MATT O’RILEY had FOUR excellent chances to score the crucial breakthrough goal against St Johnstone – and blew the lot.

The classy midfielder claimed a meagre four strikes last season, but had hit half that total already in the first two league games this time out with efforts in the wins over Ross County (4-2) and Aberdeen (3-1).

Like the rest of his team-mates, he fired blanks in the Viaplay League Cup exit at Kilmarnock last weekend and the Perth club yesterday.

Yet it could have been so different if the stylish playmaker had displayed a little composure against Steven MacLean’s team after manoeuvring into great positions.

We’ll cut the Londoner some slack. The £1.5million bargain buy from MK Dons in January 2022 has hit the ground running after the arrival of Brendan Rodgers in the summer.

SAVE…Matt O’Riley is denied by a reflex stop from St Johnstone keeper Dimitar Mitov.

MISS…O’Riley hits a shot straight at Mitov.

MISS…O’Riley stages an ction replay from close range.

MISS…O’Riley thumps a wayward shot high over the bar.

The 22-year-old former Danish Under-21 international has performed well alongside Callum McGregor in the engine room and it looked as though he had added the finishing touch to his array of skills with his counters against the Dingwall side and the Dons.

However, that vital component went AWOL against a stubborn Perth side who were bottom of the Premiership before kick-off in the east end of Glasgow.

We’ll cut O’Riley some slack. His first opportunity, a first-time drive from an astute left-wing corner-kick delivery from David Turnbull, brought out a good save from Dimitar Mitov who denied the Hoops ace by blocking the shot and then tipping the swirling ball over the bar as it threatened to drop over the line.

However, the Celt has some explaining to do with his other three finishes – two fired straight at the keeper and another that was horribly off target.

O’Riley rushed his shot after being set up by McGregor to squander the second chance. He thumped the ball directly at the Bulgarian netminder when he had the goal to aim at.

Similarly, he did exactly the same in the second-half after being set up by a right-wing cross from Alistair Johnston. Once again, he lacked penalty-box polish by thumping his effort off the grateful keeper.

On the fourth occasion, he swung widly at a left-wing ball from Sead Haksabanovic and his finishing attempt was closer to Row E than the the back of Mitov’s net.

HIT…Matt O’Riley is congratulated by Cameron Carter-Vickers after his goal in the 4-2 win over Ross County.

Some onlookers had given praise to the shotstopper for his previous two saves, but, as any self-respecting professional footballer will tell you, those were MISSES from the Celtic player.

Afterwards, O’Riley remained positive as he told The Scotsman: “I think structurally we were actually better. For me, it’s the most comfortable I think we’ve felt on the pitch in terms of understanding certain things.

“At times, there were some loose passes and we could have been a lot cleaner, but, in terms of the understanding of the system, for me personally, today was the most comfortable I’ve felt within that.

“And I think that showed with the chances we did create.”

Carving open opposing defences is all very well, but unless you invite the rival custodian to retrieve the ball from the back of his net, you won’t see any reward for your efforts.


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