ST JOHNSTONE striker Collin Samuel has vowed to add stamina to skill in order to fire Saints up the SPL table, writes Ian Roache.
While all the pre-match talk had been about Rangers’ possible move to an Atlantic League, Samuel helped show that a trip to the banks of the Tay is more than enough to test the Ibrox men at the moment.
Saints may have lost this game 2-1 but for long spells the only clear blue water was between the Perth men and their visitors as they passed the ball crisply and created good chances.
Samuel blasted the home side into a 17th minute lead at McDiarmid Park with an explosive strike then, as lone attacker, continued to torment central defenders Davie Weir and Lee McCulloch until he was replaced by Kenny Deuchar with eight minutes to go.
He was only off the park for a minute before Sasa Papac, given yards of space in which to tee himself up, fired in the winner for the Light Blues, who levelled just before the break via Kris Boyd.
Having also given the Celtic backline a torrid time earlier this season Samuel, with his pace and strength, can be a massive asset for St Johnstone in the weeks and months ahead.
However, he realises he needs to fight fatigue if he is to turn promise into reality.
“Being the only striker is a hard role but I enjoy playing it,” he said.
“My job was to occupy the two Rangers central defenders and make life as difficult as possible for them. I did the same job against Celtic and think I did OK then, too, by playing to my strengths.
“Now it is all down to keeping as fit as possible and making sure I am ready for every game so I can get through 90 minutes. I know I need to keep my fitness level up and I am pushing myself as hard as I can in training.
“Every day I am working hard. I know I can be that (an explosive player) but I also need to have stamina for the whole game.”
Samuel admitted that Saints only had themselves to blame for not taking anything out of Saturday’s game, failing to capitalise when on top.
“Overall, we are not playing badly and we had the upper hand for a long time because we took the game to Rangers,” he said.
“We dominated for long spells but we just didn’t have the cutting edge. I think we are creating a lot of chances but we are missing them.”
As well as the ones that got away—Martin Hardie’s header against a post and Murray Davidson’s nod wide when inches from goal were the pick of the bunch—there was the matter of the non-existent marking at the winning goal.
When Kevin Thomson’s shot hit Steven Anderson and landed at the feet of Kris Boyd for Rangers’ equaliser, that could be put down as bad luck.
However, the concession of the second counter was shocking, with Papac given an age to control a Steven Naismith knockdown, switch the ball on to his preferred left foot and pick his spot from the edge of the box.
What a shame so much hard work from the hosts was ruined by such a lapse so close to full-time.
With manager Derek McInnes taking advantage of the early finish to rush off and take in another SPL match, it was left to his assistant Tony Docherty to sum things up.
“The 90 minutes wasn’t frustrating—what was frustrating and disappointing was not getting anything,” he said.
“The performance level was very good but the boys are just gutted to have put so much into the game and to come away with nothing. We merited at least a point.
“Credit to Rangers, who keep going for the winner, but our camp is disappointed. It is a little unjust just now that we haven’t been picking up the points for our performances but we will look ahead to the next game (away to Kilmarnock) now.”