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St Johnstone 2 St Mirren 1: Poacher turns game winner

THESE are heady times indeed for St Johnstone.

After a fairly woeful start to the season, when they failed to win their opening seven matches, it seems now they can do no wrong. This hard-fought victory, their fourth in succession in the league and fifth overall, lifted them to joint second in the table, just a point behind leaders Hibernian. Should they carry on in this vein, manager Steve Lomas can surely expect another manager of the month trophy to sit alongside the one he picked up the other day for last month's near-perfect run.

It was almost inevitable that Nigel Hasselbaink would be central to events. The Dutch striker revealed in the days leading up to the match that he had rejected St Mirren's offer of a contract extension in the summer to sign for St Johnstone because he wanted to join "a bigger club". As a result his every touch was predictably jeered by the small pocket of travelling supporters but it did little to deter him as he put in an energetic shift, scoring his side's first goal and helping create the second.

St Mirren's players would have known just what Hasselbaink would try to do, but stopping him and Gregory Tade, his strike partner, was another matter. "Gregory and Nigel are good friends, almost joined at the hip," said Lomas. "They did well in what was a good team performance. To get a win to go four on the spin just before the international break is brilliant."

Hasselbaink can be a frustrating player at times – as likely to dribble the ball straight out of the park as score a wonder goal – but his strike after 23 minutes demonstrated power and precision as he held off a challenge from Lee Mair to fasten on to Dave Mackay's pass and shoot low beyond Craig Samson.

Hasselbaink was involved again when St Johnstone nudged further in front after 37 minutes, weaving across the pitch before spreading the ball wide to Gary Miller. Miller's cross was fumbled by Samson, like a drunk trying to guddle a fish, and Murray Davidson swept in the rebound.

St Mirren, who had actually started better, were fortunate to only be two down by half-time. They had Paul Dummett to thank for a block to deny Miller, while Craig Samson plucked a Liam Craig header out of the air. The nearest the visitors came to scoring in the first half was a Graham Carey shot that cannoned off Alan Mannus's chest after the keeper had mis-hit his clearance straight to the Irishman.

Danny Lennon had obviously seen enough and made a change at half-time, bringing on Dougie Imrie for Sam Parkin, to try to gain a foothold in the game. The alteration paid almost instant dividends when his side hauled back a goal within four minutes of the restart. Dummett's cross was helped on by Steven Thompson to Lewis Guy, who bundled in his fifth goal of the season. Guy had looked uncomfortable in the first half in an unaccustomed midfield role, but looked brighter after the interval when restored to his more natural position. He screamed for a penalty after being bundled to the ground by Frazer Wright, but referee Alan Muir was unconvinced, while a second claim after Tam Scobbie upended Jon Robertson late on was also waved away.

"It was a good claim for a penalty," said Lennon, of the second. "Our fans certainly thought it was and they were furthest away from it."

St Mirren's rally soon petered out, an Imrie shot that Mannus did well to repel the closest they came to equalising. St Johnstone, while noticeably less of an attacking threat after the break, ran out comfortable winners in the end. The run goes on.

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