SOMETIMES football can be so cruel it should be kept away from kids and come with a government health warning, and this is exactly how St Mirren must have felt at the end of an encounter they contributed so much to. They created the better chances yet ultimately trudged off the park disconsolate, beaten and feeling the relegation sands shifting under their feet. Kilmarnock will care little as they snatched three crucial points in their bid for a top-half finish.
Scorer: Kilmarnock - Miller 87
It was Lee Miller who did the damage, the one-time Scotland forward stepping off the bench to score Killie’s winning goal with just three minutes remaining.
Dejection was etched across the face of interim Saints manager Gary Teale, who insisted both that his team could and maybe should have won, but also they will go again. “Thought my boys were excellent,” he said, “and on another day we take those early chances and win the game as there was no reason we couldn’t have won.
“There were lots of wrongs with the goal we conceded, but missing chances has been the story of our season right from the opening day. We have nine games left to right the wrongs.”
Gary Locke, the interim Kilmarnock manager, admitted this was a must-win game for his team in their quest for a top-six spot. He said: “If we have any aspirations of the top six we needed to win today and it was a hard-fought win, but we expected that as they are fighting for their lives.”
With Kilmarnock looking long since safe from the drop there was clearly far more motivation for bottom club St Mirren to go the extra mile in pursuit of the points and this was abundantly apparent in the opening exchanges as the Paisley men battered their hosts only to find the decisive finish eluding them.
Jim Goodwin saw his measured volley after two minutes acrobatically helped over by Craig Samson in the home goal. Steven Thompson then had his shot deflected wide at the end of what can only be called a stramash, and even closer was James Dayton who cracked a volley off the bar. Possibly the best chance of the lot fell to Thompson with the Saints striker failing to connect with an inviting low Steven Mallan centre. Fully fit, there is little doubt the former Scotland man who have netted.
Like a boxer on the ropes Kilmarnock cleared their heads, started to compete and forced the three closest calls of the latter part of the half. Nathan Eccleston twice tested Mark Ridgers from the edge of the area and Chris Johnston warmed the keeper’s palms with a rasping drive on the cusp of half-time which
Ridgers did well to repel.
With both managers no doubt preaching during the half-time break the importance of keeping defences far tighter in the second period, chances were far scarcer than once they had been. Playmakers on either side such as Saints’ Alan Gow and Killie’s Johnston were nullified leading to a midfield battle and a succession of long balls from back to front as both sides scratched around for ideas.
It was St Mirren who looked more dangerous as the time ticked away as the completely out of sorts John McGinn fleetingly roused himself from his slumbers to become the instrumental figure in midfield his side need him to be. Dayton again came close, this time seeing Samson save well from his drive and Sean Kelly ought to have scored 15 minutes from time instead of scooping high over the bar from six-yards out.
It was a glaring opening for the youngster and one everyone connected with Saints would be ruing come 90 minutes. Kilmarnock would grab a late winner, which must have felt like a cold blade to the heart for the Buddies.
Jeroen Tesselaar lost focus and his man, Josh Magennis ran into acres of spaces where the Dutchman should have been, and squared perfectly for the recently introduced Miller to slide a precise finish past Ridgers. Points in the bag for Killie, absolute anguish and agony for Saints who deserved at minimal a point.
Kilmarnock: Samson, O’Hara, Pascali, Ashcroft, Barbour, Johnston, Slater, Eremenko (Cairney 60), Obadeyi (Obadeyi 74), Eccleston (Kiltie 85), Magennis. Subs not used: Brennan, Smith, Syme, Splaine.
St Mirren: Ridgers, Naismith, Genev, Goodwin, Tesselaar (Arquin 88), Dayton (Sadlier 67), McGinn, Mallan, Kelly (Wylde 80), Gow, Thompson. Subs not used: Kello, Reilly, McLear, Baird.
Referee: S McLean. Attendance: 4,721.
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