Pars punished by on-song Saints

Smith, making his first start of the season in place of the injured
Paul Gallacher, punched Liam Craig’s corner into his own net in the
36th minute and spilled a shot to allow Francisco Sandaza to score
just after the break. Craig wrapped up the victory before the hour
mark as St Johnstone closed the gap on third-placed Motherwell to
five points. Smith, who was replaced as first-choice goalkeeper
despite helping the Pars to the First Division title, was one of
four changes to the side that lost 4-0 to Hearts last weekend. Paul
Willis came into midfield and Paddy Boyle and Jason Thomson
returned in defence but the Pars never looked like getting back in
the game after the opener as they continue to await their first
home win of the season. St Johnstone came into the game on the back
of three consecutive defeats, all at home, but their away form has
been a different story. Only Hibernian have beaten them on the road
this season and they have now conceded only two goals in their
other nine away games. Saints also had three key players back in
their team with captain Jody Morris and top goalscorer Sandaza
returning from injury lay-offs and Callum Davidson back after
illness ruled him out of last weekend’s defeat by Celtic. The Pars
made a decent start in blustery conditions and it could easily have
been St Johnstone goalkeeper Peter Enckelman who put his team in
trouble. The Finn raced well off his line as Andrew Barrowman ran
on to a Paul Burns pass on the right wing when there appeared
little immediate danger. Enckelman was easily beaten to the ball
but Barrowman could not take advantage of the open goal as he shot
two yards wide from the touchline. The wind was proving a challenge
as both sides struggled to mount meaningful attacks and Willis sent
a ball across the face of goal when his team-mates were calling for
a cutback after the midfielder worked his way into the box from the
right flank. St Johnstone began to push their hosts back but they
still could not carve a chance. Several Liam Craig deliveries did
not fall for a team-mate and Smith got down to hold Sandaza’s shot
after the Spaniard had outmuscled Alex Keddie outside the box. But
St Johnstone were gifted a 36th-minute opener when Smith’s first
game of the season turned into a personal disaster. The former St
Mirren goalkeeper came off his line to punch Craig’s inswinging
corner from the right but the ball spun the wrong way off his fist
and Willis could only help the ball into the roof of the net as he
attempted to clear off the line. Smith made a good save five
minutes later when he stopped Craig’s low, angled drive after the
St Johnstone midfielder had turned a defender to put himself clear
on goal. And the grounded goalkeeper’s luck turned as Sandaza hit
the bar from 10 yards from the rebound. Smith’s day got even worse
seven minutes after the break as he spilled a shot from Marcus
Haber to allow Sandaza to double St Johnstone’s lead. Haber got
reasonable power on his shot from the right channel after taking
Murray Davidson’s pass in his stride but Smith had got his body and
two hands behind the ball and should have held. Instead the ball
spun out and Sandaza was the only man to react, getting in front of
Thomson to slide home from close range. Dunfermline were pushing
more men forward but the game moved further out of sight in the
59th minute. Sandaza beat Thomson to the ball 30 yards out to leave
the home defence exposed and the Spaniard’s disguised pass to Craig
left the midfielder one on one with Smith. This time the
Dunfermline goalkeeper had no chance as Craig lifted the ball over
him into the far corner. Dunfermline brought on Ryan Thomson, Andy
Kirk and Liam Buchanan but an attacking spark failed to materialise
and St Johnstone saw the game out comfortably with Morris rested
for the final 15 minutes.