St MIRREN’S relegation fight suffered another significant blow as they allowed St Johnstone to escape Paisley with a 1-0 win.
St Johnstone - MacLean 39′
Steven MacLean smashed home the only goal of the game after 38 minutes to hand Danny Lennon’s side their seventh defeat in their last eight Scottish Premiership fixtures.
Goalkeeper Marian Kello was also replaced at half-time by deputy Chris Dillo after limping off with injury as salt was rubbed into the Buddies’ wounds. The Perth Saints – guided from the sidelines by Callum Davidson and Alex Cleland while boss Tommy Wright continues his recovery from gallbladder surgery – have now won four of their last five matches and claimed this win without talisman Stevie May.
Having confirmed a top-six spot for the third season in succession with their weekend win over Hibernian, St Johnstone took no chances with their top-scorer ahead of next month’s William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final with Aberdeen. The 22-goal striker dropped to the bench as he was rested alongside defender Frazer Wright and midfielder Gary McDonald.
St Mirren started with a decent tempo and they forged the first opening after eight minutes as John McGinn wriggled past Lee Croft before stinging the fingers of Alan Mannus.
A Steven Thompson header from the resulting corner skimmed the bar, but the visitors were almost let in by Marc McAusland’s slip as James Dunne fired wide soon after.
But Lennon’s men continued to be the side who set the pace, coming close again after 21 minutes when Conor Newton’s deflected strike landed on the roof of Mannus’ net. St Mirren are second bottom of the table for a reason, though, and they offered St Johnstone another opening six minutes later as David Wotherspoon’s cut-back was slotted wide by Michael O’Halloran.
St Mirren’s thought they had the opener when Darren McGregor met Kenny McLean’s corner to the back post only to nod over. However, it was the visitors who took the lead when Saints striker MacLean wandered free at the back post to volley home Wotherspoon’s deep corner seven minutes before the break.
It was a goal St Mirren could ill afford to lose and cost them the game.
St Mirren: Kello (Dilo 46), Naismith, McGregor, McAusland, Kelly, Magennis, Newton (Wylde 46), McLean, McGinn, McGowan (Teale 68), Thompson. Subs not used: van Zanten, Goodwin, Campbell, Djemba-Djemba.
St Johnstone: Mannus, Miller, Clancy (Wright 46), Anderson, Mackay, Croft, Dunne, Millar, Wotherspoon (Cregg 80), O’Halloran, MacLean (May 86). Subs not used: McDonald, Hasselbaink, Banks, Iwelumo.