St Mirren slumped to a 5-0 defeat at home to SPL Champions Celtic in Saturday’s televised game. Goals from Hooper, Watt, Ambrose and a double from Victor Wanyama allowed the visitors to ease past their hospitable hosts in Paisley.
The Buddies made one change from the 2-1 defeat in Perth a fortnight ago. Sam Parkin dropped out of the side with David Barron starting his first game of the season at right back, pushing David van Zanten forward into right midfield in a basic 4-4-2 formation.
Saints ironically enough started the brighter of the two teams in the opening few minutes, contrary to some early nervy performances displayed earlier in the season. The ball was being passed around well with a decent tempo, and even when the visitors were in possession they were being closed down instantly by a hungry St Mirren side. St Mirren were first to threaten. Van Zanten in his new midfield role crossed for Lewis Guy to volley harmlessly into the arms of Fraser Forster to pass up an agonisingly good chance to break the deadlock.
However it wasn’t long before Celtic took the lead against the run of play. After 14 minutes Beram Kayal laid the ball off to Lassad on the right had edge of the penalty area. He crossed across the face of goal for Hooper to tap in to give Celtic a 1-0 lead. Things got desperately worse for St Mirren with an uncharacteristic error from keeper Craig Samson just two minutes later. After Lee Mair was booked for upending Tony Watt, the resulting free kick was swung in by Charlie Mulgrew. Samson spilled the ball right into the path of Efe Ambrose who’s side-footed volley into the empty net wasn’t nearly as spectacular as his multiple back-flip celebration. Each of the four runners were allowed a free run of the penalty box, and Sammy’s howler added to the catalogue of errors.
Saints passed up a great opportunity to gain passage back into the game. Great play down the left allowed Lewis Guy to pass the ball into the area for Kenny McLean to side foot a week shot into the hands of Fraser Forster.
It was that man Wanyama compounded an embarrassing first half with a sublime finish from 25 yards after 36 minutes. Muglrew played a reverse ball into the middle of the park for Wanyama. The Kenyan curled a beautiful shot beyond Samson into the left hand corner of the net to further compound the misery of the Saints fans.
From then on it was a case of keeping a clean sheet until half time. However a basic lack of awareness and poor passing added to the woes of the already frustrated home support, and left Danny Lennon with a very substantial team talk to carry out at the break. The manager made a half time substitution by introducing Dougie Imrie for David Barron, the latter of whom had looked slightly off the pace on his return to the side.
The second half required a comeback of Swedish proportions and Saints certainly couldn’t be accused of throwing in the towel early in the second half. Graham Carey’s free kick was met by the head of Steven Thompson, but his header sailed well wide of the goal. This was followed by Lewis Guy’s ball across goal however Thompson couldn’t quite connect, with Saints desperately trying to engineer a way back into an already forgone conclusion.
St Mirren were lucky not to fall further behind when David Van Zanten denied Victor Wanyama a hattrick by clearing his goal-bound effort off the line midway through the second half. However Saints kept plugging away and Steven Thompson was unlucky not to score a consolation after Carey had robbed Matthews on the edge of the box. Carey’s pass across the box was met by Thommo, but his first time shot lacked the power to beat Forster, and the rebound was spurned by Carey. Thompson was at the centre of another chance 15 minutes from time. He met Jim Goodwin’s cross with a curling volley that dipped just over the bar.
The manager elected to give youth a chance by bringing on young John McGinn for Goodwin with the game already decided. Celtic striker Miku posed the home defence problems by somehow managing to shoot when surrounded by Saints defenders, but on this occasion his shot was deflected wide for a corner....before the exact same occurrence just a minute later.
Celtic put the result beyond all doubt (for those who still believed...) after 86 minutes. Emilio Izaguirre’s run and cross was met by the head of the leaping figure of Tony Watt to bullet home number five for the visitors. Victor Wanyama was denied his hattrick for goal number six by the crossbar.
That concluded an absolutely horrible afternoon for the Paisley Saints. The only positive that can be taken from that is that the team didn’t surrender at any point. A mixture of awful defending from Saints and sheer class from a side rich in both money and quality put paid to any chance of claiming a result here. Last season our inability to score was responsible for a bottom-six finish, however this season it looks like a readiness to concede early in games and in great quantity could be our downfall this year. The fans will be looking for a huge reaction in a very winnable game at home to Dundee United next Saturday. As for today’s result, it has already been forgotten.