Aug 11 2009 by Gordon Bannerman, Perthshire Advertiser Tuesday
HE might not see 40 again but Alan Main is looking forward to being re-acquainted with the Premier League.
St Johnstone's all-time appearance record holder was steeling himself for the arrival of another keeper over the summer and Graeme Smith duly arrived from Ibrox, where he'd been marginalised by the presence of two international goalies.
With Smith currently injured, Main seized the opportunity to post a timely reminder of his capabilities as former manager Owen Coyle brought his Premiership newcomers to his old stompin' ground.
This time last year, Saints went down 3-1 in a similar fixture but a late Paul Sheerin spot-kick provided the perfect pre-season sign-off.
By that time, a bewildering array of substitutions had taken place and the Turf Moor side, minus three rested Scottish internationals, had probed an unfamiliar Perth back four, giving Main a chance to showcase his talents and enduring reflexes.
These games generally carry a health warning but as a limber-up for Motherwell this weekend it served its purpose splendidly.
The Perth pass and move game, first-half especially, whetted the appetite; the management ran a couple of systems; and various players posted claims for starting berths for the eagerly awaited step-up into the SPL.
Latest arrival Filipe Morais was a first-half stand-out, foraging down the flanks, antagonising the full-backs and getting in crosses from troublesome areas. Collin Samuel sent an early snapshot breezing past the target and should have buried a Jody Morris pass, only to smack the ball against keeper Jensen.
Liam Craig tested the keeper with a glorious dipping volley and these three were kept indoors at half-time. They can look out their shirts for Saturday.
Before kick-off Owen Coyle cheerfully signed autographs and chatted with fans in the main stand. The result did nothing to detract from his demeanour, with Coyle face masks popular with a decent Burnley following still pinching themselves at the prospect of competing alongside Man U, Chelsea and the big boys this season.
The SPL might be more mundane but Perth players and fans also find their pulses racing a little faster.
And rousing chants for Derek McInnes suggest Saints fans are well aware of the quality in the home dug-out. Coyle's post-match warning that their biggest challenge will be holding onto McInnes was hardly a bombshell after all the summer speculation but an extended contract now would set the scene for the new campaign and prove a public relations triumph.
The board has backed their manager with half a dozen signings. When did Saints ever outspend most Scottish clubs – Rangers included – over the course of a summer?
And the newcomers making their home debuts? Dave Mackay was predictably solid at right-back, Murray Davidson covered acres in the midfield, Morais was magnificent, Kenny Deuchar provided a second-half contrast in attacking styles and Danny Grainger was accomplished in the left-back slot.
Stuart McCaffrey and Graham Gartland teamed-up in central defence and generally looked solid, although the Irishman was turned easily by Paterson minutes after the restart and should have been punished.
Saints now have various options at free-kicks and Martin Hardie almost curled home a 77th minute 18-yard effort.
Peter MacDonald made a cameo appearance and minutes after his introduction he teased a trip out of Christian Kalvenes, allowing Sheerin to do the needful, with Craig already indoors.
ST JOHNSTONE: Main, Mackay (Irvine 61), Grainger (Anderson 83), Morris (Hardie 61), McCaffrey, Gartland, Davidson (Moon 68), Craig (Sheerin 46), Swankie (MacDonald 78), Samuel (Milne 46) and Morais (Deuchar 46). Subs not used: McLean and Heagney.
BURNLEY: Jensen, Carlisle, Gudjonsson (Easton 76), Paterson (Elliott 65), Edgar, McCann (McDonald 58), Eckersley, Blake, Jordan (Kalvenes 76), Thompson (Rodriguez 58) and Eagles (Guerrero 65).
Refereee: William Collum.