Callum Hendry’s third-minute penalty helped St Johnstone secure back-to-back wins for the first time in the cinch Premiership this season with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Livingston at McDiarmid Park.
The in-form striker fired his spot-kick low down the middle of Max Stryjek’s goal after Livingston defender Jack Fitzwater was ruled to have caught him with a stray arm as they challenged for a ball in the air.
Hendry has now scored seven goals in 11 games since being recalled from a loan spell at Kilmarnock in January to kickstart St Johnstone’s campaign, with this victory leaving them only six points adrift of 10th-placed St Mirren.
Livingston, meanwhile, slip to eighth after three consecutive defeats.
St Johnstone manager Callum Davidson stuck with the same team that beat Motherwell 2-1 last time out, while Livingston boss David Martindale opted for just one alteration from their 2-0 loss to Hearts in their last match before the international break, with Sebastian Soto coming into the starting line-up in place of Odin Bailey.
The hosts came flying out the traps and took the lead with their first effort on goal in the third minute of the game.
As Livingston struggled to clear their lines following a free-kick, Fitzwater challenged Hendry for an aerial ball and was adjudged to have caught him with an elbow by referee Kevin Clancy who pointed to the spot without hesitation.
And Hendry duly converted from 12 yards, drilling down the centre of goal as Stryjek dived to his right.
Livingston initially responded well to going behind and Soto provided the first real challenge for St Johnstone goalkeeper Zander Clark with a low shot that was beaten away well.
But they struggled to create anything clear cut despite dominating possession, as St Johnstone, who lost Tony Gallagher to injury, seemed content to sit on their lead and play on the counter attack.
The Perth side very nearly doubled their advantage as the first half drew to a close, with Stryjek getting down low to save a left-footed Ali Crawford strike from 20 yards.
Nadir Ciftci was next to go close for the hosts as the second half began, glancing a header wide of goal when well placed just outside the six-yard box.
The home support then made their feelings known to referee Clancy when James Penrice was only booked for a late lunge on Dan Cleary, who eventually continued after receiving treatment.
Neither side created much else in an uneventful second period before Livingston substitute Bailey had a golden chance to rescue a point for his side with five minutes remaining.
He was well found in the centre of the box by fellow substitute Andrew Shinnie but his shot was too close to Clark who saved it comfortably.
Livingston had one final chance to salvage a draw deep into added time but Obileye headed wide as the hosts saw out the match to secure a priceless win that gives them real hope of avoiding a relegation play-off.
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