Danny Lennon urges St Mirren to build on win over Rangers

ST MIRREN manager Danny Lennon has demanded more of the same from his players as they prepare to host Dundee United in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League tonight.

The Buddies are buoyant after stunning Rangers in an impressive 2-1 win at the weekend, having already claimed a point from the Scottish champions at Ibrox. Lennon believes their positive results this season have been down to the club’s commitment to developing their young players and he insists consistency is now key in the games ahead.

He said: “That’s the challenge. We had seven players under the age of 24 in the starting 11 on Saturday, plus Nigel Hasselbaink, who came on. Developing fresh young talent is what it’s about here. They are performing well and the future is bright.

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“The challenge for those young players is to show consistency. We’ve not won back to back games so far this season but we are on a three-match unbeaten run and we are looking to extend that. The next two games are against the teams closest to us so they are important games.”

Victory over Peter Houston’s men would allow Saints to leapfrog United into the top six in the SPL table. Lennon added: “We face a difficult one. They are on a good run and have only lost to the Old Firm in their last nine games but we have a good record against Dundee United.”

The Paisley club attracted a crowd of 6,711 to their festive fixture against Rangers and Lennon was thrilled to reward their supporters with the points ahead of another home match. He said: “We are delighted for the fans that we were able to put on a show for them on Christmas Eve. It’s the fans who pay our wages and they want those who have the privilege of wearing the strip to give them great memories. It was a great feeling to repay them for their loyalty. We are looking to continue that.”

Another boost on the day was the return of veteran midfielder Hugh Murray, who made his first appearance of the season after recovering from knee surgery. Lennon, who has no fresh injury worries for tonight’s game, said: “It was absolutely terrific to see him come in and make a good contribution.

“It was a massive lift for everyone at the football club. There were many positives from Saturday’s game – the style of play, the quality of the goals and picking up the three points.”

Dundee United manager Peter Houston praised St Mirren for shaking up the title race on Saturday, but has warned Lennon’s men his team are in confident mood ahead of the trip to Paisley. In the last eight games, United’s two losses have come against Celtic and Rangers, while in the last three matches – a draw at Kilmarnock sandwiched by wins over Inverness and Hibernian – Houston’s men have responded from deficits to gain points. “It was a great result for St Mirren, whether Rangers have got 10 men, nine men or whatever. To beat Rangers is a good achievement,” said Houston.

“They’ve got guys in the middle of the park who can score goals – young (Paul) McGowan, (Kenny) McLean, (Graham) Carey’s very dangerous from set-plays. Then they’ve got (Nigel) Hasselbaink, (Steven) Thompson and (Aaron) Mooy, who are scoring goals. All over the pitch they’ve got players who are capable of being a threat.”

Houston expects midfielder Willo Flood to be available after missing Saturday’s win over Hibs due to illness, but striker Lauri Dalla Valle has also been ill this week and is a doubt. The manager added: “The boys are buzzing. They’re looking forward to the match but we don’t take anything for granted because it’s a team who will overtake us if we don’t get something from the match. We’ve got ourselves up the table a wee bit and our aim is to try and at least stay there.”

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Houston hopes United will not have to react to going behind in future. He added: “It’s three games on the trot we’ve come from behind and got something from the game. We’re the third highest scorers with 28 goals. We’re scoring goals and we are creating chances – I still think we can do a bit better defensively because we’re giving some goals away that I think we should be doing better with.

“Sometimes you’ve just got to say we’re unlucky. I cannot fault the players. I’m pleased with them just now and it’s important we start winning home matches.”