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The National (Scotland)
The National (Scotland)
Aidan Smith

Graham Carey hopes St Johnstone's win over Kilmarnock made Steven MacLean 'proud'

Graham Carey hopes St Johnstone’s huge victory over Kilmarnock in the Scottish Premiership made departed boss Steven MacLean proud. 

The former Saints manager was axed last weekend following a thumping loss to St Mirren in Paisley with the club still searching for their first win of the league season. 

Alec Cleland was then placed in caretaker charge, and in his first match, the Perth outfit picked up their first three points of the season with a 2-1 victory over Kilmarnock on Wednesday evening. 

Carey missed the St Mirren nightmare due to illness and he feels he and his teammates let MacLean down with their slow start to the campaign. 

He explained: “It was a tough last few days seeing the manager and Liam going. Nobody wanted to see that. The players had a great relationship with them. 

“We felt as a group that we let them down at the start of the season. It was weird on Wednesday because there was a bit of nervous energy not knowing what was going to happen. 

“But we channelled it in the right way in the first 10 minutes and started really well.” 

After the defeat to St Mirren MacLean called his players out insisting some would never play for him again. The former Saints striker has been criticised by some for those comments, but Carey believes his former gaffer was spot on. 

He continued: “I think his words were true. I was ill and wasn’t there but he was obviously disappointed in the manner of the defeat. 

“The manager has the right to call out players if he feels that is right. Everyone in the dressing room will tell you it wasn’t good enough at the weekend. 

“I don’t think it was harsh. They were true words. I think on Wednesday we showed that he was right at the weekend. 

“The reaction was partly down to him and his comments after the game. Hopefully, we did him proud.” 

A strike partnership of Chris Kane and Nicky Clark set the tone for St Johnstone against Kilmarnock on Wednesday and Carey now hopes the pair can stay fit in the long run. 

“We put a lot of crosses in the box in the last few games and didn't get on the end of them,” he said. “Nicky has been a big miss for us and he showed on Wednesday why he is very important. 

“If you give him service, he will score goals. We felt we should have had him back a long time ago but he kept on getting little niggles. 

“It is great to see him back and great to see Chris Kane starting too. We want our wing-backs to get forward but they can’t really do that if you don’t hold the ball up. 

“We have had runners in behind this season but not really a focal point holding the ball up and slowing the game down so our wing-backs can get higher up the pitch to put crosses in. 

“In parts of games we’ve played really well. We just haven’t been good enough in both boxes. On Wednesday we defended crosses and set-pieces really well. We took our chances at the other end. 

“We can always get better. Second half, before the red card, we could have been better on the ball and taken pressure off ourselves. 

“There was a bit of nervousness around the whole ground because we hadn’t won this season. 

“It was a long time with 10 men, especially with them putting bodies in the box. 

“We needed to put our bodies on the line. If we had thrown that away, there would’ve been a lot of questions asked about the character in the dressing room. Nobody wanted that. 

“We made it difficult for ourselves but there is a lot of improvement in this squad.” 

Saints now welcome struggling Motherwell to McDiarmid Park on Tuesday and Carey believes with a new manager coming in, the club will now go from strength to strength. 

He added: “We haven’t even scratched the surface. We have a lot of quality players in the team. 

“For one reason or another we have been short of confidence and not clinical in both boxes. There are a lot of positives to build on but we still need to cut out mistakes. 

“A new manager will have seen a lot of character and a lot of fight. The quicker we get a manager in, the quicker we can build towards the next game. 

“If that doesn’t happen, we have enough characters in the dressing room and the staff here now are brilliant.” 

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