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St Johnstone 1-0 Ross County: Levein gets first win thanks to Carey strike

St Johnstone banished their "ghosts" to climb off the bottom of the Scottish Premiership as Craig Levein earned his first win in charge at the expense of Ross County.

With nothing between the teams for much of the game, Graham Carey's s fine finish to round off a sweeping team move was enough to seal the points.

After Nicky Clark crashed a shot off the crossbar and a barrage of blocks kept County level, the veteran's curled winner finally put the home side into a deserved lead.

Victory means that Saints move level with a blunt County on points, while leapfrogging Livingston on goal difference.

Levein, whose side squandered a 2-0 lead to draw his first match in charge, said: "I talked to them after the Motherwell game about us getting spooked.

"Well I think we've dealt with the ghosts now and that is evidence enough that we can cope with pressure in a situation where we are in front.

"I can't off the top of my head remember a clear-cut opportunity for Ross County so that pleases me enormously. There's some glimpses of good stuff but hopefully we can get more of them."

After a first period of the sides cancelling each other out, the second half desperately needed a spark, which was provided by St Johnstone's man of the moment.

Having netted three goals in his last two games, only the woodwork could deny Clark a continuation of his scoring run as his looping effort with back to goal bounced back into play.

As if his side were awoken by the noise of the crossbar rattling, Carey kept the pressure on with an immediate follow up, turned away by the leg of Dimitar Mitov.

The visitors showed a rare flash of urgency in response through Yan Dhanda, the tricky midfielder striding forward but blazing high into the stands.

But the breakthrough would came after a surging run from Luke Robinson was eventually fed the way of Carey of the edge of the box, with a sweeping finish igniting the home support.

A County comeback was never really on the cards, with home substitute Stevie May failing to kill the game as he fired straight at Mitov in the game's last decent chance.

Player of the match - Graham Carey

Mood at McDiarmid shifting as County slump - analysis

Three homes games and seven points out of nine have changed the mood at McDiarmid Park since Steven MacLean vacated the manager's seat.

While it doesn't always come off, St Johnstone have looked noticeably more forward thinking since the club legend departed.

Less scared of making a mistake, more roused by the challenge of staying in the division. After this battling win, they move off the bottom for the first time since 2 September.

Now, Levein must transfer the belief he's instilled in the safe haven of home comforts and take them on the road. Their first destination? His old stomping ground of Tynecastle.

And while Ross County are making their journey back north, there will be lots of looking out the window and wondering how they arrest their slump.

Now winless in eight, they look like a side completely unaware of how to make the most of their competent forward players.

Dhanda showed the odd flash of flair, but he can't provide all the spark on his own. Now losing to the teams around them, Malky Mackay and his squad have plenty of introspection to do over the international hiatus.

What they said

St Johnstone manager Craig Levein: "It was a bit of a scrap, but included in that was some good football. I thought it was a goal fitting to win any match. Wonderful strike from Graham Carey."

Ross County manager Malky Mackay: "I don't think we deserved to win today. It was a reasonably scrappy a game. It took a really good goal to win it. We huffed and puffed without having that little bit of care and attention on the ball. I think that's what was missing."

What's next?

Both teams have a fortnight off for the international break, after which St Johnstone head to Hearts and Ross County host Kilmarnock on Saturday, 25 November (both 15:00 GMT).