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DURING the course of the journey north up the tortuous A9, the Scottish Labour Party announced the name of their new leader.

Those with left-of-centre tendencies immediately suggested the elevation of Iain Gray may herald the start of a fresh chapter in their fortunes.

Just a few hours later, similar hopes for fresh beginnings were being talked of by Saints’ supporters heading home after seeing their side dig deep to secure three points for the first time since the opening day win over Livingston.

And it was from the left wing of the magnificent Victoria Park playing surface that both the goals had their roots.

Collin Samuel has had a stuttering start to his Saints career – his only goal prior to Saturday had, ironically, come in Dingwall when he netted the consolation goal in a 2-1 Challenge Cup reversal.

However, on this occasion he was the provider of two exquisite finishes – ample reward for his solid shift as the lone striker – and he will surely now be rewarded with the opportunity to extend his stay in the Perth frontline.

He may not prove to be as prolific in front of goal as compatriot Jason Scotland but the similarities are there for all to see.

Having had a fortnight to work on the defensive deficiencies which had contributed to four successive defeats, boss Derek McInnes opted to bring well-again Kevin Rutkiewicz back into central defence and give Steven Anderson the left-back slot.

Having allowed the home side far too much opportunity to play their neat, passing game in the meek Challenge Cup surrender, this time Saints were, for the most part, diligent and energetic in ensuring that the County playmakers were shackled and had little time to dwell on the ball.

Having survived a fifth minute scare when a vital Rutkiewicz headed interception cannoned off the foot of Alan Main’s right hand post, Saints grabbed the lead just shy of the half hour mark.

Sometimes goals are a thing of beautiful simplicity and so it was when Samuel – twice earlier denied by County custodian Bullock – headed the ball powerfully into the net from a delicious Gavin Swankie free kick from the left.

Two minutes after the break, Saints got a second goal and its timing and execution were just what was required for a team low on confidence. Main’s clearance was flicked on to Samuel who cut in from the left, skipping past two defenders before dispatching a low drive wide of Bullock.

Of course, it wouldn’t be in the current St Johnstone make-up just to cruise to a comfortable two-goal win and when Richard Brittain finished off a three-man move with a superb rising drive with 20 minutes to go Perth hearts grew heavy.

For a period Alan Main’s goal was under siege of Alamo-type proportions, but credit to the sky-blue players who dug deep and defended like their lives depended on it.

There was one final watch-through-the-fingers moment deep into injury time when Stuart McCaffrey gave away a free kick on the edge of the box right at the death.

Recent luck might have dictated that this would give the Staggies a last-gasp share of the spoils, but no. Higgins fired his effort high over the bar and the relief that a merited three points had been secured was palpable.

Saints: Main, Irvine, Anderson, Millar, Rutkiewicz, McCaffrey, Swankie (Holmes), Hardie (McKoy), Samuel (Milne), Craig, Sheerin.
Subs not used: Jackson, McLean.

Ross County:
Bullock, McCulloch, Keddie, Dowie, Boyd, Lawson (Scott), Hart (Daal), Brittain, Higgins, Craig, Morrison (Strachan).
Subs not used: Watt, Soutar.

Ref: William Collum