Why St Johnstone can record best-ever Ladbrokes Prem finish
Scottish Football’s great overachievers, St Johnstone headed into this campaign on the back of five successive top-six finishes in the Ladbrokes Premiership. But they’re not simply upsetting the odds again this season – they’re challenging for a best-ever finish in their 122-year history.
To achieve that, Tommy Wright’s charges would need to finish in second place. But despite currently lying in fifth, the Perth outfit are only a point behind Rangers, who currently occupy second spot.
As always, the Sainties have looked solid defensively, conceding just six times in their last eight Premiership games – with their 2-0 victory at Ross County making Wright’s men the first visitors in seven games to keep a clean sheet in Dingwall.
With an experienced and settled backline including Steven Anderson and Ricky Foster at centre-back, they have arguably the division’s most disciplined and intelligent defence.
Meanwhile, full-backs Brian Easton and Joe Shaughnessy have chalked up 11 assists combined since the start of last season.
While Wright tends to deploy four at the back, he’s built a tactically flexible side who’ve shown they can adapt for even the toughest games.
Regularly switching between an attacking 4-4-2 which utilises wide men, and a more cautious 4-2-3-1 system with a pair of holding midfielders, they’re adept at playing both attacking and solid, pragmatic football.
The latter system saw them leave Ibrox with a point last week, while their pace and creativity in a 4-4-2 system was too much for Dundee and Ross County to handle in October’s victories.
With Danny Swanson’s regular goals from midfield, they also offer a creative threat from the middle of the pitch.
The one thing Saints arguably lack right now is an in-form strike force. Steve MacLean has chipped in with four goals, but Graham Cummins and Chris Kane have struggled to find the net.
But with Cummins boasting 89 career goals, and Kane filling his boots during a pair of loan spells with Ladbrokes Championship outfit Dumbarton, it seems only a matter of time before at least one of the pair really hit their stride.
With the likes of Rangers, Aberdeen and Heart of Midlothian all struggling for consistency, the 25/1 on St Johnstone to finish Top Without Celtic looks like incredible value, while the 14/1 to lead the pack Without the Old Firm is also well worth a flutter.
And the Perth club can highlight their credentials at Tynecastle on Saturday, with 7/2 for Saints to beat Hearts for the third time in four meetings, while 50/1 says Wright’s men match the 3-0 victory they pulled off in Gorgie back in March 2016.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing