Unlike the two goalfests in Lanarkshire, this was not an encounter that anyone would be rushing to watch again. For long stretches it was devoid of quality or excitement as it failed to live up to the sense of the occasion; not that the home fans would have cared too much after their Saturday evening was brightened significantly by Mullen’s brilliance.
“I wasn’t sure it was coming today,” said manager Oran Kearney. “Credit to Danny, who’d probably put his hands up and say it wasn’t his best performance, but he’ll never forget today after that strike. To hit it with his right foot would have been something, but to do it with his weaker left was fantastic.”
The opening 20 minutes had the feeling of a meaningless end-of-season procession, where nothing is at stake and players from both sides go through the motions as they dream of beaches in Dubai. For St Johnstone that can be forgiven, seeing as the only thing left to fight for in their campaign is the distinction of calling themselves the best of the worst for finishing in seventh place. St Mirren, however, looked distinctly short of the urgency typically associated with a club fighting for their top flight lives.
Some interest was finally injected when, out of nowhere, Mateo Muzek robbed Michael O’Halloran on the edge of the box and his stinging drive was deflected over by goalkeeper Zander Clark. The visitors then could have found themselves in front at the other end as Murray Davidson barged past two challenges into the penalty box and shot wide of goal.
St Mirren almost went ahead in fortuitous circumstances as Anders Dreyer curled in a free-kick cross which evaded everyone and bounced off the far post. Paul McGinn then had a low shot blocked before Mullen glanced a header wide.
Supporters of both teams would have been glad to see their respective managers were not content with a dismal first half as they each made a change at the break. Saints swapped David Wotherspoon for Ross Callachan, while the hosts removed defender Jack Baird for midfielder Kyle Magennis and a change to a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Unfortunately there was no immediate response as the second period started in much the same fashion. A Brad Lyons’ fresh-air swipe of a Kyle McAllister cut-back was the only opportunity of note until the closing stages.
The atmosphere inside the ground did ratchet up a few levels as the crowd became increasingly angered by referee Steven McLean. Fresh off scathing criticism from Kilmarnock boss Steve Clarke last weekend, the whistler was maddeningly inconsistent when it came to what did and didn’t merit a yellow card. The St Mirren support then got themselves excited further when news filtered through that Accies had thrown away a 2-0 lead against Livingston and were trailing 3-2.
The air was soon let out of the balloon, however, with St Johnstone firing themselves in front at the end of a counter attack. Following a Buddies’ corner, Liam Craig switched for Richard Foster who drove forward before slipping in Chris Kane. The substitute kept his cool to finish into the far corner.
The game seemed to be petering out to an inevitable conclusion until Mullen struck. A cross from the right wasn’t properly cleared, allowing Mullen to unleash an incredible volley that rocketed into the top corner of the net. Not even news of a late Accies equaliser could dampen the joy within the home ranks.