Superb form means Saints are no longer under the radar

By Richard WilsonBBC Scotland
St Johnstone
St Johnstone have won their last six away games

St Johnstone are as adept at stealth as they are at winning football matches. The sides immediately around them in the Premiership tend to hog attention, but the low profile has never felt like a hindrance to the Perth side.

Tommy Wright has been a consistently impressive figure, and resourcefulness is a trait he often relies upon. It is common for managers to use their circumstances as a motivational tool, and the lack of focus on St Johnstone has merely been turned into another source of impetus.

The 2-1 victory over Dundee United at Tannadice on Saturday was St Johnstone's sixth successive away victory, and the side has lost only one if its last nine games.

By any measure, they are among the best performing sides in the division, since only Celtic are above them in the form table, and only the defending champions, Hearts and Aberdeen stand above them in the league table.

Tommy Wright says St Johnstone can finish in the Premiership's top three
Tommy Wright says St Johnstone can finish in the Premiership's top three

Wright is adamant that his team can finish in the top three and the only limiting factor will be the comparatively larger budgets that Aberdeen and Hearts can deploy. The St Johnstone manager has proved himself adept at maximising his resources, though, and outwith the financial gap that separates Celtic, the rest of the clubs in the division are much more competitively balanced when it comes to spending power.

St Johnstone are effective because they generally tend to find the balance between defensive stability and attacking edge. Only Celtic have scored more goals this season and although Wright will feel that the team has conceded too many during this campaign, he has had to reorganise his defence having broken up the long-standing centre-back partnership of Steven Anderson and Frazer Wright.

Super Saints
St Johnstone have won their last five matches in all competitions.They have lost just one of their last eight matches.
The 2-1 win at Dundee United was their sixth straight away victory.Saints have scored 31 goals in 15 league matches, having scored 34 in the entire campaign last season.

There is solidity throughout the team, where time-served players like Alan Mannus, Chris Millar and Steven MacLean set the tone for the team's displays. The result is a team that combines defensive responsibility with an attacking threat and a streetwise mentality that allows them to manage games as they unfold.

United in defeat

The result at the weekend would have particularly irked the Dundee United chairman Stephen Thompson. Wright was a leading contender to succeed Jackie McNamara as manager, but instead signed an extension to his contract at McDiarmid Park.

United are not forlorn now, though, even if results have yet to substantially improve. The sense around Tannadice is of the worth of the work being carried out by Mixu Paatelainen, who has been drilling his players on team shape and organisation.

Billy McKay scored his fifth goal of the season against St Johnstone
Billy McKay scored his fifth goal of the season against St Johnstone

The training sessions will eventually lead to a change in fortune, but just as significant will be player recruitment. Several players at a time are joining the squad on trial, with Gavin Gunning and Guy Demel already having signed short-term deals. The expectation is that Alexei Eremenko, the former Kilmarnock playmaker, will also join the club, while a work permit is being sought for the Japanese international goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima.

United needed toughening up, mentally and in terms of the physical stature of the side. Paatelainen is a manager who is comfortable expressing himself bluntly, but he is also shrewd and tactically adept.

His team are currently bottom of the Premiership, six behind Motherwell, and no doubt frustrated that Partick Thistle are in the midst of one of their goalscoring spells. Inconsistency is the bane of all of the clubs in the bottom half of the table, though, so no team is yet consigned to their fate.

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