Stephen Robinson bemoans costly refereeing decisions after his St Mirren tenure begins with 2-0 defeat to Hearts in Scottish Premiership

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Ill discipline proved the Buddies downfall on a frustrating afternoon as they suffered a first loss in nine games in all competitions

Stephen Robinson felt the big decisions went against his side after beginning his St Mirren tenure with a 2-0 defeat to Hearts in the Scottish Premiership.

Midfielder Conor Ronan was shown a straight red card for a lunging challenge on Beni Baningime in the middle of the park after 23 minutes and Hearts would eventually capitalise on their man advantage to register a first victory in five league games.

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The Buddies had a strong appeal for a penalty ignored by referee Greg Aitken after Alex Greive was brought down in the box as two goals in three second half minutes from Ellis Simms and Cammy Devlin completed a hat-trick of wins for the Jambos over the Paisley club this season.

Referee Greg Aitken sent Conor Ronan off for his challenge on Beni Baningime.  (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)Referee Greg Aitken sent Conor Ronan off for his challenge on Beni Baningime.  (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)
Referee Greg Aitken sent Conor Ronan off for his challenge on Beni Baningime. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

Robinson said: “The whole game was dictated by two big decisions unfortunately. Nothing seems to have changed since I’ve been away.

“The second goal, Jak (Alnwick) is adamant he had the ball in his hands and the claim on Alex, for me it looked like a blatant penalty.

“The red card in the first half changes the game completely. I’ve yet to see it back but it didn’t look like there was too much malice in it. He didn’t know where the ball was as he turns into the player, so that’s a really debatable call.

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“Unfortunately we’ve been done by some poor decisions today. I don’t think there’s any point (in speaking to the officials), they’re not going to change their mind.

“We’ll look to see if the red card if worth appealing against. In football you can control certain things but you can’t control a referee’s decision making.

“But we’re not going to let this result derail us. We can’t control the decisions but we can control our reaction to it. The boys have been on a good run and we have to start another one, starting on Wednesday (against Celtic).

“I learned a lot about the players, we’ve got a very good team spirit. The boys fought until the end, they didn’t let almost everything that went against them effect their attitude or work-rate and that will stand them in good stead.”

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Robinson received a warm reception from the home support inside the SMiSA Stadium prior to kick-off after replacing Jim Goodwin, who brought his two-and-a-half-year stay at Saints to an end earlier this month in favour of a move to Aberdeen.

St Mirren manager Stephen Robinson.  (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)St Mirren manager Stephen Robinson.  (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)
St Mirren manager Stephen Robinson. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

Hearts, meanwhile, had suffered three successive league defeats, but they started with plenty of attacking intent, especially down the left-hand side and striker Liam Boyce was denied on two separate occasions by Jak Alnwick in the St Mirren goal.

The visitors continued to dominate possession and Ben Woodburn blazed over the bar from a promising position in the box before the pivotal moment came when Ronan caught Baningime with a high boot and was ordered off.

It took until the 33rd minute for the home side to register an effort on target when Jordan Jones’ corner from the right was met by Alex Gogic and the Cypriot midfielder saw his goal bound header deflected behind.

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From the resulting corner, Greive went to ground under Woodburn’s challenge but referee Aitken waved play on.

It was a decision that left the home fans incensed and their afternoon was about to get worse after 64 minutes, following an inspired triple substitution from Hearts boss Robbie Neilson.

The decision to bring on Everton loanee Ellis Simms provided the spark the visitors craved as he broke the deadlock. Barrie McKay sent a low ball across which the striker latched on to before scrambling home the rebound after his initial shot was saved by Alnwick.

Hearts didn’t have to wait long to double their lead as Baningime slipped a pass in behind for Simms, who clattered into the on-rushing Alnwick. The ball ricocheted out to Cammy Devlin to slot into an empty net as the hosts appealed for a foul.

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Cammy Devlin celebrates his first goal for Hearts in the 2-0 win at St Mirren.Cammy Devlin celebrates his first goal for Hearts in the 2-0 win at St Mirren.
Cammy Devlin celebrates his first goal for Hearts in the 2-0 win at St Mirren.

Simms then clipped the top of the crossbar after twisting past Joe Shaughnessy before Boyce failed to direct an effort on target from just a few yards out.

A chorus of boos rung out at the full-time whistle as the frustrated home support voiced their displeasure at the match officials.

The result saw Hearts stretch 11 points clear in third place, while Saints dropped down a spot to eight in the table with both teams due to face off again in the Scottish Cup quarter finals in a fortnight’s time.

Hearts boss Robbie Neilson admitted: “It’s always tough coming here and we knew they could have that new manager bounce.

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“The sending off makes a difference to the game but prior to that we were playing pretty well anyway.

“I thought the referee got the key decisions right. We’ve watched the sending off back and it’s a stonewall red card, it’s not mailicious but he’s gone over the ball and caught our player high.”

St Mirren: Alnwick, Fraser, Shaughnessy, Dunne, Tait, Power (Brophy; 69), Gogic, Ronan, Kiltie (Flynn; 62), Jones, Greive (Main; 62)

Unused: Lyness (GK), Millar, McCarthy, Tanser, Erhahon, Henderson

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Hearts: Gordon, Kingsley (Halliday; 69), Souttar, Baningime, Woodburn (Simms; 55), Boyce, Mackay-Steven (Ginnelly; 55), Atkinson (Cochrane; 55), Devlin (Haring; 69), McKay, Halkett

Unused: Stewart (GK), McEneff, Moore, Sibbick

Referee: Greg Aitken

Attendance: 5,767

GlasgowWorld Man of the Match: Jak Alnwick (St Mirren)

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