St Mirren have regained their place at the top of the SPFL Ladbrokes Championship table after they won against Dunfermline Athletic in Paisley.
Jack Ross stuck with the same side which defeated Brechin the week prior, however, Danny Mullen came on to the bench after joining from Livingston in mid-week, on an emergency loan.
The Pars made two tactical switches with Dean Shiels and Kallum Higginbotham starting in place of Lewis Martin and Michael Paton as Allan Johnston reverted back to his tradition 4-4-2 system.
The first shot of the game came within the opening 10 minutes after Ryan Williamson managed to squeeze his way into the area. After creating space for himself, he unleashed a right-footed effort which was deflected behind for a corner. The full-back was narrowly close to opening his senior goalscoring account, but, on this occasion it was relief from the Buddies as they conceded a set-play only.
Next, the first controversy of the match occurred as Sean Murdoch handled the ball outside of the area. The Dunfermline goalkeeper came out to close down the on-rushing Gavin Reilly and, as the former Pars marksmen closed in on the penalty area, the experienced shot-stopper stooped low to save the ball out with the permitted area. A red card seemed certain from referee Charleston after the free-kick was awarded, but, after a discussion with his linesman, only a caution was given to the goalkeeper.
Ian McShane’s effort went harmlessly over the bar from the resultant set-piece, in a wasted opportunity for the hosts. Set-piece crosses into the area were causing trouble at both ends as the Paisley club had to clear a scramble off the goal line before Murdoch had to beat away a powerful header from inside the area after McShane swung in a delivery.
McShane was continuing to influence things in the centre of the park with captain McGinn but the former Ross County player was unable to hit the target as he sliced an effort from 20-yards which saw Reilly collect the loose ball, only for the linesman to raise his flag for offside.
The only goal of the game came 7 minutes before the break as McShane’s centre picked up out Cammy Smith, who stayed cool to slot the ball past Murdoch and into the back of the net.
There were chances at both ends as the half came to a close: Cardle’s free-kick from the left flashed through the area but couldn’t get the all-important touch to see the Pars equalise. Then, Reilly charged down on goal again but this time he opted to try loft it over his ex-team-mate Murdoch who done enough to put off the 17-goal hitman, as the striker knocked the ball high over the bar and into the stand locating the visiting supporters. Declan McManus was next to try his luck but his ambitious free-kick shot went wide of target.
Cardle had the first attempt of the second half but his long-range piledriver zoomed past Samson’s left-hand post.
Ross’ men continued to be put under pressure as Clark looped a header wide from Talbot’s first-time delivery on the left. Then, the second – and final – controversy of the day involving the match officials. Williamson broke into the box and was tackled by Adam Eckersley. Initially no decision was forthcoming before the referee pointed to the spot. Despite Higginbotham placing the ball 12-yards-out and ready to take an effort at goal, the linesman continued to chat with Charleston. After 2 or 3 minutes, a final call was made that Williamson had dived, with a free-kick being awarded to the Saints.
More goalmouth scrambles continued as Johnston’s men pushed forward looking to get back on level terms. This saw fresh legs replace Reilly up front, with Danny Mullen entering the field of play. The Pars also made a double switch with Michael Paton and Fraser Aird coming on in a like-for-like switch with Higginbotham and Cardle.
The two were heavily involved in the latter stages; Paton crossed for Clark to head at goal but Samson was up to the task, before, Aird knocked the ball into the Pars fans rather than the net with minutes remaining, as the Canadian ghosted in at the back-post, unmarked.
Youngster Cammy MacPherson came on for winning-goalscorer Cammy Smith late on but the teenager was unable to create any scoring chances as the game approached it’s conclusion.
Despite being under a lot of pressure in the second half, and not mounting a shot at goal, the home side got the only stat that mattered; one goal to Dunfermline’s zero.
Johnston can be encouraged by his sides reaction after the 5-2 defeat to Queen of the South last weekend, however, the winless run of the Fifers continues.
FULL-TIME: St Mirren 1-0 Dunfermline Athletic
1. Craig Samson
25. Liam Smith
15. Jack Baird
24. Harry Davis
44. Adam Eckersley
4. Stephen McGinn (Captain)
16. Ian McShane
7. Kyle Magennis
11. Cammy Smith (Cammy MacPherson 86′)
10. Lewis Morgan
20. Gavin Reilly (Danny Mullen 75′)
21. Ross Stewart (GK)
5. Gregor Buchanan
6. Gary MacKenzie
9. John Sutton
17. Jordan Kirkpatrick
27. Danny Mullen
30. Cammy MacPherson
1. Sean Murdoch
2. Ryan Williamson
5. Callum Morris (Captain)
6. Lee Ashcroft
14. Jason Talbot
7. Kallum Higginbotham (Michael Paton 82′)
27. Dean Shiels
8. Nat Wedderburn
11. Joe Cardle (Fraser Aird 82′)
10. Nicky Clark
9. Declan McManus
20. Cammy Gill (GK)
3. Lewis Martin
4. Jean-Yves M’Voto
15. Michael Paton
16. Andy Ryan
17. Fraser Aird
23. Callum Smith
Referee: Craig Charleston