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Preview: Ross County vs. St Johnstone - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Saturday's Scottish Premiership clash between Ross County and St Johnstone, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

High-flying St Johnstone travel to Ross County for their opening fixture in the 2021-22 Scottish Premiership on Saturday afternoon.

The Saints will be looking to build on a domestic cup double and a fifth-place finish achieved last season, while the hosts will be hoping they can avoid another relegation battle this time around.

Match preview

Malky Mackay pictured in November 2017© Reuters

Ross County will be playing Premiership football once again this year after winning their final three league games of last season, which helped them to move three points clear of the bottom two and avoid relegation.

Despite steering the Staggies to safety, John Hughes left his post as head coach, with former Watford, Cardiff City and Wigan Athletic boss Malky Mackay taking the reins at Vitoria Park.

The 49-year-old – who was investigated by the FA in 2014 for sending allegedly racist, sexist and homophobic text messages to Cardiff's head of recruitment Iain Moody – has received a backlash amid supporters concerns regarding his appointment. Mackay, however, insists that he has learnt from his past mistakes and believes he has "unfinished business" as a manager.

Ross County's preparations for the 2021-22 season have been derailed due to an outbreak of coronavirus within their camp, which forced the Staggies to forfeit their first two League Cup games against Forfar and Dundee.

Since then, they beat Brora Rangers 1-0 on the road before cruising to a 4-1 victory at home to Montrose last weekend, though their late push for a place in the second round was too late as they finished third in Group C behind the two teams they forfeited matches against, Forfar and Dundee.

Ross County have failed to win any of their last eight home meetings against St Johnstone, but a victory on Saturday would be a great way to kickstart their campaign and for Mackay to get the fans onside.

St Johnstone manager Callum Davidson celebrates after the match on May 9, 2021© Reuters

After a hugely successful 2020-21 campaign, St Johnstone are in high spirits and their fans are full of optimism for what lies ahead this year.

The Perth-based outfit are still basking in the afterglow of winning both the League Cup and Scottish Cup, as well as finishing fifth in the Premiership.

Callum Davidson, who was pipped to the SPFL Manager of the Year award by Rangers boss Steven Gerrard, was delighted with how his young, cohesive squad was able to achieve so much last season, and will now be hoping that they can make the next step when they venture into Europe for the first time in four years.

The Saints have been drawn against Turkish giants Galatasaray in a third-round qualifier for the Europa League. Davidson is sure to have one eye on the first leg in Istanbul on Thursday, but he and his side must firstly turn their attention to their opening Premiership game.

Prior to beating Ross County 1-0 in their last meeting in March, St Johnstone had failed to win seven consecutive encounters against them, drawing five times in the process. Heading into Saturday's game, the Saints have also drawn three of their four pre-season friendlies against Preston North End, Aberdeen and Fleetwood Town.

Only Dundee United (14) drew on more occasions than St Johnstone (12) in the top-flight last season, but if Davidson can turn those one-pointers into victories, starting with a win on Saturday, then his side should have a great chance of pushing for a place in the top three, something that the club last achieved back in 2012-13.

Ross County form (all competitions):
  • W
  • L
  • L
  • W
  • W

St Johnstone form (all competitions):
  • D
  • D
  • W
  • D

Team News

St Johnstone's Shaun Rooney celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates in February 2021© Reuters

Ross County boss Mackay is unlikely to make too many changes from the sides that started against Brora Rangers and Montrose, which would therefore see him stick with a 3-5-2 formation.

Coll Donaldson, Keith Watson and Alex Iacovitti are all set to start in central defence, while either Connor Randall or Blair Spittal is expected to start at right wing-back.

A three-man midfield could be made up of Jordan Tillson, Manchester City loanee Alex Robertson and Ross Callachan, who scored 10 goals for Hamilton Academical last season.

Striker Dominic Samuel and left-back Jake Vokins, who also joined the club this summer, will be hoping to make their Premiership debuts and could keep their places in the first XI, after starting the last game against Montrose.

As for St Johnstone, they have had a quiet summer in the transfer window, recruiting defensive trio James Brown as well as Hayden Muller and Reece Devine (both on loan) from Millwall and Manchester United respectively, however, they are not expected to feature in the starting lineup on Saturday.

Key midfielder Ali McCann, who has been linked with a switch to Celtic, is set to start in the middle of the park, and could be joined by experienced pair David Wotherspoon and Murray Davidson.

Winger Michael O'Halloran, who signed a new two-year deal over the summer to stay with the Saints, is in contention to start in behind either Stevie May or Chris Kane up front.

Ross County possible starting lineup:
Laidlaw; Watson, Donaldson, Iacovitti; Spittal, Paton, Callachan, Tillson, Vokins; Samuel, White

St Johnstone possible starting lineup:
Clark, McCart, Kerr, Gordon; Rooney, Wotherspoon, McCann, Davidson, Booth; O'Halloran; May

SM words green background

We say: Ross County 1-2 St Johnstone

St Johnstone have scored in each of their last eight visits to Victoria Park, though their last four trips have all ended as draws.

Davidson's side will, however, believe they have what it takes to claim all three points this time around, and a narrow victory could be on the cards on Saturday, which would provide the perfect confidence boost heading into next week's Europa League clash.

Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at are predicting a double chance bet on a draw or an away win in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Draw/Away:data

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John Hughes in charge of Hibernian in 2010
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5Dundee UnitedDundee Utd631234-110
8St Johnstone613234-16
10St Mirren6042512-74
11Ross County6033513-83

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