The express train departing from Paisley right now is St Mirren hurtling towards the Premiership. A combination of inactivity and the poor form of their nearest challengers Dundee United means that Jack Ross’s ebullient side are now an enormous 14 points clear at the top of the table and even if the Tannadice men rediscover some semblance of purpose it’s getting beyond imagination that they can chisel away that kind of lead.
Probably the only thing that can stop the Paisley side is themselves through some kind of unaccountable slump but such is the focus that emanates from Ross and permeates right through his team that that scenario is no less unforeseeable. “I know that at this stage of the season as we approach the final quarter it’s all about results for us,” reflected the happy Ross afterwards. “But I think our performance was good today as well, particularly in the first half.”
“There’s probably a carrot now that the players can see – that’s what they are working towards. It’s obviously good for us psychologically to have the points on the board and we don’t need to play catch up.”
Right from the off Ross’s men played with the sort of heady exhilaration and effortless flow that is the hallmark of a side that believes it is on the verge of something big. They were tearing at the Queens defence and within a couple of minutes Kyle Magennis had Alan Martin straining to palm away a net-bound drive. The breakthrough was only briefly on hold, however, as Liam Smith picked up the ball 30 yards out advanced a few steps and then sent a powerful shot into the roof of the net. A combination of some more alert goalkeeping by Martin and lack of clinical finishing meant that the narrow advantage remained until the half hour mark, when an undisguised handball by John Rankin gifted the Saints a penalty which Harry Davis calmly stuck away.
When these two sides previously locked horns it unfolded into a thriller with Queens initially racing to a two-goal lead before the Paisley men spectacularly turned it around to take all three points. It never looked remotely likely that the tables would be turned here.
The second half was unfortunately a damp squib in terms of goalmouth action but it simply allowed Saints to demonstrate another dimension of their game – their ability to keep possession and impose control. A late spell of pressure from the visitors aside, which saw Craig Samson called into action to parry a Rankin shot, this was about as comfortable a 45 minutes that Ross’s men have enjoyed all season – and that gap at the top just keeps getting bigger.