WHERE did that come from? Time had slowed to a crawl and this was a match in danger of being forgotten the moment the final whistle sounded when Jamie McGrath popped up with a goal of the season contender and Livingston levelled with the last kick of the game. 

Nicky Devlin’s arrowed volley was another moment this contest - a rugged affair, if we’re being kind - hardly deserved but a point was the least Livingston did. They came to Paisley with a plan and headed back along the M8 a further point clear of the relegation mire after showing plenty of character. 

The late heartbreak had consequences further up the table as it denied St Mirren the chance to move into the top six with breathing space. And really, when the dust settles, what did we learn? The Saints still struggle to break down teams and Livingston continue to get results on the road. 

“It is another draw and it feels like two points dropped,” said St Mirren manager Jim Goodwin. “We have played 14 games and drawn half of them. That’s not good enough.”

Given St Mirren had played their part in a bore draw in their last outing, it was no surprise Goodwin injected the natural energy of Eamonn Brophy from the start. Out went Curtis Main, the chalk to his teammate’s cheese, with Brophy immediately taking up residence on Tom Parkes’ shoulder and darting off whenever the ball fell to the feet of Connor Ronan. A couple of early runs nearly paid dividends and on more than one occasion his presence alone unsettled Max Stryjek in Livi’s goal. 

But that change wasn’t the only takeaway from the hosts’ teamsheet. It can’t have been missed that eight of the starting XI (compared to just two for Livingston) are nearing their final six months in Renfrewshire, Jak Alnwick and Scott Tanser among them. The timebomb isn’t quite ticking on St Mirren’s contract uncertainty but the wires are in place. 

HeraldScotland: Jak AlnwickJak Alnwick

For Livingston, unbeaten in four, there was an expectation they’d take some time to shake off the rustiness of having not played since October 30 but - one slapstick collision between Andrew Shinnie and Cristian Montano which nearly handed Brophy a golden chance aside - they gave as good as they got in the opening half. 

Were it not for Nicky Devlin’s nosebleed, they might even have taken the lead just seven minutes in. When Shinnie hauled his team up the pitch at the end of a period of incessant Saints possession, the ball eventually found its way to the feet of Livi’s skipper but he could only prod a weak shot straight into Alnwick’s grateful arms. 

With this, the pattern of the first half was set: the well-drilled Livingston rearguard happy to keep St Mirren at arm’s length and let the Saints neatly pass the ball around in midfield, making the most of their forays up the pitch as the lively Stephane Omeonga and Odin Bailey led the charge. 

Before the 45 minutes were up Montano and Jack Fitzwater would also pass up presentable chances and Alnwick was forced to react quickly to push away a stinging drive from Bailey at the end of a Livi counter. 

The loss of a hobbling Connor McCarthy after only 35 minutes hardly helped but St Mirren, for all their pretty possession between Alan Power, Ryan Flynn, and Ronan, only really threatened when Stryjek and his defenders were unnerved by Brophy’s pressing. Things could only get better. 

“Let’s get behind the Paisley boys, let’s make some noise,” implored the tannoy announcer as the teams returned from the half-time oranges and, to St Mirren’s credit, they emerged a different beast. 

That’s not to say it was free-flowing, Brazil 1970 football but it was better. Suddenly there was an urgency to their play. Brophy, so often isolated in the first-half, looked around and found support. Jamie McGrath was, crucially, given more licence to roam and shortly before his strike he sent a dipping volley just wide. There was even some bite down Richard Tait’s right hand side, the fullback clashing more than once with Montano as he scurried to join the attack. 

But they were still struggling to create any real openings and it was Livingston once again who were cursing how close they’d come to scoring when not once but twice Montano was denied by a last-gasp St Mirren intervention, a flying save from Alnwick closely followed by Joe Shaughness blocking just as the Colombian looked to have found the net.

The Saints were floundering at this point and in real danger of making it three games without a goal. Step forward McGrath.

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With around 20 minutes to go, a loose ball fell to his feet around 25 yards out and that’s where the luck ends and the Irishman’s invention takes over. No one else in Paisley could see the shot was on but he glanced towards Stryjek, steadied himself, and sent a curling, dipping chip over the Pole’s head and into the back of the net. The bad news for St Mirren? McGrath is one of those nearing the end of his deal and moments like this are hardly going to fend off the vultures. 

It was a goal fit to win any football game but, with seconds to go, Devlin popped up with another to spark wild Livingston celebrations. 

“We deserved a point through the game at the very least,” said Livingston’s David Martindale. “If we had come away with nothing, I’d have been very disappointed.”