ORAN KEARNEY has suggested his players have a fear of winning after watching their meek capitulation against Livingston. It is a phobia they will need to combat if they are to have any hope of remaining in this division.

The reeling Northern Irishman delivered a withering assessment of his players following a 3-1 defeat in West Lothian, questioning their mentality in the wake of a lamentable second-half showing.

Goals from Scott Pittman, Ryan Hardie and Craig Sibbald completed a comprehensive comeback after Alfie Jones had given the Buddies the lead, meaning St Mirren are now just a point above bottom-place Dundee, with Jim McIntyre’s charges holding two games in hand.

“The hardest thing in this league is to get yourself in front and we managed to do that – then we show an inability to cope,” said Kearney. “People talk about a fear of failure, but it’s a fear to win that strikes me about how we went into our shells.

“I think we lost our bottle, simple as that. People talk about bravery in the sense of 50/50 challenges and putting your body on the line but there is also the bravery required to go and make a pass, get your foot on the ball.

“It’s a mindset and, as much as football is a physical game, I think it’s the mentality that was severely lacking. I’m embarrassed.”

There was little indication of the St Mirren travails to come when they broke the deadlock through Jones. It was no surprise to see the mercurial Adam Hammill involved, with his dead-ball delivery perfect for the on-loan Southampton defender to head beyond Liam Kelly from close-range.

Livingston were never likely to go down without a fight and were level within six minutes of the restart when Pittman sent a powerful angled drive beyond the despairing dive of Rogers.

The turnaround was complete when another low effort from Pittman was blocked, only for the ball to spill into the path of on-loan Rangers kid Hardie - making his first start in eight months after battling back from a serious ankle injury - who slammed the ball into the net.

Second-half substitute Jack McMillan struck the bar with a looping header, however, that would prove a temporary reprieve for St Mirren as Sibbald completed the scoring in the dying embers, tapping home after Rogers had spilled yet another shot from the excellent Pittman.

“I was calm at half-time. I can be fiery at the best of times but it was about getting into each individual what they can do more,” added Livingston boss Gary Holt. “It was really pleasing to see how they responded.”