Hasselbaink: Saints come first

Nigel Hasselbaink insists his own satisfaction plays second

fiddle to St Johnstone’s delight at moving up to second in the

SPL.

The Perth outfit’s 2-1 win over Kilmarnock on Saturday ensured

they matched a sequence stretching back to 1971, when the legendary

Willie Ormond was in charge.

Their latest triumph should have been a lot more comfortable

than it was and Hasselbaink was the main culprit in a second half

dominated, at least in terms of chances created, by the home

team.

The Dutch youngster was guilty of a horrendous miss in the 62nd

minute when he failed to score into an empty net from just six

yards. Instead, the ball bounced horribly off his shin and slipped

wide of the target.

Seconds later, the 21-year-old had an early opportunity for

redemption but could not squeeze his shot past Kilmarnock’s

returning goalkeeper Cammy Bell.

However, the former St Mirren and Hamilton striker was finally

rewarded for his persistence when he found the net in the 90th

minute to add to Murray Davidson’s first-half opener for Steve

Lomas’s side.

The strike proved crucial as James Fowler’s deflected goal just

moments after gave Kilmarnock hope before time ran out.

Hasselbaink admitted he was thrilled to make up for his earlier

miss but insisted securing another three points had been more

significant.

“It was just a bad miss for me, but it’s happened and it’s in

the past now,” he said.

“I just had to be focused. You miss one, you miss two but you

just have to say to yourself ‘the goals coming, the goals

coming’.

“I stayed focused and I got my goal. I took a bad touch.

“If it happened in the midfield it’s okay, but it happened in

front of the goal and it was a bad miss. If I had touched it with

my left foot it would have been in, I was just two metres from the

goal.

“It was important because Kilmarnock scored right after. I was

scared for the few minutes after they scored but the team did

well.

“We’ve now won five games in a row in the SPL and everybody in

the dressing room is happy.

“It was good that I scored but it was most important that we got

the three points. There’s a very good team spirit at the club.

Everyone was saying in the dressing room that we needed to win this

game to go into second place in the table.

“The gaffer told us that it had never happened that we had won

five times in a row in the Premier League, so that was a good aim

for the boys, to push up and show we can do it with this

squad.”

Without a win in their opening seven games of the season,

including the Europa League tie with Turkish side Eskisehirspor, St

Johnstone have now racked up six straight wins, counting their

Scottish Communities League Cup success against Queen’s Park.

It is a run that was sparked by a shock victory over champions

Celtic last month and one that made this success far less of a

surprise.

The opening exchanges were even but Saints always looked the

more likely to score and the goal came with 28 minutes on the

clock.

Liam Craig whipped in a corner that Steven Anderson bulleted

towards goal. When Bell could only parry the defender’s header,

Davidson emerged from a ruck of players with the credit of forcing

the ball over the line.

After the break, Bell brilliantly clawed Davidson’s low drive

away from the bottom corner of his net and then blocked

Hasselbaink’s effort before Rowan Vine curled narrowly over.

With Hasselbaink’s comical miss came growing fears that

Kilmarnock, who enjoyed greater possession as time wore on, could

force their way back into the match but the second goal eased

nerves in the home ranks.

Gregory Tade, a menace to the visitors’ defence all afternoon,

slipped a pass through for Hasselbaink and the youngster finally

beat Bell.

Fowler’s deflected drive from the edge of the box then deceived

Alan Mannus moments later but Rugby Park boss Kenny Shiels was left

to rue a Cillian Sheridan free-kick that crashed back off the post

seven minutes before the interval.

He said: “I see positive things, that maybe others don’t see.

But I certainly saw some positivity there and the free-kick would

have been a massive turning point.”