JUSTICE was done in Paisley as St Mirren prevailed in the re-match with Ross County but there was a huge element of fortune as they survived a glaring penalty claim in the final minute.
Scorers: St Mirren - McLean (35), Newton (51); Ross County - Saunders (67)
Bookings: St Mirren - Naismith, McGinn; Ross County - Saunders (sent off), Sproule (sent off), Kettlewell, Quinn
The rain stopped Saints winning the original fixture when Willie Collum abandoned the November 2 game on 52 minutes with the Paisley side winning 2-0 and it’s fair to say the officials denied County the chance of a draw in the rearranged fixture.
Jim Goodwin clearly handled the ball in the box as Brian McLean tried to get on the end of it but neither referee
Willie Collum nor assistant Charlie Smith appeared to see it.
It would have been a remarkable recovery for County, who had Ivan Sproule and Stephen Saunders sent off, and it would have been rough on St Mirren had they not won all three points.
In the end a Stevie Thompson deflection and a strike from Conor Newton were enough to make in four wins from the last five matches.
Even although St Mirren manager Danny Lennon had completely concurred that the original match should be abandoned due to the water-logged conditions, the decision still rankles with some.
A prankster in the St Mirren camp left a rubber duck on the centre spot prior to kick-off, clearly intending to have some fun with Collum but it was removed before the referee led the teams out. The chap in charge of matchday entertainment also aimed a rather lame jibe at the official by playing It’s Raining Men.
Crucially, St Mirren resumed where they had left off in the abandoned match and completely dominated their Highland visitors.
They were crisp and fluent in possession, quicker to loose balls and had much more urgency about their play.
Contrastingly, County were slack with their passing on the rare occasions they had the ball and Dutch striker Kevin Luckassen cut a very lonely figure as the solitary striker.
The only surprise was that it took until the 34th minute for St Mirren to find the opening goal.
They had threatened repeatedly virtually from the outset. Indeed they might have scored in seven minutes when Jason Naismith whipped a low cross in from the right and Thompson shot just wide from close range.
McLean served notice that he was in the mood with a swerving left-foot shot in 20 minutes, which flew just over the left junction of post and bar after being set up by Paul McGowan.
Then, in 23 minutes, centre back Darren McGregor headed weakly wide from McLean’s corner when he should have done so much better.
The first goal, however, was worth waiting for and it was inevitable after a period of incessant St Mirren pressure. It was all about the smart thinking of McGowan. He twisted and turned in the box and then rolled a great pass for McLean who drove a low right foot shot which was diverted past Mark Brown by Thompson.
Five minutes into the second half Thompson made another telling impact when he set up a second goal for the Paisley men.
The tireless Naismith produced a low cross from the right and McGowan helped it on to Thompson who cleverly held the ball up before rolling it back to Newton and he drilled low shot into the County net.
And so Saints were back in the position they had created when the sides first met 15 days earlier and they were seemingly very comfortable.
However, against all odds Ross County found a goal in 66 minutes to potentially change the course of events.
Graham Carey, who had replaced Kettlewell eight minutes earlier, played a corner from the right which deflected into the path of Saunders and he fired a into the net from close range.
However, they completely self-destructed in a crazy seven-minute period in which both Sproule and Saunders were sent off.
Sproule should hang his head in shame after a quite shocking straight leg lunge on McAusland in 68 minutes and Collum immediately flashed the red card. Thankfully, the St Mirren defender was not seriously injured.
Then the goal-scorer Saunders was booked twice in the space of two minutes to reduce County to nine men.
He was cautioned in 71 minutes for a foul on John McGinn and then he scythed down McLean in 73 minutes.
St Mirren had chances to really punish the under-strength Highlanders but they contrived to miss the target or find Mark Brown a stubborn obstacle as the County keeper made great blocking saves from Sean Kelly and Newton.
Then, in the final minute, there was almost a dramatic twist when County were denied a clear penalty which could have given them an unlikely point. A draw would have been clear injustice and maybe St Mirren deserved the break.
St Mirren: Kello, Naismith, McAusland, McGregor, Kelly, Newton, Goodwin, McLean, McGinn, McGowan (Reilly 89), Thompson. Subs not used: Cornell, Van Zanten, Mair, Harkins, Caprice, Grainger.
Ross County: Brown, Saunders, Boyd, McLean, Micic, Sproule, Brittain, Kettlewell (Carey 59), Quinn, De Leeuw (Gordon 74), Luckassen (Steven Ross 82). Subs not used: Kovacevic, Maatsen, Klok, Fraser.