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Ross County return to winning ways as Iain Vigurs goal sinks St Johnstone

Celtic v Ross County – Pre-Season Friendly – Celtic Park
(Image credit: Jeff Holmes)

Iain Vigurs’ free-kick saw Ross County end their five-game winless run with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over St Johnstone in Perth.

Stuart Kettlewell’s team kicked off the new season with back-to-back wins but then took just two points from the fixtures that followed.

However, they got back to winning ways to keep hold of fifth place as Vigurs’ set-piece was allowed to sneak into the Saints net.

Callum Davidson’s Saints threw all they had at the visitors late on at McDiarmid Park but were left disappointed, a Scott Tanser strike just after half-time which came back off the woodwork the closest they came.

The hosts, who now drop to seventh, did not include new signing Craig Bryson in their squad after his arrival from Aberdeen this week but did hand striker Stevie May his first start of the season.

It was not the easiest task telling the teams apart as they emerged from the tunnel, with Saints in their traditional royal blue and County sporting their navy home kit.

But the hosts had no problem picking out each other in the early stages.

Tanser flashed over the bar from a tight angle, while Callum Hendy fired wide from a May cut-back.

The Staggies were riding their luck, especially when they survived two big handball appeals in the space of 60 seconds.

First a Hendry strike was stopped by Alex Iacovitti before Vigurs appeared to use an arm to block Ali McCann’s cross, but referee David Munro was not convinced either merited a penalty.

County right-back Connor Randle trudged off after 19 minutes injured, with Keith Watson taking over. But the former St Johnstone defender was lucky to still be on the pitch 10 minutes later as he took a heavy touch before clattering late into Tanser. Munro showed leniency as he opted for yellow.

Tanser had been Saints’ most dangerous weapon as he fired dangerous delivery after dangerous delivery into the visitors’ box from the left-hand side.

But it was the Englishman who opened the door for County to take the lead two minutes before the break. He put in a needless body check on Michael Gardyne when Jamie McCart had come across to clear the danger.

From the set-piece, Vigurs whipped a ball towards the back post and Elliot Parish was left motionless as it floated all the way into the net.

It was the seventh time in eight games that Davidson’s team had conceded the opening goal, but they were unlucky not to level after 57 minutes.

Danny McNamara played a perfect pass in behind the County defence to find David Wotherspoon, but his low ball across goal could only find Tanser, who had the angle against him as he rattled the crossbar.

St Johnstone piled on the pressure and should have levelled in the 90th minute when Josh Reid got caught too deep, playing Murray Davidson onside, but the veteran midfielder fired straight at Ross Laidlaw.