Craig Levein retains hope as St Johnstone take play-off battle to the final day

The Saints left it late to draw 1-1 with Ross County.

Craig Levein praised St Johnstone after their late comeback
Craig Levein praised St Johnstone after their late comeback (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Craig Levein praised his St Johnstone side’s spirit after Adama Sidibeh’s late equaliser against Ross County took the relegation play-off battle to the last day.

County’s attacking midfielder Yan Dhanda, on his way to Hearts in the summer, scored a superb goal after 28 minutes at McDiarmid Park which looked like it would secure the visitors’ top-flight status.

But Sidibeh’s 90th-minute header made it 1-1 to keep 10th-placed Saints two points behind the Staggies with one game remaining.

St Johnstone play Motherwell at Fir Park in their final league game on Sunday while Ross County host Aberdeen.

Boss Levein said: “We kept going and we’re still hopeful things can go our way.

“All credit to the lads, although we were open in second half, we haven’t had a lot of luck this season but I thought we just deserved with the effort we put in.

“The hope is we go to Motherwell and win, then Aberdeen beat Ross County. We will try to put in a strong performance.

“Even if we have to go into the play-offs I would rather go into it in a vein of form rather than disappointment so the message to the players on Sunday will be just go out and play as well as we can and if things work out fantastic and if they don’t we are ready to go into the play-offs in good form.

“We have to got to be confident of going there and winning. Of course the reality is it’s out of our hands now.

“We wanted it to be in our hands completely but that isn’t the case. But I don’t think Aberdeen will be an easy team to dispose of on Sunday either.

“Sunday will be about a lot of different things, character, quality and maybe a bit of luck, who knows?

“We have showed a lot of energy in our performances later, that has pleased me and was evident tonight. So on we go to Sunday and we’ll see what happens.”

Staggies boss Don Cowie insists he was not angry at conceding late in a game to thwart their bid to leave Perth with their top-flight status intact.

He said: “That’s football, isn’t it? It happens.

“The players are down and disappointed, but it’s my job to lift them and get the spirits high for playing Aberdeen.

“I felt it was a good away performance, they dealt with the pressure well and I felt comfortable.

“So I’m not angry, we switched off ever so slightly and (Graham) Carey has a wonderful left foot. He put a ball in and it was a great header to be fair.

“The good thing is Sunday’s game comes quickly and we won’t have time to stew on it.

“We will recover and get ready to go against Aberdeen. They are in good form but apart from Motherwell at home we have been excellent at home.

“I said before the game we earned the right to have it in our own hands and we did that tonight.

“Right until the 90th minute I thought we’d done it. St Johnstone put a lot of attackers on the pitch and we switched off.”