THERE are just 180 minutes of the season left for clubs in the bottom six of the SPFL Premiership.
This refers to football, although there are some teams which might consider it to be more akin to a prison sentence. That analogy works best when applied to St Mirren given their strips comprise vertical black and white stripes, the type of threads more suited to those serving time in the pokey, although they seemed ill-fitting yesterday as they won at home against Ross County. Another three points in a match with Kilmarnock on Wednesday will pardon the Paisley side from any involvement in a relegation play-off.
Victory was delivered with the same conviction which carried Gregg Wylde's shot into the top corner of the net midway through the second half. The St Mirren midfielder's name will feature prominently in match reports as a result, but a comfortable performance from his side carried the signature of team-mate Kenny McLean too.
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Intelligent and determined yesterday, he is out of contract at the end of the season and expected to move on in the summer, most likely to England. The midfielder has been measured for moves to clubs from the Barclays Premier League all the way down to Sky Bet League One. His movements were tracked more easily yesterday. One bursting run early in the first half brought a foul from County midfielder Stuart Kettlewell, after which McLean's sharp free-kick was saved; he drifted wide to deliver a teasing cross towards Stephen Thompson; the 22-year-old also swivelled on the edge of the penalty area to test Mark Brown with a half-volley. The County goalkeeper spilled the ball initially, but recovered to snatch it off the toes of John McGinn.
That slip caused a ripple of unease for County, although greater discomfort emerged over the team's faltering attacks. It took fully 37 minutes for the visitors to post an effort at goal, but it was one which can be recounted much more briefly. Filip Kiss kicked the ball and it was deflected wide by a defender.
Substitute Alex Cooper showed greater poise when he shifted past Marc McAusland to shoot at Christopher Dilo on the hour and earlier Richard Brittain had a go himself, with his free-kick kissing the crossbar on its way off target. "Alex made a difference for us when he came on and Richard hit the bar. We were a bit unlucky," said County manager Derek Adams.
County made their way off the pitch in Paisley with a simple handshake. Their embrace with St Mirren had lost its ardour by then and it could be that they become divorced in time for next season. Defeat for the Dingwall side yesterday keeps them anchored a point above the play-off place, with Hibernian their opponents in the Highlands on Tuesday.
The relationship between County and Jim Goodwin was already fractured and the restoration of the St Mirren captain, following a successful appeal against a red card, invited dissent from visiting supporters. Goodwin had been referred to as a "ghost" for his ability to escape censure during an earlier meeting with County - an episode which perhaps explained why the Ghostbusters theme blared over the PA ahead of kick off - but his influence was more subtle yesterday.
An initial diffidence to County's play meant he was not provoked into making a rash tackle, his more robust challenges instead delivered to team-mates. Goodwin reproached McAusland for allowing the ball to bounce off his knee and into the path of Jordan Slew in the first half - the County striker was crowded out eventually - and barked encouragement at the defender for more convincing defending later on when he slid in to thwart Cooper.
Wylde would not suffer a similar interruption with the decisivescore after 77 minutes. The substitute took a moment to pick a spot just below the crossbar and to the right of Brown before driving a shot into the net with precision and venom. "Gregg has been looking to make an impact from the first day he came through that door," said manager Danny Lennon. "What an impact he made today."