St Mirren: Run of poor results turns scrutiny on Tommy Craig

By Richard WilsonBBC Scotland
St Mirren's Jim Goodwin
St Mirren's Jim Goodwin

Some St Mirren fans have already decided.

There was enough booing at the end of Saturday's defeat to Kilmarnock to recognise that indignation is growing amongst the supporters, and only results will begin to assuage them.

It is early in the season for a dose of panic, but so far there have been few sources of optimism for St Mirren fans to cling to.

Five league games have brought five defeats, with nine goals conceded and only one scored.

The figures alone are a damning indictment, although they shouldn't be viewed in isolation.

Against Kilmarnock, St Mirren were the brighter of the sides in the second half and at 0-0 - with neither team having created a clear opportunity - Kenny McLean lifted a shot over from near the penalty spot.

Similarly, in the 1-0 defeat to Dundee at St Mirren Park, it was the home side who ought to have broken the deadlock, with Adam Drury missing a particularly good chance in the second half, before Peter MacDonald scarpered upfield to notch the winning goal.

St Mirren manager Tommy Craig
St Mirren manager Tommy Craig has seen his team play well but fail to earn any points this season

St Mirren have been playing well, but it is becoming a recurring theme that decent performances are thwarted by opponents who take their chances. The opening game of the season saw St Mirren dominate Motherwell for spells, only to lose 1-0.

There are contributing factors, since the team's most prolific striker Steven Thomson has managed to play only 27 minutes in the league this season due to injury.

New forwards are trying to adapt to the particular demands of the Premiership, too, with James Marwood and Callum Ball not having played in the top flight before, while Ross Caldwell and Thomas Reilly have limited experience.

Even so, the sense is of a club becoming entrenched in another period of dissatisfaction.

There are plenty of former managers, after all, who will say that results did not reflect performances. The mood will be familiar to St Mirren fans, though, since at the same stage last season Danny Lennon's side had only secured one point in the league, conceding 10 goals and scoring only two.

It is the recurring nature of the alarm that will gall them most.

The St Mirren directors wavered over the future of Lennon throughout last season, then dispensed with him after the team finished seventh in the league. That decision could be justified by the lack of significant progress and the growing notion that the relationship between the club and Lennon had grown stale, despite the manager having kept St Mirren in the top flight and won the League Cup in 2013.

Even supporters who liked Lennon could accept the argument that it was time for change, so it then seemed odd to merely appoint his assistant, Tommy Craig, as his successor. There was no regime change, and so no encouragement of a radical overhaul.

Craig was integral to Lennon's work, and he then appointed Jim Goodwin and Gary Teale, two long-standing players, as his assistants.

Given the St Mirren board's reluctance to act decisively on Lennon last season, it is unlikely that Craig faces an immediate threat to his position.

Acting so swiftly would also be an acceptance that the decision was flawed in the first place.

Ross County have already dismissed Derek Adams, but that was a decision based as much upon views that the directors formed over the course of last season as poor results in this campaign.

Nonetheless, St Mirren cannot act as though a reckoning is unlikely. Last season, Hearts provided a source of comfort since their points deduction left them rooted at the bottom of the league.

Now, a run of positive results is necessary to stave off the sense of a flawed regime.

There are always suggestions of unrest when a team is struggling, and Craig has a reputation for being a good, solid coach who is less accomplished at man-management. A brief flare-up before one game apart, he has coped with the disappointing results stoically and positively, emphasising that the team has been playing well, then urging everybody connected with the club to stick together.

Gary Teale, Tommy Craig and Jim Goodwin
Gary Teale, left, and Jim Goodwin, right, were named as Tommy Craig's assistants at St Mirren

A run of results is needed to clear the air, but also convince that 63-year-old Craig can embark upon a period of achievement.

His managerial spells have been short-lived and he has mostly operated as a number two, but there was enough self-confidence for him to seek the role, despite inevitable accusations of disloyalty to Lennon, who had brought him to the club.

Some of his signings have impressed, like Ellis Plummer in defence and Isaac Osbourne against Kilmarnock. Others, such as Marwood and Ball, have not yet contributed enough.

Craig can take heart from the fact that the team has played well, but only results will affect the mood around St Mirren, amongst players and fans, and ultimately directors.

It might be too soon to act rashly, but time will soon run out for signs that another season of fighting against relegation can be prevented.

Already, the parallels with last term are familiar and unsettling for fans.

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