It would be fair to say that St. Johnstone's 2021/22 campaign has not quite gone to plan. From the highs of a cup double to a 10 game losing run last May feels a long time away and many fans have been consigned to the idea of automatic relegation from the top flight of Scottish football, for the first time in over 15 years.
However, despite some rough runs so far this season Callum Davidson's side have managed to put a run of 1 defeat in 6 together. Performances and results are certainly on the up which has led to the table looking like this.
[Table from BBC Sport]
St. Johnstone has lifted themselves off of the bottom of the table and within 4 points of Ross County, albeit Dundee have a game in hand, against St. Mirren on Wednesday.
The Perthshire club looked dead and buried just a few weeks ago but looks to be turning things around - with an impressive January window certainly helping the cause. Melker Hallberg, Dan Cleary, Tony Gallacher, and Tom Sang were all brought through the door and have improved the starting 11. Other exciting talents such as Theo Bair and John Mahon also signed on the dotted line.
These signings arguably could have been made in the Summer but all that matters is that they are here now and the St. Johnstone squad looks much more fluid, confident and higher quality team than they were even a few weeks ago.
The question on many fans' lips is; Is it too little too late?
What do Saints Have to do to Stay up?
St. Johnstone has 6 games until the split, the main goal for Davidson's side will be to stay within touching distance of the rest of the pack, with Ross County now firmly in sight.
Although the Saints have turned a corner they are still in a relegation battle and the defeat to St. Mirren was a harsh reminder of this, every game is a crucial one now.
[Saints celebrate beating Hearts]
Saints have 6 games to go before the split, with the fixtures reading: Ross County (A), Rangers (H), Hibernian (A), Motherwell (H), Livingston (H), and Celtic (A).
The biggest game in that run is without a doubt the first one, Saturday's trip to Dingwall to face Ross County. A win would drag Saints within 1 point of Malky Mackay's side and a serious chance of guaranteed survival would present itself.
However, a defeat in Dingwall would put a gap of 7 points between the clubs, and all of a sudden there is a real mountain to climb. A draw does Saints no favours, but with another 10 games to go (including the split) would not be disastrous.
Following the Ross County game, Saints will likely need to win at least 2 from the following 5 games, with home games against Motherwell and Livingston which have to be deemed as 'must wins'. Hibernian away at Easter Road is one where at least a point should be the aim. Whereas in the games against Celtic and Rangers a point from either would be a bonus.
[St. Johnstone need to replicate the performance against Hearts in the upcoming games]
Realistically the aim should be anywhere from 7-10 points at the least, which would see us on 30-33 points by the time of the split.
Dundee has an extra game than Saints and their remaining fixtures pre-split are; St. Mirren (H), Livingston (H), Hibernian (H), Motherwell (A), Rangers (H), Aberdeen (H), and Dundee United (A).
Dundee has an abundance of home fixtures that could certainly play into their hands, they could overtake Saints with a win over St. Mirren on Wednesday after the same amount of games played. However, new manager Mark McGhee cannot enter the dugout for another 5 games due to a ban.
Dundee has no easy games (there is not such a thing in the cinch Premiership this year) and if they fail to get going under their new management team, that could save Saints from automatic relegations. In theory, all we need to do is at least match or better their results (if they fail to beat St. Mirren).
[Dundee narrowly lost to Celtic last time out]
Ross County on the other hand is in pole position to stay up, a win against Saints on Saturday would almost put them out of touching distance. Their run of fixtures goes; St. Johnstone (H), Motherwell (A), St. Mirren (H), Celtic (A), Hearts (H), and Aberdeen (A).
This is a very tough run of games for 'The Staggies' and the hope is that if Saints beat them, they could easily lose every other game. Whilst I doubt that they will implode all of their remaining games could be seen as tricky, an inform St. Mirren, title-chasing Celtic, a potentially resurgent Aberdeen, a solid Motherwell side, and 3rd place Heart of Midlothian will all be tough games. Even if they pick up 4-6 points Saints could overtake them.
[Ross County lost to Hibernian on Saturday]
Overall, there is no set way to survive. Even if it does not go to plan, the split provides an opportunity for redemption - with 15 points up for grabs against teams round about you. However, Saints cannot rely on that.
It all needs to start with a win on Saturday, use the momentum from the last games and I fully believe we can maintain our Premiership status for another season. Saints are getting better and better at the moment and this is a massive chance to save what has been a pretty wretched season so far.