Having secured only five of the twelve points available during the month of November, Saints headed to Glebe Park determined to get December off to a better start and manager Owen Coyle rang the changes for the first visit to the Angus ground on league business since March 2004. There were changes in both full-back positions with Simon Mensing returning at right back in place of Steven Anderson and Willie Dyer coming in on the left side for Goran Stanic who had been nursing a knock in the latter part of the week. John Henry was also on from the start with Coyle dropping himself onto the bench.
The recent rain meant a heavy Glebe Park playing surface which saw both sets of players do the early part of their warm-up on City’s training area over the famous Glebe Park hedge but that didn’t seem to upset the rhythm of a confident Saints team who started the game well.
Jason Scotland was prominent early on – a feature that wasn’t to change as the game progressed – and in 9 minutes his cross was met by a Ryan Stevenson header which was deflected for a corner which, when swung in by Darren Sheridan, flew across the face of goal with no takers.
In 18 minutes Scotland supplied a lovely cross-field pass for Paul Sheerin whose excellent first touch allowed him to send in a powerful effort on goal but it was straight at keeper John Hillcoat and the City keeper was called into action again soon after, getting down well to a Scotland drive.
The opening half-hour had been dominated by Saints and in was 32 minutes before Ian Campbell’s men had a noteworthy effort and it was veteran Gerry Britton who got a header in on goal that was safely gathered by Kevin Cuthbert.
World Cup-bound Jason Scotland continued to be the pivotal figure in much of what Saints did and he had a great run down the left during which he slipped the ball past two defenders but his cross was a tad too powerful for Ryan Stevenson to be able to control.
The final ten minutes of the half actually saw Saints lose their shape a little with a few misplaced passes creeping into their play and City’s Craig McEwan sent an effort over the bar having been set up by Britton. Frustration was creeping into the visiting support but the mood changed in the sixty seconds prior to the interval when Saints took the lead. Ryan Stevenson did the spadework on the left and when his cross reached Jason Scotland some 16 yards out one touch was all he needed before dispatching the ball high into the net.
The goal was reward for a good first half display from Saints but given what has been seen on several occasions this season, Saints fans knew there was still work to be done before they could be sure that the team’s dominance would be rewarded with three points. However, such concerns were more or less put to rest within eleven minutes of the restart when Saints scored twice. In 53 minutes Jason Scotland turned provider when he set up Ryan Stevenson with a lovely pass and Stevenson scored his fifth goal of the campaign with a low angled drive and three minutes later the game appeared to be over as a contest when Scotland was again involved in the move that saw the ball come into the box from the right and land at the feet of Paul Sheerin who made no mistake from just inside the box.
It wouldn’t be Saints if they didn’t cause the support a little concern though and in 58 minutes Gerry Britton headed a Callaghan corner goalwards and despite the best efforts of Simon Mensing to lash it clear, the stand side linesman was immediately off his mark up the touchline to indicate a goal.
Kevin Cuthbert then had to produce a great block to prevent former Saint Charlie King from causing real anxiety in Perth ranks and then Simon Mensing was booked for a clumsy edge of the penalty area challenge on Brechin sub Darren Smith who was a little too vehement in displaying his belief that it should have been a penalty kick.
In 63 minutes Saints introduced Ryan McCann for John Henry and then with thirteen minutes to go Jason Scotland provided the goal of the game to ensure that the points would be heading back to Perth. The Trindad man picked up the ball some 25 yards from goal and with few options and little in the way of challenges he opted to send in a thunderous drive that saw the ball fly into the postage stamp corner.
Saints could have made it five when Steven Milne led a five-Saint breakaway on the beleaguered home defence but his pass to McCann was just too strong and although the substitute retrieved the ball, his cross was volleyed wide by Stevenson.
A very comfortable win for Saints who, for once, got the goals their outfield dominance merited. On a heavy pitch, this must have been a strength-sapping exercise for all the players involved and the quality of game perhaps exceeded what might have been expected on a dreich, Scottish December afternoon.
Website Man of the Match: Several good performers but only one winner. The scene was a million miles away from the glamour he’ll experience in Germany next summer but JASON SCOTLAND lit up the afternoon with two goals and two assists.
Saints: Cuthbert, Mensing, Dyer, Stevenson, Rutkiewicz, James, Henry (McCann), Sheridan, Milne, Scotland, Sheerin (Janczyk).
Subs not used: Anderson, Coyle, Paston
Brechin: Hillcoat, Winter (Johnson), Bollan, White, Walker, Callaghan, King, Byers, Britton, Mitchell (Ritchie), McEwan (Smith).
Subs not used: Nelson, Hamilton
Jason Scotland fires home the first of his two goals
Jason looks to the skies in celebration