Soccer

St Johnstone stay winless after Sean Kelly penalty earns point for Livingston

Sean Kelly scored Livingston’s equaliser (Michael Huff/PA)
Sean Kelly scored Livingston’s equaliser (Michael Huff/PA)

St Johnstone remain bottom of the cinch Premiership without a victory after a Sean Kelly penalty earned Livingston a draw at McDiarmid Park.

Dara Costelloe struck first for Saints before the break to give them hope of a first league win of the campaign.

But a controversial spot-kick early in the second half allowed Livi to haul themselves back level.

Saints skipper Liam Gordon was then sent off late on following the intervention of VAR to heap more woes on the Perth hosts.

Livingston dominated possession in the first half but struggled in attack and it was the home side who enjoyed the majority of the opportunities in front of goal.

After just 12 minutes, a Max Kucheriavyi corner was returned to him on the left and his second delivery squeezed through a crowded box to Costelloe, who poked his shot wide from 16 yards out.

Livi responded with a Mo Sangare header and a Tom Parkes shot in quick succession from Kelly’s corner, but both were blocked by the resolute Saints defence.

It then all opened up for the hosts in the 20th minute when Graham Carey burrowed his way to the bye-line and picked out Luke Jephcott with his cutback. However, the striker’s goal-bound shot was blocked by strike partner Costelloe in a crowded six-yard box.

Jamie Brandon threatened at the other end for the visitors 10 minutes from the break after a slick attack, but the full-back’s shot was too straight to trouble Dimitar Mitov in the Saints goal.

Just a minute later, the home side surged in front. Saints seized possession in the heart of the pitch and Dan Phillips’ threaded through-ball picked out the run of Burnley loanee Costelloe who drilled in his first goal for the club from 25 yards.

Just four minutes later, Livi defender Ayo Obileye was relieved to see his sliced clearance of a Carey cross spin up and onto the roof of his own net.

With the visitors in desperate need of a foothold in the game, they were gifted a leveller 12 minutes into the second half.

Gordon caught Joel Nouble in a tangle of legs as the duo chased a long ball over the top and referee Graham Grainger pointed to the spot. A VAR check validated the official’s decision and Kelly sent Mitov the wrong way with a cool penalty.

The equaliser gave Livi a spring in their step and stunned a St Johnstone team already low on confidence.

Kelly almost turned provider in the 71st minute but his curling free-kick was headed wide of the far upright by Obileye. The visitors were presented another opportunity from a set-piece with 11 minutes remaining but Nouble’s glancing header was held by Mitov.

The home side’s hopes of finding a late winner slipped away when Gordon was dismissed in the 83rd minute after a lengthy VAR check for catching Nouble with his studs in a challenge.

But Livi could not take advantage of their extra man as time slipped away without a winner for the visitors.