AS warm-ups go, this could not have gone much worse for St Mirren.

The plan for Danny Lennon and his players had been to register a positive result to bolster confidence ahead of the Scottish Communities League Cup semi-final against Celtic. Instead, what unfolded was a performance Lennon described as one of the worst since he arrived at the club.

St Mirren had been in good form in the weeks leading up to the winter break, with just one defeat in nine, but their return to competitive action proved disastrous as they conceded three avoidable second-half goals to slump to a 4-1 defeat.

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It was hardly the result likely to foster belief ahead of a trip to Hampden on Sunday.

St Mirren did well to get back to 1-1 early in the second half – Steven Thompson's 12th goal of the season cancelling out a free kick scored by Ross County's Richard Brittain – but a succession of errors would prove costly.

Sam Morrow and then Ivan Sproule, twice, took advantage to send St Mirren to their first defeat in Paisley since November. Coincidentally, they lost 4-1 that day as well.

"We didn't start well or get going at all," admitted Jim Goodwin, the St Mirren captain. "When you gift teams goals like we did in the second half then you haven't really got a leg to stand on.

"We had been on a good run so we were comfortable and feeling we had become hard to beat.

"We've got a big game, going to Hampden. It's a dream tie for all of us. We would have liked to be going into it after a positive result but we just have to pick ourselves up.

"We'll go back in on Monday, work hard, and look to pull off a shock next Sunday."

If the winter break turned out to be bad for St Mirren, the opposite could be said for Ross County, refreshed and reaping the benefits of their trip to Marbella.

"The break was fantastic," said Brittain. "It let the injuries heal and allowed the boys to get wee niggles sorted out.

"To get taken away for four days shows the club is heading in the right direction. We went there to work hard and that is what we did. It was an added bonus that the temperature was nice as we got a couple of good, quality training sessions in. We showed that we had a bit of freshness and hunger about us."

Despite agreeing a summer move to St Johnstone, Brittain retained the captaincy and scored his side's first goal, a terrific free kick from 25 yards. "I'd like to think I repaid a bit of the faith the manager has shown in me by scoring," the midfielder said.

"I've got a point to prove in every game that I'm a good player. That's just the way I am. I try to show people that. I know the pitfalls of signing pre-contracts but I just want to talk about our victory. I thought that we were fantastic."