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4 St Johnstone talking points: Clinical Perth side profit from Craig Levein prediction as key players suggest route to Premiership safety



A potentially valuable victory at Easter Road was the prize for Saints’ disciplined away from home performance.

St Johnstone played bravely and disciplinedly at Hibs to secure what might be their most valuable three points of the season.

The victory came about in opposition to the numbers.

But at the end of a third straight season fighting for their survival, Saints need defiance more than anything else to guarantee their Premiership status.

Fans should have hope after Saturday’s performance that this team, which Craig Levein nudged, prodded, and coaxed into functionality, can be the latest to pull off the feat. They are currently four points ahead of Ross County, who is in 11th position.

From Saturday’s thrilling triumph at Easter Road, Courier Sport has identified four key talking themes.

Manager’s crystal ball

St Johnstone unveil Craig Levein as their new manager.

It was no surprise that the Hibs were primed for attack.

Under manager Nick Montgomery, it has become the Easter Road team’s specialty. On Saturday, a five-man attacking group was given the goal of breaking through St Johnstone’s defense.

Levein told Courier Sport during Friday’s pre-game press conference that he knew it was coming.

However, he also emphasized the chances that an opponent that is so intent on moving forward is likely to cough up.

That appeared to be the case, as both Nicky Clark and Adama Sidibeh—again used in tandem up front—enjoyed breakaway opportunities during the first half.

Neither was able to profit.

However, the second half had just begun when Sidibeh seized a brilliant through-ball from Matt Smith, outran his defender, and finished fiercely past Hibs goalkeeper David Marshall one-on-one.

Levein’s prediction came true to the letter.

Following Hibs’ fast equalizer, Saints’ main priority was to defending the point they were now in possession of.

Similar to Sidibeh’s opening goal, Tony Gallacher’s winner was opportunistic, but it was different because it came from a corner that the home team badly defended and gifted for nothing.

Essentially, the match unfolded precisely as Levein had predicted, with Hibs’ inconsiderate defense creating openings for Saints to take advantage of.

The fact that they completed the task in such a clinical manner is admirable.

Goalie’s atonement

Fans of St Johnstone adore Dimitar Mitov, and for good reason.

It would be reasonable to call his error against Dundee last week a howler.

However, it’s possibly the only one he’s had this season.

And the Saints would be in much worse shape right now if it weren’t for his outstanding shot blocking and assured control of his six-yard box.

Craig Levein and Dimitar Mitov at full-time.

Anyone who has been paying attention is aware of that.

After the team’s defeat at the hands of Dundee last weekend, the manager stood by him and encouraged him to turn things around against Hibs.

He did precisely that.

During the match on Saturday, he made a lot of good saves, but two in particular, from Hibs strikers Adam Le Fondre and Myziane Maolida, were just absurd.

St Johnstone would not have won the match without Mitov.

That is all there is to it.

Midfielder’s value

St Johnstone midfielder, Dan Phillips.

Dan Phillips was a yard off his snapping, snarling best against Dundee, according to Craig Levein.

He was totally focused at Easter Road, maybe because he had spent an extra week on the training ground following several lengthy journeys for international service with Trinidad & Tobago.

Ask the midfield of Hibs.

When Phillips is in his element, he is a terrifying presence. But he’s not just a brute. He has equally sharp intellect.

It is clear why the soon-to-be out-of-contract player is a desired man when you consider his composure on the ball and exquisite touch when in full flight.

Courier Sport is aware that Bristol Rovers agents were observing him at Easter Road, but they aren’t the only summer suitors.

The Saints will mourn his loss.Striking options

Adama Sidibeh’s second goal in as many weekends is proof that he is a confident striker.

His overhead kick versus Dundee was an incredible effort that very few people would have attempted or been able to finish.

Saturday’s strike was equally amazing because he had so much time to consider it while facing David Marshall one-on-one.

With a shot that was both brilliantly placed and powerfully executed, the Gambian hit man gave the Hibs goalie no chance.

As expected, Nicky Clark proved to be a cunning partner, diving deeper and entangling opponents, creating room for Sidibeh to follow.

Ten minutes remaining, Benji Kimpioka made his debut and proved his value. He appears to be getting stronger with the ball and more adept at energizing teammates.

His finishing ability and pace are undeniable.

Challenging Craig Levein to get the best out of Sidibeh, Clark, and Kimpioka—not to mention Stevie May warming the bench—is getting to be a headache.

However, he will be happy to receive it.



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