IT could not be more chalk to the cheese that had gone before it had St Mirren’s post-winter break surge been used to take notes in a Dickensian classroom.
Between the end of November and Boxing Day’s trip to Ibrox, the Buddies were winless and just three points off the relegation play-offs. Fast forward a few weeks, throw in a couple of savvy additions – Alex Grieve, an amateur player in New Zealand not so long ago, chief among them – and the pace Jim Goodwin had long been crying out for, and suddenly St Mirren find themselves on a six-match unbeaten streak and with more than an outside chance of playing European football next season.
Blinked and you’ll have missed the St Mirren revival but it was clear for all to see on Wednesday night. Without ever leaving second gear, they held off a late rally from St Johnstone to dispatch their opponents in fine style and move to a single point from fourth-placed Motherwell.
“We didn’t lose that much before Christmas, we just couldn’t win,” said winger Greg Kiltie, who assisted Greive for the winning goal after Connor Ronan had levelled from the spot. “It’s nice to turn a few of those results into wins. Winning games takes the reins off and we feel a lot more free.
“It’s good to be involved in and winning is no bad thing. You really just want to win when you go onto the pitch.”
Right now it looks like St Mirren could win every time they take to the pitch. With Jordan Jones at his flying best on one side, Kiltie on the other, and Grieve through the middle, they proved too hot for St Johnstone’s struggling defence to handle. Throw in Alex Gogic and Alan Power at the base of midfield – two players who could be even more Jim Goodwinish than Jim Goodwin himself – and suddenly the Saints look solid all over the pitch.
“They bring opportunities,” the 25-year-old said of his teammates. “We have great attacking players throughout the squad, even when you look at our bench. It’s competition and when you are creating chances you’ll put one away.”
“He [Gogic] gets his foot on everything and we can counter attack off the back of it. Everyone is pulling their weight. We just need to not get carried away.”
When it was put to him in a tongue in cheek fashion that Goodwin is assembling a Kilmarnock tribute act, with Kiltie, Power, Jones, Eamonn Brophy and Lee Erwin among the players to have once plied their trade in Ayrshire, he said: “Someone told me that and I was like: ‘How many? Are you sure?!’ Then you count them and realise there are a few. They are good players and delighted they are here.”
While it was a Wednesday in the snow to savour for St Mirren, it was another night to forget for St Johnstone. Not only did it bring to an end their own mini-revival but, courtesy of Dundee’s loss, it sent the Saints bottom of the table again.
It could have all been very different had they got to half-time ahead, thanks to Callum Hendry’s penalty, but were left to rue a harsh looking call that gave the Buddies their own chance to score from the spot.
“I better watch what I say,” said midfielder Murray Davidson. “Everyone makes mistakes. Me included. But I genuinely don’t understand how he can give it.
“We have to do a lot of things better. It’s not making an excuse but it’s a huge decision at the time in a game, on a night like this. If we get in at 1-0, it could be different.”