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Ali McCann penalty miss costs St Johnstone victory at Ross County

St Johnstone v Celtic – Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership – McDiarmid Park
(Image credit: Jeff Holmes)

St Johnstone blew the chance to get their cinch Premiership campaign off to a winning start when Ali McCann blasted a 70th-minute penalty over the crossbar as the clash at Ross County finished 0-0.

The highly-rated Saints midfielder’s poorly-struck spot-kick missed the target by several feet after Coll Donaldson had been adjudged to have fouled Reece Devine by referee Colin Steven.

The hosts also lived dangerously in the closing stages when Liam Craig hit the post six minutes from time, following a shot from substitute Stevie May.

However, it would have been something of an injustice had the home side not garnered a point from a match that was a hard watch.

Regan Charles-Cook set up an early half-chance for County but the home side were unable to test Zander Clark in the St Johnstone goal as Keith Watson headed wide.

Michael O’Halloran did better after 10 minutes when he forced a low save from Ross Laidlaw after David Wotherspoon had provided the opening.

But drama was in painfully short supply, with both teams seemingly keen to practice damage limitation rather than attack with flair and imagination.

Midfielder Ross Callachan, top scorer at relegated Hamilton last season, provided a rare moment of inspiration when he broke down the right side for County and delivered a low probing cross across the Saints goal. However, Callachan put too much on the ball for Dominic Samuel to be able to reach it at the back post.

The second half was hardly more entertaining than the first had been and the match desperately needed someone to liven the proceedings up.

County certainly appeared more defensively sound than they have been in recent times, presumably down to the tactical influence of new manager Malky Mackay.

In their defence, the hosts have had to deal with a Covid outbreak which forced the club into isolation for 10 days and led to two League Cup ties being postponed.

But St Johnstone, double cup winners last season, will have to find a much sharper cutting edge when they travel to Turkey next week to face Galatasaray in a Europa League first round qualifier.

While rarely exposed at the back, they offered little meaningful threat and their failure to nick a win with the penalty summed up their afternoon.