that stage because they preferred to see him going down south. But we kept an eye on things and now he’s here. Gordon Strachan thought enough of Cillian to play him twice against Manchester United in the Champions League and he was impressive with Motherwell on loan last season. Hopefully this move will be mutually beneficial. He can help us and help himself by buying into what we are trying to achieve at St Johnstone."
The player himself played 30 minutes for Plymouth at Newcastle on Wednesday night so it meant a rush job to get the signing through with Tommy Campbell turning into a chauffeur. Sheridan is happy with the move and he said, "I wasn’t aware the manager had tried for me before. But I’ve been excited about the move since I first heard about St Johnstone’s interest last week. Right away I wanted to come to McDiarmid Park. Everyone has had positive things to say about the club, including Gary Irvine who was with me at Celtic. It was a learning experience and I should be stronger in the long run. It didn’t work out at Plymouth the way I’d have wanted but now I’m desperate to do well for St Johnstone. The fact Saints sent a driver to Newcastle to get me up the road showed me how much I was wanted."
6pm Update - Well the good news is that the undersoil heating is on and blasting away full pelt in an attempt to get us some football to watch tomorrow. It all depends now on whether or not the weather holds up but given the fact that we're not Falkirk and Aberdeen isn't exactly next door for the travelling fans it means a pitch inspection and decision by 11am. Even so the club put an appeal out for volunteers today to help get the ground into shape with a 2-hour shift set for 8am tomorrow morning. Squad-wise, Cillian Sheridan will take part if the Irishman's international clearance comes through and while the game is too soon for Collin Samuel, Kevin Rutkiewicz or Andy Jackson, Del has pretty much a full squad to pick from.
Looking ahead and the prospects of some cup action on Monday night don't look too great with Forfar's home tie against East Stirling tomorrow already a victim of the weather.
January 14th - Transfer news first with 20yr old Sellik striker Cillian Sheridan joining today on loan till the end of the season. Previously he's had spells at Motherwell and Plymouth but 2 goals in almost 30 games during those spells isn't great reading
Meanwhile he may have to wait for his debut since Saints today announced problems with the undersoil heating at McD. A damaged valve due to the freezing temperatures meant the boiler was off and although spare parts were installed yesterday, there's obviously some doubt about the game. On the plus side the car park is apparently clear of snow so Mr Petty Polisman might be satisfied.
January 13th - With the postponements in recent weeks, the good news is that when we do get back playing, the injury list will hopefully have cleared up a bit. Graham Gartland, Andy
Jackson and Stuart McCaffrey are all back in full training and Collin Samuel(right) will return in 2-3 weeks.
The latter spoke to the Courier about his op and said, "When I went for a scan on my knee they discovered some cartilage damage. But the guy also noticed that I’d done the same thing when I was younger. I remember hurting my knee when I was 16-17 but never went for surgery or anything like that. And I was aware that my knee never went back straight after that injury. As I understand it, the surgeon dealt with that problem at the same time as this latest injury and as a result I should have better flexibility in the knee. I can’t tell at the moment as the joint is still a bit sore. But I’m told I’ll come back very much stronger for the operation. I saw the specialist last week and he gave me the okay to start doing strength work. And I’m aiming to be ready to play again in around three weeks—which means I could be back in time to face Dundee United, if we get through against Forfar in the cup, which would be great. That would be only my second game against them. The first one wasn’t too good because we lost and I missed out on a Co-operative Insurance Cup victory over them because of injury."
January 12th - The clearing operation at McDiarmid is underway as Saints try to get the ground fit for Saturday's visit of Aberdeen. We've not played since Boxing Day and with a fixture backlog mounting, Stewart Duff told the Courier, "We want the game on and will do everything we can to make that happen. We’ve already started clearing the car parks and surrounding areas and we’ll be addressing the fact the first four to five rows of each of our stands is affected by snow and ice. We’ll also have the undersoil heating on earlier than we would usually have ahead of a weekend fixture. There’s a lot to be done but we should be aided by the weather as the forecast for the remainder of the week is for the temperature to remain above freezing.". There are some problems though - burst pipes have put the Muirton Suite out of action.
Meanwhile the signing rumours have begun with Killie's midfielder Jamie Adams the latest name linked with a move to Saints.
January 11th -Tomorrows cup-tie is off (surprise, surprise) despite the thaw finally starting to his Scotland. The game is now set for Monday January 18th at 7.45pm which means the Hibs game set for that week has also been rescheduled.
January 10th - 5th round of the cup (assuming we beat Forfar) will see Saints at home to the handball-tactics of Dundee Utd. Game set for 6th February.
January 9th - A 1-0 win get the morale up at Toryglen yesterday with most of the first team involved and Steven Milne on the scoresheet. Both Andy
Jackson and Stuart McCaffrey had runouts. Of the former, the manager told the Courier, "Andy is coming on great but still has a long way to go in terms of general fitness"
Meanwhile Craig Moore has decided to take an 18mth deal in Greece so won't be heading to Perth - we'll just have to put a brave face on it then.
January 8th - At least Saints are keeping themselves active with another friendly at the Toryglen indoor centre at Hampden scheduled today. Morton are the opponents after a 4-1 win over Ayr earlier in the week which saw Kenny Deuchar get on the scoresheet and Andy
Jackson(right) get half an hour of action as his comeback continues.
Looking ahead to the McD fixture a week on Saturday, the latest is that the Astroturf has been cleared at the ground to allow training to take place. But the bad news is a couple of burst pipes in the stand and snow up to 18ins deep in the car park.
And thinking further ahead the CIS semi tickets for the start of February will be on sale to season ticket holders next week. And if you don't have a season ticket but want to go to the Sellik game on the 24th of this month, you can get a voucher for a ticket at the Aberdeen game next Saturday.
January 7th - There's a 10am pitch inspection at Forfar today so expect the game to be called off by 10.01am. Rescheduled date of next Tuesday already looks doubtful so the next dates will be the Monday 18th and Wednesday 20th.
4.30pm - Surprise, surprise the games off.
January 6th - As expected Jonatan Johansson has left the club at the end of his short-term deal. He could be followed by some fringe players on loan but as yet there's no word of any incoming signings.
Saturday's cup-tie hasn't been officially called off but is about as likely to go ahead as Dundee are to sign up to lead the new Dove ad campaign. The rescheduled date will be next Tuesday (the 11th) with the following Monday and Wednesday as backups which, if need be will bugger the rearranged Hibs game.
January 4th - More shocking news today with the big surprise that this weekend's cup tie at Forfar is officially in doubt. No undersoil heating (not that that helped at the weekend) and 3 1/2 inches of frozen snow on the Station Park pitch it looks like it might be another Saturday in front of the telly for Saints fans.
January 2nd - As at 09.30 there was apparently no danger to the game although a 10am stadium inspection is rumoured as Falkirks ground is still affected by the wonderful Scottish winter. The freeze has meant no midweek game for Saints and a possible fixture pile-up developing towards the end of the month. It also meant that Liam
Craig's 23rd birthday celebrations last weekend were put on ice. The midfielder is looking forward to today's game despite potential domestic issues, He told the Courier, "Laura is still in the admin office at the Falkirk Stadium so it will make for an interesting Saturday night. We’ll see if either of us is speaking. We’re getting married in the summer so hopefully Saints and Falkirk will both be in the SPL. That would be ideal. I enjoyed my time at Falkirk and left on good terms. They were great to me. But after the loan deal at Perth I knew this was the place for me. We had a run to the cup semi-final and followed that up by winning the league and promotion last season. I never regarded it as a step backwards because I knew how ambitious St Johnstone were and I desperately wanted the opportunity to play every week. Now we’ve made it to the SPL we want to stay here. Personally it’s a big test but the one I wanted. We had a game coming up against Hibs so we just had a few friends round to the house. It was all very quiet. Then the Hibs game was called off. But that’s how it goes. Now we’re keen to make it three wins in a row at Falkirk. Given all my connections with Falkirk this is a game I’ve been looking forward to for a while. And as a victory would extend our advantage on them to 10 points, it’s a massive one for us."
Meanwhile the transfer window opened yesterday but as yet there have been no moves by Derek McInnes for any players, although Craig Moore seems set to sign until the summer.
11.20 - After another late inspection, today's game is definitely ON!!!!!!!
14.00 - Well so much for the wonderful planning of the SPL with the referee calling the game off at 1.35 today successfully pissing off both clubs, all the fans and even the meedja!!! Summer fitba anyone?
14.45 - Game rearranged for 7.45 on Tuesday night. No word on refunds yet for those of us that can't get to the game
16.45 - Latest is that the rearranged Falkirk game will NOT take place this Tuesday - no new date has been set. Welcome to the SPL - brewery piss-ups are our speciality.
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