A disputed penalty was enough to ensure Inverness – who played most of the second half with ten men – stay on the coat-tails of the leaders.
Scorer: Inverness Caledonian Thistle - Tansey 43pen
The Highlanders, who scored from the spot just before half-time, produced a stubborn defensive performance to end St Mirren’s recent mini-revival, but were helped by a home side, who, without striker Steven Thompson, never looked like scoring.
Inverness manager John Hughes, who saw Ryan Christie sent off early in the second half, admitted it was poor encounter, but was pleased with the attitude of his side, if not the litany of yellow cards dished out.
He said: “It was a crappy game, that’s for sure, but we move on, and, at times, we looked like we could have scored a few on the counter.
“As for the sending-off, I don’t get involved in these things but, if that is a sending-off, then, honestly, I am the next man on the moon.
“There were never eight bookings in that game, and it spoiled it for the spectators as we were all walking on eggshells.”
His opposite number, Tommy Craig, refused to get drawn on the officiating, choosing instead to praise the application of his team. “I never like playing against ten men as it galvanises them. However, I don’t think the players could have put in any more effort than they did and we now have what will be looked at as a six-pointer next weekend against Ross County.”
St Mirren shaded the opening exchanges without ever opening up the visitors or causing goalkeeper Dean Brill to do anything other than field hopeful centres, and it was Inverness who nearly made the breakthrough after 15 minutes. Billy McKay swept home Graeme Shinnie’s low centre, only for the striker to be judged to have strayed into an offside position.
The home team continued to see far more of the possession than Thistle, but lacked the conviction needed in the final third to convert some good approach play into goals, and, in the process, showed why they have scored only once at home so far this season.
All the home crowd had to get enthused or vocal about were two speculative John McGinn strikes from distance and a woefully wasteful Callum Ball effort ballooned over the crossbar.
Indeed, as the half drew to a close, Inverness began to pick holes in the home rearguard with a series of well-timed counters as McKay and Christie tested goalkeeper Marian Kello. With Caley enjoying their first purple patch, they took full advantage, Greg Tansey tucking home from the spot, following Marc McAusland’s inexplicable decision to hold Gary Warren in the penalty box.
If referee Willie Collum deserves credit for a call few inside the stadium spotted, the rest of his performance was almost laughably bad. By half-time, he had flashed seven yellow cards, despite there barely being a heavy challenge of note.
Having made a rod for his own back, he then had little option other than to dismiss Christie for what was deemed a second yellow-card offence five minutes after the restart.
Faced with ten men, Saints continued to lack any punch despite promptings of McGinn and Kenny McLean from midfield.
There was little, if anything, offered by the strikers, who, with precious little pace or movement, allowed the assembled ranks of Thistle defenders to shut them out all too easily. By contrast, when the visitors did hit on the break, they looked a threat, and Kello was forced to deny McKay from close range as the Highlanders threatened to double the margin.