THERE WAS little by way of goodwill to all men in the catcalls the home support rained down on St Mirren manager Tommy Craig at the end of yet another home loss.
Scorers: St Johnstone - O’Halloran 7
St Johnstone barely got out of second gear despite some scary moments in the second period. They always looked the sharper, fitter, hungrier and more tactically switched on of the teams and deserved to take the points.
The 64-year-old veteran Craig cut
a sad, lonely and forlorn figure throughout a game during which he scarcely moved from the spot or offered any sort of cajoling or tactical wherewithal to his young charges.
He looked despondent in the downpour rather than an inspirational leader of men, and with this latest loss the home fans who have been simmering for weeks spoke in volume to demand his taxi be summoned.
Those backing the manager will point out only a deflected goal separated the teams on what was a shocking afternoon for football. However, those demanding his removal – and they are now in the vast majority – can point to Craig’s abhorrent record since replacing Danny Lennon in the summer, a string of, at best, misfiring signings and then chuck in his equally awful statistics from his short and sour time in charge of Charleroi in
Belgium, where he lasted less than six months.
With every passing week and every new reversal the pressure is mounting both on the manager and his board of directors, who so far have backed him in the face of mounting supporter pressure.
After the game, Craig dismissed crowd-chanting as a “minority” and insisted he would carry on regardless.
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“I know there were a few calls from the minority,” he said, “but these things don’t get to me or the players and we will bash on come Monday.
“We weren’t brilliant, and it is another defeat to leave us where we don’t want to be. The players gave their all and we had lots of effort with none of my players shirking or hiding from the ball.”
St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright didn’t want to be drawn
into the plight of his opposite number, choosing instead to praise his team.
“It isn’t for me to pass comment,” he said. “I felt my team deserved to win and had we taken our chances could have won by two or three, although the second half was more of a contest.”
Against a team on the downward trajectory of a lead balloon, there would surely have been words spoken pre-match in the visiting dressing room about the value of a quick goal crushing what remained of St Mirren’s morale. If this was indeed the plan, it worked to a tee, Michael O’Halloran’s deflected drive beating a rather suspect-looking Mark Ridgers to give the Perth men a seventh minute lead.
It was yet another soft goal concession by the only team in senior British football not to have recorded a league clean-sheet this term, and another blow to their beleaguered manager who had little response other than to bury his head in his hands. What passed as a reply saw Adam Drury fire a powder-puff low shot into Alan Mannus.
St Johnstone were always the better team and passed up two very presentable chances to go in at the break further ahead. O’Halloran glanced a pinpoint Simon Lappin centre over the bar, then James McFadden clipped his shot over from a narrowing angle.
The home team were better after the interval with a little more life to their game and could have been level had Mannus not produced a clutch of very good stops, the best of the bunch being a point-blank denial of a Callum Ball header when it seemed the substitute was certain to score.
Danger came, though, each time the home team got overly adventurous in the search for the equaliser as they looked wide open to being picked off at the other end.
Brian Graham crashed a shot on the turn off the base of the post, then minutes later stung the palms of Ridgers with a low drive the goalkeeper was lucky to see rebound to safety.
In the end, neither team looked like adding to the scoring as St Johnstone saw out play in the face of much home huffing and puffing. Come full-time the fans had their say and left few in any doubt as to their feelings. It doesn’t get any easier for the Buddies, with a trip to Celtic Park next weekend looming.
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