NOTHING lasts forever, they say, but had they even contemplated the worst, Ross County could hardly have envisaged their great 40-match unbeaten league run ending in such unlikely circumstances.
Scorers: Ross County - Morrow (68); St Johnstone - Craig (30), Wright (86)
Bookings: Ross County - Quinn; St Johnstone - Wright, Vine (sent off)
St Johnstone were down to ten men and toiling badly after only 32 minutes, despite grasping the lead through Liam Craig against the flow of play.
County, throughout, were dictating play relentlessly but at times toothlessly when it mattered. And therein lay the problem.
The lingering feeling after an enthralling 90 minutes was that neither of these sides, with such resolute spirit in evidence, should be troubling the SPL trapdoor come next May.
Despite acknowledging Saints’ charmed life under constant assault, Steve Lomas, the St Johnstone manager, had major question marks over striker Rowan Vine’s first-half sending off.
Lomas had no such doubts over his players’ mettle.
“They don’t surprise me these players. The character in the squad is second to none,” the Northern Irishman enthused.
“In adversity, it’s fantastic, but the sending off is a shocker. I’ve just seen it there. Listen, the referee is honest and only sees what he sees, but I would hope he would take another look.”
County created a steady succession of half-chances as they probed, all fruitless, before Craig’s 30th minute opener against the run of play. Perhaps the Dingwall side’s best chance saw Scott Boyd tower and rocket a header only just too high from a Iain Vigurs’ corner.
Given the pattern, St Johnstone’s breakthrough was tough to take for the Staggies. Craig was granted space more than 25 yards out and reacted superbly, striking hard and low inside keeper Michael Fraser’s left hand post.
The drama continued from the re-start as Vine took that straight red card. Off-the-ball, the striker seemed to bash Richard Brittain to the ground.
Murray Davidson entered the fray for Saints after 54 minutes and the substitute’s first touch was a half-volley in the box that cracked the under-side of County the bar.
Gregory Tade also rattled a strike just wide of the keeper’s right hand post after a lapse from defender Scott Boyd.
County blooded Colin McMenamin from the bench but the catalyst for the 68th minute equaliser was an unusual suspect.
Defender Grant Munro took the game by the scruff of the neck and found Vigurs on the far left before surging on to the return pass inside the box.
Munro then cut the ball into the middle where Sam Morrow was placed to fire past Alan Mannus from six yards.
It was a plain, all-out siege from County thereafter, with Saints creaking under the weight of the onslaught.
One McMenamin snapshot was only palmed off the line low down by Mannus just inside his right post.
But amid the barrage, Saints broke and Steven MacLean’s 20-yard strike was touched for a corner at full stretch by Fraser.
Craig’s corner then found Frazer Wright leaping to arc a header high past Fraser and snatch victory for the visitors.
Saints skipper David McKay also curled a late free-kick against the top of the post in the final minute.
County boss Derek Adams was naturally bitterly disappointed to lose the game – and that 40-game unbeaten run.
“I told the players in there they should be proud of themselves,” Adams stressed.
“We created so many chances and I felt we could have won the match comfortably.”