In-form St. Johnstone can stretch their winning run to four games as they host Kilmarnock at McDiarmid Park.
But don’t expect a goal-fest in Perth between these two sides in a fixture that has been settled by just one in four of the last five meetings – the other ending in a scoreless draw.
Saints suffered a blip in their last home League fixture when they were beaten 2-1 by Partick Thistle but Tommy Wright’s side bounced back to win at Inverness Caley Thistle and Hamilton Accies in the SPFL and Morton in the League Cup.
The Saints’ tails are up and they will be looking to get their home form back on track where – apart from the surprise Partick result – they’ve won three and drawn two of their other games.
With chances likely to be limited, St. Johnstone will be reliant on top-scorer Steven MacLean putting away whatever openings come his way. And with him knocking ten in the back of the net already this term, he’ll be confident that he can add to that tally against a Kilmarnock side that have leaked 22 goals this term.
But the Saints’ defence has also been breached 21 times, so the game hinges on the midfield battle that will likely ensue with both teams packing the middle of the park.
Killie boss Gary Locke’s side have won two, drawn two and lost two on the road and they were beaten 1-0 by Motherwell at home last week. With 14 goals scored in the 13 games they’ve played so far, the Rugby Park side are somewhat dependent on the form of solitary striker Josh Magennis who has netted six of the total.
Magennis will be charged with leading the line again and his hold-up play will provide the link to getting the Killie midfielders pushed on and applying pressure on the Saints’ defensive line.
However, you can expect few fireworks in a game that the bookies have St. Johnstone odds on to win. The visitors could stifle their attacking intent and grind out a draw, despite the form book which has seen Saints draw just twice and Kilmarnock three times so far.
Whatever happens, you can be sure that the game will have key battles in midfield and it will come down to a moment of creativity – with all eyes on Saints star man Michael O’Halloran who Wright insisted this week was not for sale - a set-play or a key decision like a sending off or an injury to upset the balance of play.
It’s a tough one to call from a purely betting perspective and don’t let the League positions of fourth and eighth deceive you. Just five points separate the two sides and this game will be close whichever way it goes.
The confidence that Saints have built up in the camp with three wins on their travels may just give them the edge but the longer that Killie can shut them out, the more frustrated they will become and they could be then vulnerable to being hit on the break if the home crowd get unsettled and urge the side into attacking.
The first goal is vitally important to the game and whoever gets it should probably go on to win – but don’t rule out the high likelihood a draw.
St. Johnstone Stats W6 D2 L5
Recent form WWLWWW
Kilmarnock Stats W4 D3 L6
Recent form LLDWWL
Head to Head record
19/09/2015 Kilmarnock 2 St Johnstone 1
28/02/2015 St Johnstone 0 Kilmarnock 0
13/12/2014 Kilmarnock 0 St Johnstone 1
18/10/2014 St Johnstone 1 Kilmarnock 2
23/09/2014 Kilmarnock 0 St Johnstone 1
St. Johnstone (4-1-3-2) – Mannus, Shaunessy, Scobbie, Anderson, B Easton, Fisher, O’Halloran, M Davidson, Craig, Wotherspoon, Cummins.
Kilmarnock (4-2-3-1) –MacDonald, O’Hara, Findlay, Balatoni, McHattie, Smith, Slater, McKenzie, Kiltie, Higginbotham, Magennis.
Injury List/Suspended Players
St. Johnstone – none.
Kilmarnock– Chris Johnston (inj)