Ross County secure vital three points at St Johnstone in battle to avoid drop
Ross County secured a vital three points in their battle to avoid relegation as goals from Simon Murray and David Cancola either side of half-time gave them a deserved 2-0 victory over St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park.
Both sides had chances to break the deadlock in the first half before Murray latched on to a Jordan White flick-on on the stroke of half-time to fire powerfully past Remi Matthews.
Cancola doubled the visitors’ lead just after the restart, lashing home on the half-volley as Saints failed to clear a corner.
The win lifts County five points clear of bottom-place Dundee United, while the disappointing Saints are now in danger of being dragged into the relegation scrap after back-to-back home defeats.
Both managers made just one change from their sides’ previous outings, with James Brown replacing the suspended Andy Considine for St Johnstone and Josh Sims coming in for Owura Edwards for County.
It was the hosts who were inches away from taking an early lead in the fourth minute as Liam Gordon met David Wotherspoon’s free-kick but the defender’s header drifted just wide.
Saints came close again in the 15th minute as Stevie May laid the ball off to Adam Montgomery who dragged a low shot just past the post from a tight angle.
Ross County created their first chance of note moments later through Eamonn Brophy who fired a shot wide from the angle when released by a ball over the top. It was to be the last involvement for the striker, however, as he limped off to be replaced by Murray.
The Staggies had the next opportunity in an open first half and White should have done better as he headed a Sims cross tamely wide of the target when well placed.
Despite the chances, neither keeper was tested until the 41st minute when County stopper Ross Laidlaw reacted smartly to keep out a near-post effort from Drey Wright with his feet.
Laidlaw was involved again moments later as the away side took the lead just before the interval. His long goal kick was flicked on by White and Murray took a touch before thundering home at the near post from just inside the box.
It soon got worse for the stunned hosts as County extended their lead four minutes into the second period. Saints failed to deal with George Harmon’s deep corner and the ball sat up invitingly for Cancola who steered a half-volley past Matthews from just outside the six-yard box.
The lively Murray nearly grabbed a third for the visitors as he met Sims’ cutback but Matthews saved well.
St Johnstone were struggling to mount any sort of a comeback and it took until the 71st minute for them to create their next opportunity when Daniel Phillips fizzed a low shot from just outside the box that Laidlaw got down low to palm away.
County were looking the more likely side to score again, though, and they should have added further daylight when White tried to go round Matthews but the keeper timed his challenge well.
Despite hitting a post in the dying moments through Phillips, it was an afternoon to forget for the home side as County comfortably held on to record their first away win since early November.