An afternoon of tension and drama beckons on Saturday as Hamilton Accies and St Mirren ready themselves for another test of nerves to see who escapes a play-off and who secures their top-flight status.
St Mirren’s victory last night courtesy of a goal by academy product Kyle McAllister, back on loan from Derby, 15 minutes from time and a Kyle Magennis goal deep in added time gave the Paisley side the opportunity of a late reprieve this season as they look to snatch a last-day win over Dundee that would enable them to leapfrog Accies and avoid a relegation play-off.
On this evidence, the momentum is all with St Mirren who have now lost only once in their last seven outings, but the Paisley side still need to better Accies’ result against St Johnstone in Hamilton to secure their safety.
Television cameras picked up the coarse language that reflected the tensions within the stadium but if the air was in danger of turning a particular hue, there were few on the pitch who weren’t left black and blue after a game that quickly descended into a bruising affair.
Long before Hamilton defender Alex Gogic was sent off just before the half-hour mark the tone had been set.
Indeed, it was Hamilton’s Aaron McGowan who ought to have had the first red card of the game when he aimed a sly off-the-ball kick at Danny Mullen. In the altercation which followed referee Willie Collum booked the player as well as Saints’ Stephen McGinn for his protests at the leniency of the sanction, but it was symptomatic of what was to come as both teams fought, literally, for the points.
Mullen himself raked a boot down the front of Ziggy Gordon’s shin which would have been met with some punishment had it been spotted while Marios Ogkmpoe’s crunching coming together with Gary MacKenzie left the defender having to go off shortly after receiving treatment on the park.
In between, there was the odd outbreak of football in a game that had begun in a fairly open, if combative, manner.
Hamilton pairing Ogkmpoe and George Oakley had combined in the opening stages only for Oakley to lose his composure in the final third with a wild slice that didn’t trouble Saints keeper Vaclav Hladky.
St Mirren gained a numerical advantage when Gogic was sent off for a cynical foul on Simeon Jackson after he had put two arms around the last man following McGinn’s clever chip forward and rugby tackled him to the turf.
The hosts enjoyed the bulk of possession but struggled to make many genuine incursions. When they did manage their efforts were rushed as they struggled to bring composure to the encounter.
The second half followed a similar pattern but there was an increasing sense of St Mirren taking control of the game as Hamilton were forced back.
Romanian defender Mihai Popescu brought out a fine fingertip save from Accies keeper Gary Woods before a flurry of chances left St Mirren manager Oran Kearney on the touchline anxiously pacing his technical area.
Mullen had an effort burst through a ruck of players only to be deflected by Scott McMann’s outstretched boot while substitute Cody Cooke blasted one effort over as the frustration within the home stands grew.
Finally, though, the pressure bore fruit as McAllister gave St Mirren the goal they craved. Following a one-two with Ryan Flynn, McAllister controlled the ball with the side of his foot before his first attempt was blocked by Sowah. As the ball broke back to him he drove it low into the net.
Accies were forced to play out the final minutes with nine men after Mickel Miller was forced off and all three subs had been committed, and deep into injury time, Magennis’ goal set the seal on a night that belonged to St Mirren.