A SENSE of relief was given voice in Paisley.
It required a goal from Gregg Wylde and the opportunity for supporters to first loosen the phlegm built up during a season congested by disappointments, but would come to express itself clearly. The chorus from St Mirren supporters late on Saturday afternoon spoke to their intuition that their side had been made safe from the relegation play-off place and also carried the accent of Scottish football: their cries of contentment sounding like taunts towards a rival.
Not long after their side had gone ahead, the home fans sang in support of Jamie Hamill, an impromptu ditty belted out at the expense of Derek Adams. It would perhaps be tactless to suggest that the Ross County manager took it on the chin - after all, Hamill had given him such a whack during a match with Hearts last month that Adams was knocked clean off his feet - but it was more likely that he was listening out for something more agreeable. A draw between Hibernian and Partick Thistle on Saturday means that the Edinburgh side can be overhauled by County when the sides meet tomorrow evening.
The arithmetic in the bottom six of the SPFL Premiership is still capable of giving some fans a sore head. St Mirren applied an ice pack at the weekend with a win against County, that result putting the Paisley side in seventh place and five points above the play-off position. There is a trip to Kilmarnock to come on Wednesday but given the possible sequence of results which could still occur in the bottom six, St Mirren have already moved too far to be caught.
St Mirren are now inviolate in the league table but Jim Goodwin kept his vigil on Saturday evening. A retreat from 11th place permits supporters to relax a little during the final fixtures of the campaign, with the visit of Hearts on Saturday concluding things for the Paisley club, although their midfielder spoke instead with agitation about consolidating seventh place. He would ignore the familiar refrain about club finances too, stating simply that his team had proven itself "capable".
A reformed impression of what he is capable of will appeal to Goodwin. He has been booked in 14 matches this season - 15 if you count the red card last month which was downgraded on appeal - to account for his reputation as a brute. He was treated as a villain by County fans at the weekend to the extent that it seemed certain there was a damsel in distress somewhere near the stadium, while a challenge from the St Mirren captain at times provoked anguish on the pitch too.
"I need to be careful of my words here … I think we really need to stamp out the carry-on," said Goodwin, inadvertently putting the boot into the sentiment at the start of his sentence. "It's embarrassing. It's not the way the game should be played; I give out tackles and I expect them in return but the carry-on with trying to get players booked is cheating at the end of the day."
The midfielder would still permit himself to have a little kick out at County - "I think that 1-0 is being a bit kind to Ross County to be honest with you" - although the greater harm might still be caused by players from Hibs and Partick Thistle. The Highland side have taken succour from an impressive record of just eight defeats from 18 matches played since the turn of the year but those results must also be placed in context. County have won only six during the same run.
"We've taken 24 points since January; we've been one of the form teams in the bottom six since then sort of thing," said Ben Gordon, the Ross County full-back. "What we're looking for from the last two games is two big performances and hopefully we can stay away from the play-off."
Gordon would end with clear words of encouragement for his side ahead of the game with Hibs. He did not need to say how great a relief a win would be.