Saints ease past Inverness

Less than 24 hours after being given permission to speak to Bristol

City, McInnes saw his side consolidate their top-six position in

the Scottish Premier League thanks to strikes from Francisco

Sandaza and Dave Mackay. Sandaza linked brilliantly with Cillian

Sheridan to net his seventh goal of the season in the early stages

and Mackay finished well in the 65th minute after Inverness failed

to clear a Jody Morris cross. McInnes, who acknowledged the home

fans’ acclaim before quickly moving down the tunnel after the final

whistle, is set to hold talks with City in the coming days. But, if

he is to leave McDiarmid Park, he will depart with the team in a

healthy state. Sheridan and Sandaza now have 11 goals between them

and fashioned the opener from nothing, although the Irishman soon

went off injured. And Frazer Wright returned from injury to

superbly marshal a defence that has now kept seven clean sheets.

The opener came in the 13th minute after Sandaza collected the ball

just inside the Inverness half and fed Sheridan on the left wing

with the visiting defence on the back foot. Sheridan returned the

ball to his strike partner on the edge of the area with a lofted

pass and the Spaniard chested it down, shrugged off a defender and

shot high into the net with his left foot. Sandaza engineered

another chance when his skill took him away from two men following

Liam Craig’s low cross but Ryan Esson was quickly off his line to

block the striker’s close-range effort. The forward pairing was

split up in the 20th minute when Marcus Haber replaced Sheridan.

Inverness were struggling to break through and Andrew Shinnie took

a heavy touch when Richie Foran’s header found him in space in the

box. Caley Thistle midfielder Greg Tansey fired in two decent

long-range strikes but neither forced Peter Enckelman into action

and Shinnie curled just over from a difficult angle. Enckelman made

his first save to guide David Proctor’s header over following a

corner but St Johnstone survived the spell of pressure and should

have gone further ahead in injury-time after a sweeping move from

deep inside their own half. Mackay and Chris Millar linked up

brilliantly on the right to set up Haber 12 yards out but the

striker scuffed his shot against the post and Thomas Piermayr

blocked as Craig followed up. The Perth side came out eager to add

to their tally and Esson got down well to save Mackay’s drive after

Millar had fed his forward run. Inverness brought on Shane

Sutherland and Aidan Chippendale but they should have been further

behind in the 62nd minute when Kevin Moon ran unmarked on to

Craig’s cross, however the midfielder sliced his first-time effort

over. Moon was soon replaced by Murray Davidson, making his first

appearance since August after recovering from a knee injury, and

Saints almost immediately doubled their lead. Sandaza put Esson

under pressure from Morris’s right-wing cross and the ball fell for

Mackay, who sent a first-time left-footed effort into the bottom

corner from 14 yards. Foran almost pulled one back with a brilliant

20-yard strike but Enckelman pushed it on to the bar and over, and

Saints held on to their lead comfortably. Their fans will now hope

they can also retain the services of McInnes after Saints moved one

point behind Celtic in the SPL.