12 Apr Saints looking upwards
Just over five months ago, I watched Morton dismantle a St Mirren side that looked as if it was heading towards the trap door to League one.
That night, Jim Duffy’s side won 3-1, but on Tuesday, Jack Ross’ outfit had a role reversal against their Renfrewshire rivals in front of just under five thousand fans.
The Saints were at it right from the whistle and wanted the win far more than Morton showed over ninety minutes.
The spine of St Mirren has changed so much from the tail end of 2016 to the Easter parade of 2017 at Cappielow. Gary MacKenzie is solid at the heart of the defence, Stephen McGinn and Stevie Mallan are creative and active in the middle of the park and John Sutton does what John Sutton does, scores goals inside the penalty box.
The conditions didn’t lend itself to free flowing football, but you can always sense which team wants it more in a derby. The challenges, the second balls, the urgency is all backed up with an ability to get the ball into the right areas when you have it and work your socks off to get it back when you don’t have it.
The Saints followed that simple code throughout and Morton didn’t, hence the 4-1 scoreline.
Stelios Demetriou showed composure to give the Saints the lead with a calm finish any striker would have been proud of after a mazy run. Morton hit back through Andy Murdoch to make it 1-1 at the break.
However, Saint Mirren’s need is greater than Morton’s at the moment and they came out the more determined of the two teams in the second half. Stevie Mallan got them off to a flier with a sweet strike a minute after kick off and from there John Sutton and Gary MacKenzie put the game beyond doubt with a predator’s goal from Sutton from 3 yards from Loy’s cross and MacKenzie with a bog standard header from a corner from Mallan.
Jim Duffy said to me after the match that there is no way the players switched off because they already know they are in the play-offs and who am I to argue!
Jack Ross, on the other hand, watched his Saints side lift themselves to eighth in the table above Raith Rovers and Ayr United and he was fulsome in his praise of all his players efforts, keen not to single out one individual more than another.
St Mirren will stay up, as I predicted they would when Jack Ross took over and Jim Duffy’s men have bigger fish to fry when they get ready to battle for a final play-off position before the end of the season.