Match-winner Alex Greive nets first St Mirren goal as Buddies break into Premiership top six after 2-1 win over St Johnstone
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Callum Hendry’s retaken penalty handed the visitors a first-half lead against the run of play before Conor Ronan converted a spot-kick and striker Alex Greive netted his first goal for the Buddies to complete the turnaround.
The result extended the Paisley outfit’s unbeaten start to the New Year but manager Jim Goodwin refused to get carried away by the result.
He said: “Obviously, it is where we want to be. We’ve spoken a lot over the last couple of seasons about competing at the top half of the table but it’s certainly not job done yet.
“There’s six points between fourth and tenth, which is quite scary so a couple of poor results or a couple of good results could have a huge impact on the table for most teams.
“We’ve got the game in hand against Dundee coming up in a few weeks and if we were to win that game then that would get us into a great position of fourth in the table, which would be incredible this late on in the season.
“I know it’s an old cliche and I’m not trying to downplay things but I just said to the players we can’t dwell on this win tonight. We need to make sure we recover properly in time for the weekend.
“Because it is so congested in the middle of the table you could lose your next couple of games and all of a sudden you’re sitting back down in ninth or tenth, so it’s important we stay focused and remember why we’re on this good run.”
Given the two previous meetings between these side both finished in goalless draw, supporters might have been forgiven for opting to stay at home rather than attend the blustery, wet Renfrewshire venue.
Despite the horrible weather conditions, the first-half was an entertaining contest with the home side dominating the early exchanges.
Greg Kiltie, Alex Greive and the lively Jordan Jones all registered efforts on target, the latter forcing a terrific save from visiting goalkeeper Zander Clark from a curling right-foot shot from the edge of the box.
At the opposite end, it took St Johnstone 20 minutes to force Jak Alnwick into his first save, the Buddies shot-stopper pushing away ex-St Mirren midfielder Cammy MacPherson’s shot from distance.
That momentum swing paid off eight minutes later when Glenn Middleton was brought down in the box and referee David Dickinson pointed straight to the spot.
Callum Hendry, who spent the first half of the campaign on loan at Championship side Kilmarnock, sent Alnwick the wrong way - only to be ordered to retake it as the ball was moving when the striker connected.
Hendry kept his composure, though, to bury his second attempt low into the bottom right-hand corner.
That goal seemed to spark the Perth side into life with Ali Crawford then forcing a brilliant save from Alnwick as he tipped midfielder’s rasping drive wide of the post after 37 minutes.
However, just when it appeared as though the visitors were gaining the upper hand, St Mirren were awarded a penalty of their own on 41 minutes after Jamie McCart was penalised for a challenge on Greive.
Conor Ronan, who has been tipped for a maiden call-up to the Republic of Ireland national team by his manager, made no mistake from the spot.
As a result, the hosts’ came flying out of the traps and they took the lead just four minutes into the second period when the unmarked Alex Greive latched onto Greg Kiltie’s cross to slot home from close range and celebrate his first goal for the Paisley club.
That capped off a fantastic month for the New Zealand striker who made his international debut a few weeks ago.
In response, Callum Davidson made a triple substitution with new signing Theo Blair, Jacob Butterfield and James Brown all introduced as the visitors searched for an equaliser.
Charlie Gilmour tried his luck from 30 yards out but saw his arrowed shot sail narrowly wide of the target before Kiltie passed up a great chance to kill the game with a third goal after a quick counter-attack but the ex-Kilmarnock man blazed over the crossbar.
Defeat for St Johnstone, coupled with Dundee’s comeback win over Hearts consigned Callum Davidson’s men to bottom spot in the table.
Last season’s double-cup winners now face an uphill battle to finish above the relegation zone and Davidson felt aggrieved by the penalty award against his side.
He admitted: “I was disappointed with the penalty given against us, I thought it was a horrendous decision. I’ve watched it back numerous times and have yet to find out what it was given for.
“Big decisions like that can change games when confidence is fragile. It’s hard to take but I said to the players afterwards I want them to have more belief in themselves.”
St Mirren: Alnwick, Fraser, Shaughnessy, Dunne, Tait (Flynn; 73), Power, Gogic, Ronan, Kiltie, Jones, Greive
Unused: Lyness (GK), Urminsky (GK), McCarthy, Millar, Erhahon, Henderson, Erwin
St Johnstone: Clark, Cleary, Gordon, McCart (Butterfield; 58), Gallacher (May; 85), Davidson (Blair; 58), Crawford, MacPherson (Gilmour; 64), Sang (Brown; 58), Hendry, Middleton
Unused: Parish (GK), Northcott, Craig, Hector-Ingram
Referee: David Dickinson
GlasgowWorld Man of the match: Alex Greive (St Mirren)