THE winter break has evidently done little to disrupt St Johnstone’s momentum. Tommy Wright’s side wrapped up the old year with two victories on the spin and they have now opened the new year in mirror fashion. Most impressively they have won all four matches without conceding a goal.

This hard-fought victory over Livingston lifts them into fifth place in the Premiership table and greatly enhances their chances of once again claiming a place in the top six come the league split. It wasn’t achieved with any great finesse or flair but St Johnstone, once again, did enough to get the job done.

The only goal of a competitive if hardly compelling game arrived after 77 minutes. Richard Foster’s cross found Matty Kennedy and, when his header was well saved, Murray Davidson was sufficiently alert at the back post to stab in the rebound. A late Livingston rally failed to yield an equaliser, St Johnstone spirits lifted even higher by the late cameo given to the returning Michael O’Halloran.

“Livingston are a difficult side to play against but it’s three points and I will take that,” said Wright. “At this stage of the season every win will be vital. Murray will go through a brick wall for you and I’m pleased that he got a goal.”

St Johnstone will care little about the aesthetic merits of the win but, on a bitterly cold night, there was little before the goal to warm up the 1946 who had ventured out of the house.

The first half passed by with barely a chance of note. Ryan Hardie came closest for Livingston with a low drive that Zander Clark encouraged around the post, while St Johnstone were only marginally more adventurous.

A well-worked short free kick concluded with David Wotherspoon thudding a shot goalwards that Alan Lithgow headed clear, while Liam Craig saw a dipping 30-yard free kick touched over by Liam Kelly, before a low Ross Callachan drive skittered just wide. That referee Andrew Dallas chose to play just six seconds of first-half injury time showed what he thought of it all. There were few complaints.

The second half had little to commend it either until Davidson’s intervention. Craig Halkett has been a key figure in Livingston’s defence this season and he was their main attacking threat here too. He eyed up a long-range free kick before thumping in a shot that required Clark to look alive to repel it, before skewing a header wide from Craig Sibbald’s corner when he ought to have least got it on target.

The visitors would come to regret that missed opportunity when Davidson, the former Livingston player, turned in what proved to be the winning goal.

Livingston manager Gary Holt said: “It was a war of attrition and we lost it. That’s the crux of it. We had a lot of the ball but didn’t grasp the occasion. And then we got done by the sucker punch so it’s a hard one to take.”