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Callum Davidson praises a spirited display as St Johnstone suffer late agony

St Johnstone v LASK – UEFA Europa Conference League – Play-offs – Second Leg – McDiarmid Park
(Image credit: Andrew Milligan)

Callum Davidson praised his St Johnstone side for a spirited display in their narrow defeat by Rangers.

The Perth team are still without a league win after their first five matches of the campaign but the manager was proud of the way they competed as they lost 2-1 to the champions at McDiarmid Park following a sensational 79th-minute strike from James Tavernier.

Davidson said: “With all the changes we had to make due to injuries and the very young back five we had out, I thought we performed really well for 85 minutes.

“We just had five minutes of madness after we scored where we made too many mistakes and allowed Rangers to pressure us which was disappointing. We gave them the opportunity to get back in the game with that five-minute spell and then it was a wonder goal from James Tavernier to win the game.

“Obviously we wanted a result but there was a lot to be pleased about. You could see a difference in our energy levels compared to previous league games and I think that’s down to not having the European games.

“We’ve lacked a bit sharpness in our league games but that was back to the old St Johnstone, so I’m really pleased about that. I know we got beat but it was good to get back to a performance like that.”

Saints took the lead through Michael O’Halloran in the 50th minute but their advantage lasted only seven minutes before Kemar Roofe equalised with a penalty following a foul from on-loan Millwall defender Hayden Muller on Ryan Kent. Davidson had no complaints about the spot-kick.

He said: “As good as young Hayden was, he went to ground in the box. There were three or four bodies around Kent so he should have stayed on his feet. As soon as you go to ground you give him the opportunity to go down.”

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard admitted he was worried about the injury sustained by defender Filip Helander. The Swede was carried off in the 77th minute at McDiarmid Park as the champions moved to the top of the Premiership.

Gerrard told Sky Sports: “I’m concerned. He’s with the doctors now getting assessed, he’s got ice on it and he’s bandaged up. It doesn’t look good but until we scan it and assess it in 24-48 hours’ time we’re not too sure.

“Fingers crossed he can pull through but we’ve got other defenders who will have to step up if he’s missing for the short, medium or long term.”

With Connor Goldson missing the match in Perth as he was self-isolating, Gerrard may have to partner Leon Balogun with Jack Simpson for next Thursday’s Europa League match at home to Lyon.

Gerrard said: “We’re hoping to have Connor available but if not, we’ll go with Jack and Leon who are more than capable.”