St Mirren made alarmingly heavy weather of seeing off the challenge of a rock-bottom Brechin who will go into March without registering a league win. Dominating possession wasn’t the issue for the Paisley men, however a lack of creativity and a genuine cutting edge were major issues, with on-loan Lewis Morgan, as he has been since joining Celtic, a peripheral figure for Saints who despite not being tested, did not really look like a team with an 11-point cushion at the top.
For the second week in succession there was a malaise around Saints in stark contrast to their form in the earlier parts of the campaign. Whether a negative knock-on effect has been created by manager Jack Ross batting his eyes at Barnsley only the players will know, but it clearly hasn’t helped.
Ross admitted it wasn’t the best showing, but he will take the win. He said: “It’s all about winning at this stage of the season. If we had scored the penalty we would have gone on to win fairly easily.”
His opposite number, Darren Dods, felt his team could have sneaked an unlikely point. “We had plenty of positive performances. We had nothing to lose, the pressure was all on them and we were unlucky when we hit the post.”
It all started brightly enough for the long-term leaders as Liam Smith galloped through the visiting defence only to blaze over. Soon after, and with Brechin buckling, Kyle Magennis opened the scoring fifteen minutes in courtesy of a multiple deflected free-kick.
The game looked in the bag soon after when Harry Davis was pulled to the ground leaving referee Steven McLean the simple decision of awarding a penalty. Ian McShane though blew the chance and his own 100 per cent record from the spot when his tentative kick was saved low down by Patrick O’Neil.
You sensed if McShane had converted it would have been a stroll in the sunshine, however, with the kick repelled, the confidence and the zip ebbed away in a baffling fashion. Make no mistake, a better team than Brechin would have left Paisley with something to show for their efforts.
Cammy Smith nearly inserted the daylight Ross would have craved when his 20-yard shot battered the bar immediately after the restart, but it was all strikes from distance for Saints who continually struggled to open up the relegation-doomed visitors.
At the other end Liam Watt set the nerves of the home crowd jangling as he struck the woodwork with a curling effort before Dylan Mackin forced Craig Samson into a smart stop as Brechin grew in stature against opponents who by the end were happy to slink away with another three points, even if the performance was abject.