St Johnstone secure Premiership safety with victory over Kilmarnock
St Johnstone secured their cinch Premiership safety with a 1-0 victory over Kilmarnock at Rugby Park.
Saints captain Liam Gordon headed the visitors in front in the 11th minute and the hosts would be reduced to 10 men on the stroke of half time after David Watson was given his marching orders for a poorly timed challenge.
Despite falling to defeat, Killie remain in 10th place a point ahead of Ross County in 11th and three points ahead of Dundee United at the foot of the table.
The first chance of the match fell to the visitors after Drey Wright burst clear of the Killie offside trap before unleashing a stinging effort that stung the palms of Sam Walker.
St Johnstone opened the scoring when Gordon headed home Graham Carey’s corner at the back post.
Kilmarnock were struggling to trouble the Saints defence, though they came agonisingly close to levelling just after the half-hour mark. Luke Chambers’ angled shot struck the post and then Watson somehow failed to net the rebound.
Liam Donnelly’s low drive drifted inches wide in the final minutes of the first half, before Derek McInnes’ men were dealt a huge blow.
A reckless lunge by Watson on Cammy Ballantyne left referee John Beaton with little choice but to brandish a red card to the youngster – leaving Killie a goal down and a man down at the break.
The home side had Walker to thank in the opening minutes of the second half when he brilliantly kept out Carey’s powerful drive.
Much to the frustration of the home supporters, their side continued to offer little in the way of an attacking threat, and it took until the 63rd minute for Remi Matthews in the visitors’ goal to be forced into a save.
Rory McKenzie did well to power forward and produce a low drive that the Saints stopper gathered with relative ease.
The Kilmarnock fans vented their fury at their opponents continued time-wasting tactics and Matthews was booked with 18 minutes remaining for stalling over collecting the ball for a goal-kick.
Wright’s fizzing strike was wonderfully tipped over by Walker and the home goalkeeper was at his best again shortly afterwards when he palmed away Ballantyne’s goal-bound effort.
Jordan Jones could only find the side-netting as the Rugby Park side desperately searched for a leveller, while at the other end Zak Rudden passed up a golden opportunity in added time when he fired over from close-range.
A late corner saw Walker come forward to join the Killie attack but the ball would be scrambled clear to ensure the Perth side left with all three points.