Youri Djorkaeff was wearing a St Mirren top in the main stand and was the only home supporter with any reason to feel slightly dissatisfied yesterday.
A World Cup winner in 1998 with France, he watched Jim Goodwin’s side gain a priceless three points in the mud and puddles of Paisley. They did so without any help from Oan Djorkaeff, the celebrated former France striker’s son. He was left on the bench as Goodwin threw on teenager Callum Breadner at the end instead.
It was not possible to complain since the St Mirren manager’s decisions were all vindicated. The Djorkaeffs were all clapping along with everyone else in the home stands as St Mirren closed out the win – their first in 18 attempts in the league against Aberdeen, a run stretching back to 2011.
Ilkay Durmus proved the match-winner in only his second game for the club with a sweetly-struck finish into the bottom corner after 13 minutes. Following a good move down the right skipper Kyle Magennis crossed to the back of the box, where the Turkish striker had made a late run into space.
It could and probably should have been a more emphatic victory. Durmus lifted a header over the bar shortly afterwards from about eight yards out after Calum Waters’ cross from the left and Tony Andreu’s cushioned header bounced just the wrong side of Joe Lewis’ far post midway through the second half.
There were also several occasions towards the end when St Mirren had the chance to catch Aberdeen out as the visitors poured forward in search of an equaliser. Magennis could not find the right pass to play in the returning Kyle McAllister as St Mirren sought to secure the decisive goal.
Fortune favoured the hosts, no question. Aberdeen had a strong appeal for a penalty turned down by referee Steven McLean after the ball appeared to strike Ryan Flynn’s hand from Ryan Hedges’ cross just after the hour mark. Lewis Ferguson had a header tipped over the bar by Vaclav Hladky while Aberdeen substitute Niall McGinn also saw a shot bash off the post in stoppage time. There was still time left for Funso Ojo to whip a shot just past to ensure Youri Djorkaeff got the full St Mirren fan’s experience, including the agony.
Aberdeen looked very ordinary. It is true they only returned from a chastening defeat in Croatia in the early hours of Friday morning, but this was still worryingly tame from a side showing four changes from that assignment.
Curtis Main was one of them as he came in to replace the injured Sam Cosgrove, who has a tight hamstring that threatens to keep him out of Thursday’s attempt to overturn a two-goal Europa League deficit against Rijeka. This was an opportunity for Aberdeen to demonstrate they are more than a one-man team, with Cosgrove having scored eight of his side’s 13 goals so far this season. They failed in this respect. Cosgrove’s absence was sorely felt.
Main struggled for the most part in his first start for the club after two substitute appearances, including the last four minutes against Rijeka last week. He was slow to react when a chance fell to him in the first half and put a shot on the turn behind at the start of the second half. He was eager enough, even kicking the ball out of Hladky’s hands at one point before tapping the ball into the empty net. It was optimistic in the extreme if he expected McLean to then point to the centre spot.
What Aberdeen wanted was McLean to signal towards the penalty spot after Hedges’ cross struck Flynn on the arm in the box shortly afterwards. No-one seems to know what the rules are any longer and McLean was unmoved by what seemed a more than reasonable shout for a penalty. Zak Vyner’s protest led to his entry into McLean’s book.
It was not only the defeat, Aberdeen’s first in the league by St Mirren since the opening day of the 2011-12 league season, but the manner of it that was concerning. They simply could not get going in the Paisley glaur. The game might have been in doubt if the underfoot conditions on the touchline by the dugouts were as bad all across the pitch.
Goodwin was playing when St Mirren last defeated Aberdeen and he lapped up the acclaim at the end after a sticky start to his managerial tenure at the Simple Digital Arena. He made a point of walking round the pitch to applaud all the home stands at the end. His side had displayed commitment, something that’s a given with Goodwin teams, but also no little skill.
Unlike last season, when Alan Stubbs’ new signings failed to gel, Goodwin’s all played a part yesterday. Waters came in at left back and looked to get forward whenever possible and Jon Obika held the ball up well in his first start. The on-loan Sean McLoughlin, meanwhile, assisted Gary MacKenzie at centre-half with aplomb. As many as six of the starting XI were Goodwin signings, despite his appointment coming so relatively late in the summer.
While it’s been a slow start, with St Mirren winning only one of four Betfred Cup ties, there is evidence to suggest the Northern Irishman is now on the right track.