ST MIRREN emerged victorious from a tense 90 minutes in Paisley and now know that another home victory against Kilmarnock on Wednesday will ensure their survival in the Premiership.
St Mirren 1 - 0 Ross County
St Mirren Park
Scorers: St Mirren; Wylde 79
It was a vital three points and supporters celebrated at the end as though a cup had been won and, in a sense, it has been.
This win should allow the club to progress without fear of losing revenue by dropping into the Championship and manager Danny Lennon, who may not be in charge next season whatever happens, was delighted with the result.
“I thought we deserved it, over the piece,” he said. “We brought terrific energy to the game and it was a monumental effort from us.
“There were a lot of attempts at goal and our team spirit at this time has been incredible. And by that I mean the whole club – players, staff, directors. Our fans have also been terrific in our last three home games. They’ve been vocal and positive and I’m glad that we’re winning games together.”
The hosts looked hungrier from the outset and Mark Brown had to be alert as early as the fourth minute, diving low to his right to turn away a powerful free kick by Kenny McLean.
However, he came close to gifting an opener to Saints 13 minutes later when he allowed a Paul McGowan shot to spin out of his grasp and was fortunate to gather the rebound before the in-rushing John McGinn reached it.
County weathered the early storm but they did not manage a noteworthy attempt of their own until eight minutes from the interval, when a netbound drive by top scorer Melvin De Leeuw ricocheted off Sean Kelly and earned only a corner kick.
The Paisley pattern remained unchanged after the break, however, with the home side continuing to create – and squander – opportunities.
McGinn’s flailing leg only just failed to reach Jason Naismith’s low cross and McGowan volleyed wildly over after Steven Thompson had found him with an astute knockdown.
Yet County captain Richard Brittain was unfortunate to see a free kick strike the top of the crossbar and substitute Alex Cooper missed two decent chances, allowing Christopher Dilo to save on each occasion when he only had the goalkeeper to beat.
The longer the game progressed, the less likely it seemed that a winner would come, but when it did it was truly wondrous.
Saints substitute Gregg Wylde grabbed the glory with a spectacular strike from 25 yards out which flew into Brown’s top left-hand corner.
“That was the best goal I’ve ever scored, although it was only the fourth of my career,” said the 23-year-old former Rangers winger after the match.
“It was going to take something like that to win the game because they were really hard to break down.”
It was a goal fit to win any game, although McLean almost outdid his team-mate with a thunderous drive from 30 yards which beat Brown but rebounded to safety off the inside of his right-hand post.
One-goal leads are precarious at the best of times, a fact underlined by Rocco Quinn also hitting the top of the bar in the dying seconds.
Then again, Saints will feel, with some justification, that it would have been a miscarriage of justice had they not prevailed.
“It was a match we could have won or drawn but, unfortunately, we lost it,” said County manager Derek Adams afterwards. “Their goal was outrageous.
“But we did well in the second half and I’m confident that we have enough here to stay up. We are the form team in the bottom six and we will try to keep that going.”
The Highlanders must now lift themselves for their crucial home game against Hibernian on Tuesday and their final match against Partick Thistle on Saturday, both of whom are just a point ahead.
BT Sport Q&A: Rangers | Hibs | Neil Lennon
THIS week’s BT Sport video Q&A looks at whether Rangers fans will buy season tickets and if the club’s supporters will force a change of ownership.
The form of Hibs under Terry Butcher is also examined following the Easter Road side’s derby defeat while the future of Neil Lennon is also considered following the announcement that his assistant Johan Mjallby is to depart at the end of the season.
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