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Level playing field gives us advantage, says McGowan

If there's one thing footballers like less than double training sessions or Nando's closing early it's artificial pitches.

Modern synthetic surfaces have improved to such an extent that they are said to be effectively the same as grass but it is a claim many players still view with a large dollop of scepticsm. St Mirren have played three times on Queen of the South's plastic pitch this season and have the burns to prove it. That they have failed to win any of those matches may also be a sizeable factor in their unhappiness with it.

At least they emerged from their last trip to Dumfries unbeaten. After a loss in pre-season and another in the League Cup, a 2-2 draw in the William Hill Scottish Cup a week past Saturday means the teams will try again this evening for the right to face Dundee United in the fifth round. There is evident relief among some in the St Mirren camp that this time the teams will meet on grass.

"I don't mind the astro pitches but I think it is mainly the older players who don't like them which is understandable," said Paul McGowan. "It was a leveller for them [Queens] since they probably train on it and play every home game on it. They are a good side but I think we are due one against them. We started well against them [in the original tie], created chances and in my mind I thought we were going to take a few off them especially when we went 1-0 up. If we had got that second crucial goal then it might have been different but, as always with us, it is never a dull day. They came back right at us but we are still in the cup. We knew when we got the draw it was going to be a tough place to go."

St Mirren are a team transformed since their League Cup defeat to the same opponents in August. They have lost only of their last nine games, with players such as McGowan flourishing after a difficult start to the campaign.

"Confidence is really high among the players and we are really settled," he added. "We look like a team now. I don't know what happened to us at the start of the season. We were so low in confidence. It was murder coming in every day after another defeat. We were trying but it just wasn't happening for us. The gaffer kept plugging away but it wasn't a nice time with all the speculation over him. But the turning point was the draw against Aberdeen at home and we have kicked on from there.

"I think everyone is enjoying their football, not just me. It is all about the confidence. We were in a losing habit which was like an illness. But then we picked up and players started coming out of their shells."

Key to St Mirren's revival has been McGowan's partnership with Steven Thompson, the 35-year-old striker enjoying an Indian summer with his boyhood heroes.

"I have formed an understanding with big Thommo which I am enjoying and who I am learning a lot from. It has worked well for the team. Since he has come to the club, for me, he has been the best signing despite his age. If you didn't know you wouldn't guess how old he is or think he is one of the oldest in the team.

"His attitude in the way he goes about it is incredible and it is something the younger guys should look up to. Age is only a number and guys like Thommo and Gary Teale have been an example to the younger players of how to go about your career. He does stuff even he admits he doesn't know what he is doing. It is just instinct with him."

St Mirren, meanwhile, could take Adam Campbell on loan from Newcastle United next month, according to the player's agent.

"We're hoping to have that one tied up for January 1 and get Adam up there for the match with Kilmarnock the day after", said Spencer Downey. "Danny [Lennon] thinks he is fantastic. He's wanted Adam for a while and probably should have gone up there in August but it didn't work out that way. Newcastle value what St Mirren have done for Paul [Dummett] and Conor [Newton] and believe sending Adam up there would be good for him. He's a livewire striker and will bring so much to that team. Steven Thompson will love him. He has so much energy and is rapid. He has a good shot off of both feet and will score goals."

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