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Stevie May stars as St Johnstone see off Inverness to retain Premiership status

Stevie May opened the scoring (PA)
Stevie May opened the scoring (PA)

Stevie May delivered another major contribution to St Johnstone as he came off the bench to inspire their cinch Premiership rescue act.

The half-time substitute took less than a minute to open the scoring as Saints beat Inverness 4-0 in the play-off final second leg to retain their top-flight status.

The three-time cup winner had only scored two goals in the previous 18 months but his close-range finish was as important as any of the 27 goals he scored in his breakthrough season of 2013-14, which included a winner against Rosenborg and a Scottish Cup semi-final double.

Saints had struggled in the first half in Perth after letting slip a two-goal lead in the first leg, but May’s goal was quickly followed by a deflected strike from Cammy MacPherson.

Callum Davidson’s side did not let history repeat itself as they held off Caley Thistle’s fightback and rounded off a 6-2 aggregate win with late goals from Callum Hendry and Shaun Rooney.

St Johnstone had John Mahon in for the absent Jamie McCart in their back three while Inverness were much changed following the first leg.

Wallace Duffy and Danny Devine returned from suspension, which allowed David Carson and Sean Welsh to move into midfield, and Logan Chalmers and Austin Samuels came in.

Zander Clark made his first save of the game inside a minute when he gathered Chalmers’ effort, having conceded from Caley Thistle’s only two shots on target in the first leg.

Clark continued to be the busier of the goalkeepers in the first half, saving from Samuels and Billy McKay. Devine headed off target, Duffy had a header blocked in the goalmouth and Clark had a let-off when he sliced a clearance behind him but just wide.

St Johnstone forced some set-pieces without troubling Mark Ridgers, and Hendry passed up a chance to shoot just before the break.

Davidson responded to the disappointing first-half display by bringing on May for Glenn Middleton and the change bore fruit within a minute.

The striker reacted quickest to slam the ball high into the net after Ridgers had stopped Melker Hallberg’s free header following a James Brown cross.

Saints were two up seven minutes later when MacPherson collected Brown’s pass 25 yards out and fired a shot which hit off Welsh and deceived Ridgers.

Caley Thistle fought hard to get back in the game but could not get a lifeline. Clark stopped Samuels’ strike, Mahon blocked from Duffy and substitute Aaron Doran sliced wide from a good chance.

Hendry and Rooney wrapped up the win in the final three minutes with near identical counter-attack goals as they both dinked the ball over Ridgers.

It was former Inverness wing-back Rooney’s fourth goal in four final appearances as a St Johnstone player having netted two Hampden winners last season.