St Mirren 2 - 1 Dundee: Buddies win crucial relegation battle

St Mirren' players celebrate Brad Lyons' goal in front of the home support. Picture: SNS
St Mirren' players celebrate Brad Lyons' goal in front of the home support. Picture: SNS
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If this was a trailer for what’s to come once the Premiership split comes along and these two sides are battling for their survival in the bottom six, then bring it on. Such was the significance of this game it ought to have been so tense as to have been virtually unwatchable.

Instead it was enthralling, with an explosive start seeing Dundee take the lead inside a minute and concluding with an explosion of noise from the home support as they turned it around to secure a victory that sees them leapfrog the Dens Park side at the bottom of the table.

Fair play to Oran Kearney and his men. After the morale-sapping circumstances of their midweek loss to St Johnstone and Simeon Jackson’s much-ridiculed botched ‘Panenka’ penalty attempt, to recover from such a wretched opening in this game and emerge as winners tells you something about their character and togetherness. His tactical tweaks to choke off the threat from Dundee in the second half were worthy of praise too.

“The way players responded and learned from Wednesday night to keep themselves in the game was a big thing” reflected Kearney on the shock of going behind after 24 seconds. “It was nice getting the goal 10 minutes or so in but it was more the minutes before that where we really settled ourselves into the game.”

As to the importance of the outcome he expressed a degree of caution. “It’s nice for the fans first and foremost,” he added. “I said before the game that today will not decide a huge amount. We’re hoping it’s a springboard; that it’ll give us that catalyst to kick on – but it is just three points. There’s no big high fives in the changing room.”

Given the stakes, the script was surely that we would get an opening 20 minutes or so of cautious sparring. Not a bit of it. Within 30 seconds we had a goal, which unleashed an almighty attacking frenzy that had spectators, let alone the players, gasping for breath.

The impressive travelling support from Dundee were in instant delirium as their side bombed down the field from the kick-off and John O’Sullivan’s cross was swept into the next from close range by the onrushing Ethan Robson.

You could virtually touch the shell-shock coursing through the St Mirren ranks and if they had conceded again, as the visitors continued to batter forward, it could have presaged a capitulation. They had a shaky time of it but then hared up the other end to conjure an equaliser out of nowhere.

There didn’t seem an awful lot on for Duckens Nazon as he got the ball with his back to the visitors’ goal but he twisted sharply and rolled the ball across the six yard box. It still looked to be covered by the Dundee defence but somehow Danny Mullen got a touch on it before anyone else to divert it into the net.

This merely encouraged another prolonged frenzy of ding-dong attacking play from either side. The most gilt-edged opportunity undoubtedly fell the way of Dundee’s Craig Curran who was deftly played through and should have beaten Vaclav Hladky, despite the Saints keeper closing him down.

Neither manager could have been comfortable at just how open a game it had been in those manic 45 minutes. Predictably it was a far more hatches battened-down affair after the break. St Mirren in particular got themselves into impressive shape and gave the visitors barely a sniff of goal – a complete contrast to what had unfolded earlier.

They picked and chose their moments to throw men forward to and crucially it paid off as they got themselves in front with Andrew Dreyer heading a floated ball into the path of Brad Lyons who in turn nodded it past Seny Dieng. While there may have been half an hour left it was remarkable how comprehensively the disciplined hosts shut down the game and a comeback never appeared on the cards

“We had a brilliant support today and we’ve let them down with our reaction to going behind,” remarked the downcast Dundee manager Jim McIntyre.