St Mirren rounded off their Autumn of discontent with a convincing 3-1 victory at home to fellow strugglers Dundee. A Steven Thompson double and a first goal in the black and white for Dougie Imrie was enough to better Ryan Conroy’s penalty for the Dark Blues.
There was very little ambiguity as to Saint’s task today. Win. Win at all costs, go for every loose ball, kick, scream, huff and puff your way to victory. Losing was not an option and a draw was less than favourable, so achieving three points was a necessity. And they did just that in a rather comfortable manner. St Mirren Park witnessed a very bright start from the battling Saints. Steven Thompson was unlucky to hit the post inside the opening two minutes, and very much set the tone for a rather successful afternoon for him.
Danny Lennon handed a debut to 18 year old John McGinn. Younger brother to former midfield protagonist Steven, the youngster was thrown in at the deep end and it was unanimously agreed he had a very good game indeed. He certainly showed his intentions early on by taking on opponents and surging forward at every opportunity, and was unlucky when his swerving shot from 25 yards was parried by Dee keeper Robert Douglas in the early throws of the game. Kenny McLean was forced to shoot from the same distance soon after but his effort zipped wide of Douglas’ left hand post. Thompson thundered a shot into the immovable figure of Douglas from a narrow angle, and Saints were really starting to stamp their authority on the match. Yet the visitors were causing problems on the right hand side. Nicky Reilly and Gary Irvine combined well to feed strikers Milne and Nish who would combine well to no avail, yet Dummett and McAusland were on hand to sweep up any danger.
The game’s turning point occurred on the 25 minute mark. Dundee striker Colin Nish’s lazy yet dangerous lunge on Paul Dummett merited a straight red card from referee Willie Collum. Perhaps a yellow card would have sufficed however a player can’t go into a tackle with high studs and expect to forgo an early bath. Fortunately the Geordie didn’t suffer any ill effects and rejoined the action soon afterwards.
Jim Goodwin could’ve added to the lead before the break. In a swift breakaway following a rather suspicious high boot on Ian Davidson, Saints broke up the park with Paul Dummett feeding the ball to the Captain, but his connection was poor and the ball rolled just wide. Yet another outstanding burst of inspiration from McGinn almost ensured a Sky Sports Goal of the Week nomination when his quick turn and chip from the edge of the box foxed Douglas, but the veteran just managed to push the ball onto the roof of the net whilst wrong-footed.
St Mirren ended the half the stronger, the more composed and the deserved mid-way leaders. Yet the talk at half time (other than the uncovering of a new star in John McGinn) surrounded a nagging thought that we could be punished for failing to convert a multitude of possession and chances. It was interesting that Dundee were unwilling to chase every ball to force mistakes. Sides like Aberdeen in recent weeks have generally not given us a second to think whilst in possession, which has been to our detriment.
The ease of play continued into the second half. Teale and van Zanten teamed up well on the right hand side, whilst Dummett had followed up his first half instructions to surge forward more regularly to cause discomfort to the Dundee rear guard. McLean’s curled effort forced Douglas into an early save to inflict more pressure on the visitors. Between intermittent chances and pertinent to Dundee’s lack of urgency, Saints were happy to retain possession. However this was not to the supporters’ liking as boos rang out from a frustrated home support. Lewis Guy was making some tremendous runs, yet both defence and midfield were blind to exploit Dundee’s high defensive line and opted to retain possession. At one point Tommy Craig could be seen urging the Main Stand for calm, and given six successive defeats the booing at a winning game was a tad uncomfortable. But chances were still forthcoming. McLean somehow wrapped an angled shot wide of goal, and the intimidating frame of Rab Douglas instinctively saved Steven Thompson’s bullet header at point-blank range.
Yet perhaps the fans’ discontent was merited, as Dundee incredibly restored parity after a bizarre penalty award on 64 minutes. Jim Goodwin protected his face with his hands from a close-range Dundee shot, which unfortunately the ball struck. Willie Collum awarded a corner kick, yet instantly followed up with a penalty award. The assistant referee gave the award despite Collum having a far better view. Ryan Conroy stepped up and hammered his trademark penalty into Craig Samson’s bottom left-hand corner.
The home support’s dissatisfaction was understandably high, yet still backed the team to regain the lead. And that lead lasted just seven minutes. A Gary Teale free kick was powerfully flicked towards the near post by Steven Thompson for goal number two. The big striker looked thrilled with his second goal, and was quick to congratulate the often undervalued Teale.
St Mirren retained the dominance in the match, and confidence was flourishing as the game went on. Dummett was eventually booked for a foul on Riley, surprising the only caution casualty for the Buddies despite a sizeable foul count. It has often gone against us this season so we should take the breaks when we get them.
And a break was what sealed the game just three minutes from time. A ball over the top to Imrie on the right hand side with Dundee exposed allowed the winger to power towards the penalty area. He cut inside before unleashing an unstoppable shot past Douglas into the far corner to seal a tremendous victory, whilst bagging hopefully the first of many for the Saints.
Willie Collum soon brought to an end a resounding St Mirren performance. It was far from perfect yet every player had an extremely decent game indeed and in the process created numerous chances whilst taking three. The most important thing today was winning. A scraped 1-0 own goal victory would have done just nicely, but the manner in which the result was achieved is testament of the patience displayed by the manger, the players and the fans to end a horrid run of results.
My Star Saint today was Steven Thompson. All too often his work rate in the entire opposition half goes unnoticed, or at least under appreciated. To add two goals to effectively win the game is a shining example of what a great player we have at St Mirren. From the experience of Thompson and Teale to the youth and ambition of McLean and McGinn it is clear this squad are far from done and dusted. There is still work to be done however if the same drive and composure is displayed for the remaining two-thirds of the season, then we will survive and will continue to build for the future.