ST MIRREN never looked like winning yesterday.
Goals from Stevie May and Murray Davidson punctuated a perfunctory defeat by St Johnstone, but only after the Paisley side had been pushed to the ground and teased mercilessly. Manager Danny Lennon appraised his side's meek performance with all the enthusiasm of someone who has just had his lunch money stolen.
"We have 17 or 18 games left now, but are we going to wait until the last five before we start fighting again?" said the St Mirren manager. "Our fans deserve better than that; they deserve more."
St Mirren kicked off in Perth, but by the end they had still to get started. The visitors seemed to be held in custody in their own half - presumably much to the frustration of Paul McGowan, who was served with a community service and a supervision court order during the week - as first David Wotherspoon had a shot pushed wide and then May lifted another on to the crossbar. The striker also charged down an attempted clearance from St Mirren goalkeeper Christopher Dilo, only for the ball to spin out of harms way.
St Johnstone might have wished to follow it. It is unlikely that too many people will blink at an account of Jim Goodwin being booked, although there were a few among the home side yesterday who winced at other challenges from the St Mirren captain. Goodwin had returned from a two-match suspension, but has not lost his taste for controversy - a series of bruising challenges were interrupted only by a few more ructions with the home side and a talking to from referee Calum Murray.
The assault on the St Mirren goal also became so routine that Dilo might have felt that he was being picked on. That often happens to the new guy; the goalkeeper starting as a late replacement for Marian Kello, who had been ruled with a thigh injury.
The Frenchman found himself under scrutiny, then, and attracted further attention after slipping while making another clearance early in the first half. It perhaps also did not help that Dilo was also wearing such a vivid strip. His side, however, remained pallid. The afternoon was coloured instead by the intentions of St Johnstone, a shrewd pass from May allowing Nigel Hasselbaink to scamper towards goal and poke a shot past a post; then May had another low shot saved; then Dave Mackay struck the bar with a free-kick; then Wotherspoon was wide with another effort.
St Mirren appeared resolved just to keep quiet and hope that the Perth side went away on their own. "It is difficult to command a game from start to finish but we did that," said St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright. "When you apply that much pressure you always believe that the goals would come."
Having lost consecutive matches since the turn of the year - and conceding five goals -St Johnstone did not lose interest easily. They would be rewarded for their persistence when Davidson forced in a header after 70 minutes, before May added another goal just three minutes later.
It was a strike which will add a couple more scouts to the attendance next week and another zero to the asking price, the St Johnstone striker collecting possession in the box and steering the ball into the top right-hand corner of the net.
"I can't control speculation linking May with a move away," added Wright. "I'm not having sleepless nights about it and it will take an exceptional offer to get him. With performances like that the price is just going up and up and up."