THEY ended the match with nine men and a point, but St Johnstone take all the credit for a courageous display in this hugely entertaining match.
St Mirren 1 - 1 St Johnstone
Scorers: St Mirren - Dummett (69); St Johnstone - M Davidson (15)
“Definitely two points dropped for us,” said St Mirren manager Danny Lennon afterwards, as he called for the “multiball system” to be investigated by the SPL after St Johnstone took their time in retrieving the match ball.
Lennon said: “They tried to slow things down which is understandable. I think you are doing the fans an injustice when you do that. It’s turning 90-minute games into 80 minutes.”
With captain Jim Goodwin back from suspension, and Steven Thompson back from injury to lead the line, St Mirren blasted out of the blocks and almost went ahead after five minutes, John McGinn bringing out a superb save from Alan Mannus who went on to have a fine game – “the busiest I have been since I joined the club,” said the goalkeeper later.
The first semblance of a chance for St Johnstone came after 11 minutes when Liam Craig headed Gregory Tade’s cross high over the bar. But their next chance was not squandered.
A good move down the left by Callum Davidson and Tade saw the former’s cross headed on by Craig to Murray Davidson who ghosted away from McGinn at the far post and headed powerfully home.
Craig Samson had no chance, and indeed kept his side in the game with a superb save from Steven MacLean’s curling shot later in the half.
McGinn is just 18 but appears to have a future, and he took responsibility for having allowed Davidson in, responding by ceaselessly running at the visitors.
He jabbed one shot just past the post, and then crashed another off the bar just before half time, Marc McAusland making a hash with his effort at the rebound.
That came after the first sending off in the 39th minute.
Steven Anderson recovered from an error that allowed Lewis Guy in for a shot that went wide, and when the same player got past him just outside the penalty box, Anderson felled him to see a straight “last man” red card from referee Bobby Madden. Perhaps harsh, but that’s the law.
St Johnstone manager Steve Lomas decided to defend what he had, sending on Tom Scobbie for Rowan Vine, and leaving only Tade up front.
It looked to be working as the visitors snuffed out St Mirren’s attacks while the rain came sheeting down. But any chance that St Johnstone might ride out the storm surely depended on keeping ten men on the pitch and after 68 minutes they were down to nine.
Bang in front of Madden, Chris Millar blatantly tripped McGinn to earn his second yellow card. Other referees might have realised the consequences of the booking and relented, but, as with Anderson’s dismissal, Madden applied the letter of the law.
“We have no complaint about either red card,” said St Johnstone’s assistant manager Tommy Wright afterwards.
As if to add insult to injury, St Mirren promptly equalised. Gary Teale slipped the ball to McLean, whose fierce shot was parried away to the far post by Mannus, only to be met on the run by Paul Dummett, pictured, the impressive young left back making no mistake from close range.
As St Mirren players tried to get the ball back, a fracas ensued which saw Frazer Wright and Goodwin booked, though whether it was for handbags or loose tongues was not immediately apparent.
Now St Johnstone had no option but to defend, though had Wright taken his chance when clean through on Samson, an extraordinary victory might have resulted.
St Mirren piled on the pressure, but Teale blasted over the bar, McGinn’s clever shot went just past the post, and Wright cleared Thomson’s header off the line, all in normal time. When McLean’s header went high over the bar in injury time, the home fans’ anguish was palpable.
St Johnstone’s nine men held on for the draw, and few would grudge them it for their bravery, certainly not Lee Mair, who played in St Mirren’s 2010 League Cup final loss to nine-man Rangers. He said: “When they went down to nine men, I thought it’s the same things as the final again. Credit to St Johnstone, they defended well.”
St Mirren: Samson, Van Zanten, McAusland (46), Mair, Dummett, Teale, McLean (85), Goodwin, McGinn, Guy (67), Thompson, Subs used, Imrie (46), Parkin (67), Reilly (85). St Johnstone: Mannus, Miller, Wright, Anderson, C Davidson, Vine (46), M Davidson, Millar, Craig, MacLean (75), Tade (65), Subs used, Scobie (46), Pawlett (65, Cregg (75)
Referee: B Madden. Attendance: 3,702