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St Johnstone climbed five points clear of Ross County in the Scottish Premiership relegation play-off berth with a first away win since July.
January signing Benjamin Kimpioka’s maiden St Johnstone goal settled the game, ending a six-match winless run.
County threatened in both halves, with James Brown – three times – Simon Murray and Yan Dhanda all coming close.
Derek Adams’ side remain six points above basement club Livingston, but have now failed to win in eight games.
They do, at least, have two games in hand on Livingston, and have played one fewer than Motherwell, who sit three points above them.
Kimpioka, a January addition from AIK, provided the decisive moment of calm and class with 34 minutes played, a tantalising flourish for St Johnstone fans eager to see the pedigree of their new forward.
The Swedish age-grade international capitalised on an error from Will Nightingale, who failed to cut out a long ball down the left.
He collected possession, produced a flamboyant double stepover, cut inside and bent low beyond George Wickens.
County had openings – and plenty of them. Brown half-volleyed wide from a nice Dhanda delivery. The captain rasped over, and Jordan White’s teasing cross was tipped clear by the soaring Dimitar Mitov.
The flow of play continued chiefly towards the away goal after the break.
Simon Murray sent a brilliant low ball across for the onrushing George Harmon, but heroic defending prevented it from reaching its target.
Murray, and Brown, again, drew strong saves from Mitov, who then parried a swerving long-ranger from Loic Ayina over the the top.
For all their statistical dominance, County could not conjure a killer touch.
Player of the match – Benjamin Kimpioka (St Johnstone)
County spurn chances against dogged visitors – analysis
County’s quest for an elusive victory will now stretch beyond two months, since they beat Motherwell on 5 December.
Their home record, too, makes for brutal reading. This was their fourth Dingwall defeat on the bounce without scoring a single goal, an aggregate scoreline of 0-8.
County did look dangerous. They did threaten. They had mobility in the final third through the unrelenting Murray, and the creativity of Dhanda always a spark.
But despite close to two-thirds of possession and a dozen shots, Mitov’s goal was unbreached.
Profligacy and frustration were the order of the day again, but Livingston’s brutal form keeps them at arm’s length from the foot of the standings.
St Johnstone were on a similarly bleak run of form, and this is a win which could offer a vital tonic, built on defensive snarl and graft.
Mitov was excellent between the sticks, his backline resolute and dogged – key components of a gritty away win, and a monkey shrugged off the back.
What they said
Ross County manager Derek Adams: “We’re really disappointed because we controlled large parts of the game and had numerous opportunities to go ahead.
“We were in control of the game, in the ascendancy, and getting ourselves in good position. We should have got more out of the game. I’m sure if we’d got that elusive equaliser, we could have won the game.”
St Johnstone manager Craig Levein: “It was a hard-fought victory, not an awful lot between the teams.
“The magic Benji provided, a wonderful goal to win any match and I’m thrilled he’s managed to get off the mark. Everyone knows he’s got pace but he’s been improving his finishing in training.
“He’s not match fit yet either, I’m so pleased for him.”
County travel to Motherwell on Tuesday (19:45 GMT), while St Johnstone host Levein’s former club Hearts a day later with the same kick-off time.
- 3Borthwick-JacksonBooked at 54minsSubstituted forKhelaat 79′minutes
- 4BrownSubstituted forEfeteat 78′minutes
- 16HarmonSubstituted forReidat 79′minutes
- 10DhandaBooked at 90mins
- 26WhiteBooked at 20minsSubstituted forBrophyat 67′minutes
- 33KeltjensSubstituted forOlufunwaat 45′minutes
- 46FranczakSubstituted forClarkat 59′minutes
- 50SmithBooked at 86mins
- 3GallacherSubstituted forSmithat 90+6′minutes
- 29Mbunga KimpiokaSubstituted forSidibehat 59′minutes
Match ends, Ross County 0, St. Johnstone 1.
Second Half ends, Ross County 0, St. Johnstone 1.
Substitution, St. Johnstone. Kerr Smith replaces Tony Gallacher.
Yan Dhanda (Ross County) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Yan Dhanda (Ross County).
Tony Gallacher (St. Johnstone) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Corner, St. Johnstone. Conceded by Michee Efete.
Attempt missed. Adama Sidibeh (St. Johnstone) right footed shot from a difficult angle and long range on the right misses to the left. Assisted by Oludare Olufunwa.
Foul by Simon Murray (Ross County).
Ryan McGowan (St. Johnstone) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Corner, Ross County. Conceded by Ryan McGowan.
Attempt blocked. Teddy Jenks (Ross County) left footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked.
Connor Smith (St. Johnstone) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Brandon Khela (Ross County) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Connor Smith (St. Johnstone).
Offside, St. Johnstone. Tony Gallacher is caught offside.
Foul by Will Nightingale (Ross County).
Adama Sidibeh (St. Johnstone) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Brandon Khela (Ross County).
Graham Carey (St. Johnstone) wins a free kick in the defensive half.