By Euan Wood

St. Mirren continue to narrow the deficit to sixth-placed Dundee United in the Premiership table
with an encouraging 1-0 victory over Hibs in Edinburgh.

Connor Ronan’s precise finish midway through the second half was enough for the Saints to record
their first victory at Easter Road since 2016.

Celtic FC v Hibernian FC - Cinch Scottish Premiership
(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

With a pivotal result over an arduous opposition, Jim Goodwin was delighted with his sides
impressive display: “We’re at that time of the season where three points are invaluable. We were extremely
disappointed on Tuesday night to have got to the 92nd minute and concede late on, but today I
thought the boys were excellent.

“I thought we were the better team. We pressed them high up the pitch, forced them into making
mistakes, looked dangerous on the break and probably had a little bit more possession.

WEIRDEST European January 2022 Transfers

“Second half, I’ve got to give credit to Shaun Maloney for the changes he made at halftime. It took
us ten minutes to get to grips with that and Hibs were really in the ascendency at that point, but
once we sorted out the middle of the pitch; I thought the last half an hour was pretty even.”

Frustrated with the performance, Shaun Maloney thought the result was a simple lesson in not
taking your chances: “It’s a disappointing result. We created more than enough opportunities to win that game and I
think that’s the most frustrating thing. The difference of being clinical will be the difference between
winning and losing matches.

“I know we haven’t lost ground, but that’s the second opportunity we’ve had to move into fourth.
The amount of chances we created, the game should’ve been three, four or five-one, but that’s
football and if you’re not clinical; you don’t win games.”

It was an exhilarating opening period of the game with the visitors looking to redeem themselves
after suffering a late equaliser against Motherwell on Tuesday. Fuelled by their lively away support,
Saints started on the front foot and almost found themselves ahead after only eight minutes.

St Mirren v St Johnstone - William Hill Scottish Cup
(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Jordan Jones effortlessly worked his way past Chris Cadden on the left before firing an enticing
delivery across the face of goal, but striker Alex Greive couldn’t adjust his position to divert the
effort past Dabrowski.

Looking for a response, the hosts pushed forward and came close to breaking the deadlock minutes
later. Kevin Nisbet intelligently escaped his marker with a clever nutmeg before teeing up Chris
Mueller at the edge of the box, but the midfielder’s drilled effort cannoned off the thigh of Charles
Dunne and the chance petered away.

Hibs continued to threaten and came close to netting the opener midway through the first half.
Cadden’s incisive through ball was skilfully flicked on by Christian Doidge into the path of Mueller
deep into the Saints penalty area, but Joe Shaughnessy’s perfectly timed interception nullified any
attacking threat.

With the halftime whistle looming, the visitors started to impose themselves and came agonisingly
close to the opener in the latter stages of the first half.

Richard Tait’s short corner accurately picked out Ronan at the edge of the box. The midfielder
skipped past two lacklustre challenges before finding Grieve on the penalty spot, but Dabrowski
reacted superbly to block the striker’s effort.

With the second half underway, the hosts certainly looked the likelier of the two sides to take
advantage with Saints stopper Jak Alnwick being called into action. Ewan Henderson’s point-blank
strike was superbly parried wide of the target before his subsequent attempt was tipped over the
bar by the Englishman.

However, despite the hosts second-half dominance, the visitors capitalised on an individual mistake
and took the lead against the run of play.

Jake Doyle-Hayes was pickpocketed deep into his own half by Ronan who raced through on goal
before rifling his strike high into the top-left corner, leaving Dabrowski with no chance in the Hibs
goal.

Looking for an immediate response, Hibs pushed forward in search of an equaliser. Cadden’s inviting
cross accurately picked out Nisbet yards from goal, but the Scotland International’s attempt was
inexplicably stopped by Alnwick from close-range.

Nevertheless, St Mirren stood resolute to record a crucial result which sees Jim Goodwin’s side
ascend the Premiership table into ninth, four points shy of Motherwell in fourth.

Here are the three things we learned as St. Mirren capitalise on Hibs’
goalscoring woes to narrow the gap to the top six:

International Recognition

Jim Goodwin heaped praise on St Mirren midfielder Connor Ronan after his emphatic display and has tipped
the 23-year-old to receive his maiden Republic of Ireland call-up after netting his fifth league goal
this season in front of ROI boss Stephen Kenny.

“He doesn’t score many bad goals and that’s another one in front of the Irish manager as well so
please God that will do enough for Connor to get into the Irish setup,” said Goodwin.

“I’ve been banging the drum for him for quite a while. So, please God that gets him the recognition
he deserves.

“I just met him [Stephen Kenny] down the stairs there. He’s a really nice man, I’ve had a few
conversations with him regarding McGrath and I’m always talking up Connor in the press, but I did
mention to him as well not to forget that Joe Shaughnessy and Charles Dunne are both eligible as
well.

“The two lads since the winter break have been outstanding, they really have. I don’t know if you
will find a better partnership in the country right now. So consistent, and a couple of real leaders you
would want in any team. They’ve been a real focal point to the success that we have had recently.

“There’s a lot of good young players coming through the Irish system now. Jamie McGrath has got
that recognition playing for us and I would be delighted if Connor Ronan could get that recognition
playing for us.
“It certainly makes my job a lot easier when recruiting young upcoming players. They are going to
get an opportunity here at St. Mirren to go and flourish.”

Opportunities missed for Hibs

Shaun Maloney has still yet to find a consistent run of form since taking the hot seat at Easter Road.
The Hibees are without a win in their last five league encounters with their pursuit of Motherwell in
fourth faltering.

However, Maloney is still confident his side can turn around this recent run of form: “I know we haven’t lost ground, but that’s the second opportunity we’ve had to move into fourth. We really have to start taking these opportunities. I do feel we should’ve won it.

“The difference of being clinical will be the difference between winning and losing matches.

“The amount of chances we created, the game should’ve been three, four or five one, but that’s
football and if you’re not clinical; you don’t win games.

“Players make mistakes, that’s what happens. At the moment these mistakes seem to be costing us,
but that’s what happens when you teams are clinical. I’ll support Jake and he will play again on
Wednesday.”

Alnwick’s future at St Mirren uncertain

Jak Alnwick certainly impressed as he kept the attacking threat of Nisbet, Mueller and Doidge at bay.

The 28-year-old is out of contract at the SMISA stadium this summer and St Mirren Goodwin is hopeful that
they can retain Alnwick in Paisley for the foreseeable future, saying: “There’s been an offer on the table to Jak for the last three months. We are trying to tie him down, but Jak’s been a great signing for us, and we have put a very good offer on the table. One that rewards him for the performances he has put in.

“Like any free agent who is playing well at the moment, they are entitled to scour the market and
see what other options might come available, but he knows what we think of him here.

“We had to be at our best defensively to get the result today, but Jak does deserve a lot of credit.
The guys who score the goals always seem to get that big pat on the back, but if my goalkeeper
doesn’t make that save at that particular moment in time whilst they are in the ascendency, that
game could’ve got away from us. He has done his job today brilliantly.”

NTOF now offers a YouTube channel featuring exclusive interviews, post-match discussion, in-depth debate, and much more – LIKE and SUBSCRIBE and don’t miss any of our videos.

Have something to tell us about this article?