THE news that Jim Goodwin wants to play on until he is 40 will not be greeted with much enthusiasm by many of his opponents but that in itself should be one reason his current gaffer Ian Murray will be delighted.
Whether consciously or subconsciously, the St Mirren manager appears to have identified the right button to press to get the best out of his veteran midfielder. In suggesting that he may need rested at some stage in the season as time catches up with tiring legs, he has given the man with a zest for proving people wrong the perfect incentive to produce performances like the one he mustered at Easter Road on Saturday.
“He also said that at the start of the season and that is probably driving me on,” said the 33-year-old. “I don’t know if he keeps saying it to wind me up but I have heard him mention it and it has given me the bit between my teeth. I do feel fitter now than I did five years ago, I honestly do, and I think my pre-season fitness results would go to prove that and it’s a pity I can’t get them published because I’m probably in the top three or four. I know because of my hair and the way I look people probably think I’m a lot older than I am but there’s still plenty left in the legs and I don’t want to be out of the team for any reason whatsoever. If the manager picks a team to go and win a game and I’m not in it then so be it but I certainly don’t want to be left out because he thinks I’m not fit enough, I certainly am.
“Honestly, I feel I have at least another three or four years in me. Forty is my ambition and I will get as close to that as I can.”
It was the type of display that offered the rest of the team the platform they needed to resolutely defend their goal for most of the match or burst forward on the break to get the goal needed to leave Leith with a share of the points.
“It was a fantastic point,” said Goodwin. “They are arguably the second best team in the league and if you look at their midfield four they have terrific players. They took our best player in the summer in wee [John] McGinn and, adding him to the quality they have got, we knew we were going to have to be at our collective best as a unit. It probably wasn’t pretty from our point of view in the second half and if we had managed to snatch a winner then fantastic but a point was still a good result.”
St Mirren got the opening goal by sticking to a counter-attacking gameplan, which saw Goodwin slip a pass through for one of the wide attackers, Callum Gallagher, to run on and burst beyond the Hibs rearguard, with only David Gray tracking him. But turning the Hibs captain inside out, Gallagher eventually left him on his backside before slotting the ball clinically past home keeper Mark Oxley.
It comes on the back of some ragged results for the Paisley club, who have had a tough time acclimatising to life in the second tier. Pre-season predictions that they could be involved in the title tussle have been discredited by a start that took them closer to the foot of the table than the top.
Hibs, by contrast, were a team on a high, having bounced the top team in Scotland out of the League Cup last week and for them, the loss of the first goal to a team with the willingness to settle and dig in and protect the advantage that gave them was a source of frustration.
They had been a shadow of the team who had found the breakthrough against Premiership leaders Aberdeen on Wednesday, looking flat and devoid of the bursts of energy and creativity needed to break down an organised side. Saints were happy to waste time and stifle Hibs, limiting the space and time their attacking players had to make their superior possession count.
That lethargy persisted in patches throughout the match, with chances created but even Hibs boss Alan Stubbs admitting that few fell into the clear-cut category. Those that did were foiled by solid defensive worth or punished for a lack of quality.
When Hibs did get a goal, three minutes before half time to level the scoring, it came courtesy of a combination of the kind of sloppiness St Mirren managed to avoid for most of the game and Martin Boyle’s first goal for the capital side. Gallagher had managed to get in front of Gray to deny him at the back post but when the ball was played back across to Boyle, he sent a powerful downward header past Jamie Langfield.
“I’m absolutely delighted to finally get off the mark,” said Boyle. “It’s been a long time coming so delighted with that but it was a frustrating game. I don’t think we played badly, I think we created a lot of chances, we just didn’t take them. I thought the first 25 minutes we were slowly getting into the game but after the goal and in the second half I thought we picked things up and we had chances but we didn’t convert them so it’s two points dropped.”