FOR the second time this season, serious questions were asked of Danny Lennon’s future at St Mirren, and for the second time his players responded with a ringing endorsement of their manager.
The home side had won only once in their last 11 and sat in the dreaded relegation play-off place prior to kick-off. It mirrored their dreadful start to the season before a battling 1-1 draw with Aberdeen kick-started their campaign.
“There was a lot of talking done this week between myself, my staff and the players,” said Lennon after the match. “Everybody wore their heart on their sleeve and I was delighted to see that they took that out on to the park today.
“We’re committed and passionate. The 13 players that played today, the manner in which they hunted the ball across all areas of the pitch, they certainly got their reward.”
The one concern that remained was St Mirren’s inability to turn the majority of their attacking pressure into clear-cut chances. Around the penalty area they continually wasted a promising opportunities.
As for Kilmarnock, probably the greatest compliment that could be offered to Allan Johnston’s side in a forgettable first half was that they successfully repelled the hosts.
The second half, in contrast, was much better spectacle. Within five minutes both sides had their first efforts on target and the match developed into an end-to-end affair.
In the 53rd minute, St Mirren’s John McGinn robbed substitute Jackson Irvine and switched inside for Paul McGowan. The diminutive attacker opened himself up and drove a low shot that was excellently tipped wide by Craig Samson. Six minutes later Robbie Muirhead, on for the quiet Alexei Eremenko, curled in a superb left-foot effort for Kilmarnock that seemed destined for the far corner before Marian Kello tipped it wide.
The longer the game went on the more exasperated the home crowd became with the failure of their side to further test Samson in goal. At one point a supporter stood and shouted “get him off” after Connor Newton tried to be too elaborate inside the opposing half. Fortunately for Lennon he ignored such a request, choosing instead to withdraw McGowan for Gregg Wylde, and when the substitute’s low cross from the left was missed by Magennis, Newton arrived to place the ball into the corner from 15 yards out.
St Mirren, though, almost threw it away in an instant. The defence switched off and allowed Mark O’Hara’s clipped through pass to find Kris Boyd running in on goal. The striker got to the ball before Kello, flicked it around the keeper and saw his effort come back off the base of the post, the ball narrowly missing the incoming Rory McKenzie for what would have been a tap-in.
“That summed up our day to be honest,” said Boyd. “We came here looking to put pressure on St Johnstone and Hibs above us, but it’s just not happened. St Mirren were the better team, they won every first ball, won every second ball and deservedly won the match. The fans didn’t deserve that performance.”
Instead it was the home side who got what they deserved, killing the game off with three minutes remaining. Wylde advanced toward the Kilmarnock goal before unleashing a powerful drive that nestled into the back of the net via the outside of the post.
St Mirren: Kello, Naismith, Kelly, Newton, McGregor, McAusland, Magennis (Campbell 89), McLean, Thompson, McGowan (Wylde 77), McGinn. Subs not used: Dilo, Djemba-Djemba, Williams, Brady, Reilly. Goals: Newton 79; Wylde 88. Booked: McLean.
Kilmarnock: Samson, O’Hara, Tesselaar, Clingan (Irvine 26), Pascali, Ashcroft, McKenzie, Slater, Boyd, Eremenko (Muirhead 45), Johnston (Moberg-Karlsson 74). Subs not used: Reguero, Gros, Maksimenko, Gardyne. Booked: Slater.
Ref: C Allan. Attendance: 4.650.