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St Johnstone 0-0 Livingston: Saints secure European football

The 0-0 draw means St Johnstone finish fifth in the Premiership.

St Johnstone 0-0 Livingston: Saints secure European football SNS Group

St Johnstone are guaranteed European football next season after they clung on to fifth place in the Premiership with a goalless stalemate against Livingston.

The Perth outfit knew a point would be enough to keep their visitors at bay in the table and they defended stoutly to secure the draw they needed to bring down the curtain on their league campaign.

All attention now moves on to next Saturday’s Scottish Cup final against Hibernian in the knowledge victory will earn them a place in the Europa League – and a defeat will see them qualify for the Europa Conference League.

Livingston were left with only a second-half shot from Jaze Kabia and a declined penalty appeal to show for their efforts to overhaul their hosts.

The visitors were the ones who needed a victory and they made all the early running.

But St Johnstone – who were missing Ali McCann, Liam Gordon, Zander Clark and Elliot Parish, but had Murray Davidson, Stevie May and Liam Craig back amidst their ongoing Covid-19 outbreak – would have been content that the play was all in front of them and not a danger to their defensive third.

Livingston have earned a reputation in recent times for playing a long-ball game but they were composed in possession, with on-loan Grasshoppers midfielder Djibril Diani at the heart of everything.

But, after a subdued opening, it was Saints who threatened first midway through the half.

David Wotherspoon’s free-kick clipped the top of the Livingston wall and flew behind for a corner.

From Wotherspoon’s delivery, May latched onto a ricochet but Lions goalkeeper Max Stryjek grabbed the striker’s shot on the turn inside a crowded box.

Four minutes later, it was the visitors’ turn to come close to the breakthrough.

A long ball from Jack McMillan caused some panic in the home ranks and their hurried clearance landed kindly for Jay Emmanuel-Thomas.

The former Arsenal striker engineered enough space for a shot on his right but St Johnstone’s emergency signing Zdenek Zlamal pushed the low effort round the post.

The interval failed to inject much urgency into proceedings and chances were still at a premium in the second half.

After 66 minutes, Wotherspoon’s dangerous cross from the left was headed over his own crossbar by the retreating Matej Poplatnik.

Saints were content with a draw but Livingston knew they had to find a spark from somewhere and they almost got it with 18 minutes remaining.

The home defence failed to clear an attempted through ball from Emmanuel-Thomas and Kabia blasted in a drive that Zlamal did well to beat away.

Kabia seemed to reach the rebound first and Livingston screamed for a penalty as he went down in a heap in a challenge with Jason Kerr but referee Craig Napier waved away their appeals to ensure their campaign ended in disappointment.