ST MIRREN will spend the next week propping up the rest of the Premiership after Nicke Kabamba’s first-half strike proved decisive for Kilmarnock, who climb into fifth.

It was a tight, tense affair in Paisley, with little to separate the two sides – leaving Killie boss Alex Dyer delighted that his side managed to seal the three points.

“It was a good performance,” he said. “To a man, they worked hard like they did last week. They got a good result because this is a tough place to come.

“We worked hard in training on keeping the ball but being progressive as well and we showed that today.

“We could have had more than one goal to be honest but I’m happy with the result.”

Jim Goodwin, meanwhile, felt his side were unfortunate to leave the game empty-handed, but admitted his frustration after conceding yet another goal from a cross into the box.

“First half, Kilmarnock were the better team,” he conceded. “In the first half we sat off them too much and didn’t get close enough to them.

“For the goal, we got done by the one-two on the far side and then we didn’t defend the cross well enough.

“That’s been an issue in the last five or six weeks. Balls come in our box and we haven’t been able to defend them well enough.”

The visitors started the game on the front foot and enjoyed most of the ball, stroking it around their opponents’ final third as they probed for a way through the Buddies rearguard.

Despite Kilmarnock’s early dominance, the first clear-cut chance of the game fell to the home side. A corner for Alex Dyer’s men led to nothing, and was quickly followed with Ilkay Durmus sprinting towards goal on the counter after an exquisite through ball sent him racing through. The Turk tried to drill a low shot into the bottom corner after reaching the edge of the area, only for the ball to roll agonisingly wide of the far post.

Kilmarnock may have had more of the ball but the Ayrshire side suffered from a real lack of incision in the final third. Time and time again they knocked on the St Mirren door, only to be let down by the absence of that all-important decisive pass.

Kilmarnock had the woodwork to thank after a Jamie McGrath corner met the head of Lee Erwin, whose looping header struck the top of the bar on its way behind for a goal kick.

Then, the breakthrough. A neat one-two between Alan Power and Chris Burke on the right sent the evergreen winger charging down the byline before he spotted the run of Kabamba in the area. A low cut-back was played into the striker, who made no mistake in slotting the ball home first time.

The game grew increasingly frenetic after that; it was end-to-end and a touch chaotic, with neither side able to put their foot on the ball and control the game.

Burke passed up a splendid opportunity to double his side’s lead shortly before the interval, skewing his free-kick on the edge of the area harmlessly over the bar before referee David Munro called time on the opening 45 minutes.

Jon Obika was introduced by Goodwin at the break as he tried to inject some attacking verve into his side. Within minutes of the restart, though, only an outstanding save from Alnwick to deny Greg Kiltie’s first-time effort ensured the Buddies remained in the contest.

Saints defender Marcus Fraser was perhaps lucky to only receive a yellow and a telling-off from the ref after catching Ross Millen in the chest with a high boot as St Mirren pressed admirably for an equaliser.

Junior Morias shanked an effort wide when he got a rare sight of goal as Killie played ever more conservatively, sitting deep and looking to break on their opponents when the opportunity arose.

With around 20 minutes to go, the hosts really cranked up the pressure. Cross after cross was repelled by the Kilmarnock defence as the visitors held firm.

Obika glanced a Cameron MacPherson corner high and wide, Morias earned a yellow after sliding in late on Gary Dicker and Nathan Sheron joined him moments later for a similar challenge as the game became increasingly attritional and stop-start.

The home bench were howling for a penalty more in hope than expectation when Conor McCarthy took a tumble in the box but Munro was having none of it as he shrugged off their protests before calling time shortly afterwards.