St. Johnstone v St. Mirren preview
By Stuart Gillespie
Updated Friday, 18th December 2009
It's a religious time of year, so it's appropriate that two Saints will meet in Perth tomorrow, with both sets of supporters seeing this as the perfect chance to get an early Christmas present of three points.
This is the sort of game both managers will know they have to win if they want to avoid the drop this season. For St. Johnstone, it's one of the easier home games they'll get, while a visit to the SPL's newest team while they are in the midst of injury problems is a great opportunity for ourselves. With that in mind, it'll probably be a draw!
To be honest, I'm not as confident about a victory as the paragraph above may suggest. Our form is poor, with no league win for two months, while our defence seems prone to leaking goals at present. We seem incapable of playing well for 90 minutes and do not put away chances when they come along. We also have a habit of gifting teams a result when they have injury problems. We need to be more clinical in front of goal, play to a high standard for the full game and keep things tight at the back. If we do that, we shouldn't have any problems.
Changes are needed after last week's disappointing draw against Falkirk. It's surely time for Craig Dargo come into the team, but who makes way for him? Billy Mehmet always works hard but hasn't scored in two months, while Michael Higdon scored a wonder goal and has two goals from three games. I'd like to see all three start, with Mehmet on the right wing, but chances are we'll only play two of them and Dargo - who isn't fully fit yet - will probably be on the bench again. Steven Robb must be close to being given a start and must replace the woeful Garry Brady in midfield.
In the past few years, we have often been quite defensive, but our back line is not the strength our manager once thought it was. Sadly, our options are limited due to the fact we only have three centre halfs. Chris Innes is probably the best, while John Potter and Lee Mair are almost as bad as each other. With Jack Ross struggling, Mo Camara could return to the starting line-up to complete an incredibly shaky defence. If Ross does miss out, he'll be joined in the McDiarmid Park stands by Andy Dorman, Allan Johnston, Tom Brighton and Chris Smith.
St. Johnstone played pretty well when they came to Paisley earlier in the season and it's a long time since I can remember us doing as well against an SPL side, despite the fact we've been here for three and a half seasons. The Fake Saints looked like the established top flight club, rather than the new boys, but they were incapable of killing us off - something that seems to have been a problem for them at times this season. However, they have had an encouraging start under Derek McInnes and if they can keep that up, combined with maybe a bit more luck, they should avoid the drop this season.
As mentioned above, the Saintees have injury problems. Collin Samuel, Martin Hardie and Kevin Rutkiewicz are all out, while Danny Grainger is one of a number of doubtful players. With so many key squad members missing, this should make our life easier - but that usually isn't how we do things. There are still more than enough talented individuals in St. Johnstone's squad for McInnes to work with. Jody Morris is always a threat, while Filipe Morais and Murray Davidson are curious things called wingers, who will provide ammunition to the likes of Jonatan Johansson and Kenny "Dr Goals" Deuchar, who could have fun against our small defence. Still, at least we won't have Samuel's pace to deal with.
Battles of the Saints have often been ill-tempered in the past, one memorable game seeing the Fakes have three players sent off at Love Street, while another saw Peter MacDonald try to kill Andy Millen. The squads have changed greatly since we were last in the same division as St. Johnstone, but with a few of their players accusing Stephen McGinn of diving last time out, the edge could return. Let's hope if our players show any fight it's with their performance, rather than with their fists,