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Tommy Wright proud of his Saints despite Europa League exit

St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright

St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright

St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright was proud of his players after they drew 1-1 with Spartak Trnava but admitted they had not done enough in the second half to avoid exiting the Europa League 3-2 on aggregate.

Saints led at half-time thanks to Stevie May’s deflected strike but could not exert enough pressure to get the second away goal they needed before Martin Mikovic latched on to a poor header from Gary Miller to level with eight minutes left.

Wright told BBC Scotland: “I think if we had continued with our first-half performance we could have got more.

“But sometimes games don’t pan out the way you want and the second half didn’t pan out the way the first half did.”

Wright, whose side had lost 2-1 in the first leg, added: “We asked them to keep it better and work a different shape - and it worked. Except for maybe 10 minutes in the first half I thought we deservedly went in ahead.

“The second half we didn’t control the ball enough but never looked in any danger and it was scrappy.

“The goal didn’t really change anything because we still needed a goal but we didn’t create enough opportunities in the second half.”

Wright, whose team won at Rosenborg and Minsk last season and drew in Lucerne in the previous round, added: “But I can’t praise the players enough for what they put in.

“I keep going back to the same group of players and asking them to perform for me and they do.

“To be unbeaten in four games away from home in Europe is an achievement in itself. But unfortunately, it wasn’t enough.”

May’s deflected effort three minutes before half-time handed St Johnstone a lifeline following their 2-1 defeat in Perth but they failed to build on their advantage in the second half.

And a blunder from Miller allowed Mikovic to level with eight minutes left to seal a 1-1 draw for the hosts and a 3-2 aggregate victory.

The goal could be May’s last for the club amid talks with Rotherham and reported interest from Sheffield Wednesday but ultimately it counted for nothing as Saints failed to do enough to get the 2-0 win they needed.

However, the Scotland Under-21 striker was inches away from forcing extra-time when he threw himself at a cross amid some late pressure from the visitors.

 

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