Scottish Premiership: Agony for St Mirren & ecstasy for St Johnstone in top-six battle

By Martin WattBBC Scotland
Kyle Munro was the toast of Perth as his last-gasp Hamilton equaliser dropped St Mirren to seventh
Kyle Munro was the toast of Perth as his last-gasp Hamilton equaliser dropped St Mirren to seventh

With five minutes of Saturday's games left, the race for the Scottish Premiership top six looked a casual cruise to the finishing line for St Mirren.

Jim Goodwin's side, who were in the box seat with a two-point cushion before kick-off in the final pre-split fixtures, were leading at Hamilton Academical, while St Johnstone were scoreless at home to Ross County.

Then, in the 86th minute, Glenn Middleton picked an opportune moment to pop up with his first St Johnstone goal, putting St Mirren's nerves on edge as news filtered through.

Still, Goodwin's men had their destiny firmly in their own hands against relegation-threatened Hamilton. All they had to do was hold on.

They stood just a minute plus injury time from their highest top-flight finish in 36 years. Chief executive Tony Fitzpatrick's bold pre-season prediction that St Mirren would end the season in the top half was on the brink of fruition.

What happened next will haunt Fitzpatrick, Goodwin and supporters of the Paisley club. Hamilton were awarded a free-kick, Scott McMann swung it in and the visitors neglected to mark Kyle Munro as the substitute gleefully planted a header past Jak Alnwick.

St Johnstone hadn't been higher than seventh since mid-September. In fact, they were joint bottom in early October after two wins from their opening 10 games in a shaky start to management for Callum Davidson.

Now, having timed their run to perfection with just two defeats in 15, they have sneaked sixth place by finishing two goals better off than St Mirren. With the Scottish League Cup secured last month, it's not been a bad revival.

'I'm going to quiz the chairman later' - Callum Davidson

"I thought it was going to be one of those days, especially when I heard St Mirren were winning," admitted Davidson.

"All credit to the players after finding themselves at the bottom of the league earlier in the season and now making the top six. It has been a great season - winning the League Cup and now this. I couldn't be happier."

In contrast, Goodwin was understandably crestfallen. He pointed the finger at referee Don Robertson for giving a "ridiculous" free-kick that led to Hamilton's equaliser when Joe Shaughnessy tangled with David Moyo.

In the cold light of day, though, he'll realise his team only have themselves to blame.

"I think he's cost us a top-six place and far too many times we find ourselves sitting here talking about refereeing," said Goodwin, whose protests to the official at full-time earned him a sending off.

"To lose it so late on, we're gutted. We didn't do enough in the second half, that's the bottom line."

Players 'devastated' at missing top six - Goodwin

'Still a good season for St Mirren'

Former Hibs, Celtic and Scotland midfielder John Collins

Jim Goodwin will be absolutely raging with the goal St Mirren lost, it was a free header. He'll be saying "how can we not defend a simple free-kick from a wide area?"

But when they take a step back and look, it's still been a good season. They've made some good signings, played nice football and made progress on the pitch.

Former Hibs, Hearts and Scotland midfielder Michael Stewart

Even earlier in the season when St Johnstone were struggling for goals, you could see they were a well-organised side. They were never cuffed.

As the season has gone they have become more accustomed to Callum's methods and got better. To follow up the cup win with top six is a brilliant achievement.

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