It is one thing knowing what St Mirren will conspire to inflict upon you in Paisley. Stopping it? Another matter entirely.

Livingston do not often find themselves on the end of a physical mauling, but they were put to the sword by the Buddies’ high-tempo, all action brand of football in a potentially pivotal afternoon in these teams’ pursuit of the Premiership top six.

Mark O’Hara swept in two penalties either side of Tony Watt’s cool finish to end this fixture as a contest by the half-time whistle. Livingston made it a more competitive affair after the interval, but the damage was already done.

Saints well worth it

Energetic, physical and with that bit of quality to go with it, this was the archetypal ‘St Mirren under Stephen Robinson’ performance. Livingston simply had no answer to their work rate and tempo. In fact, they looked decidedly rattled by it.

There was less than a minute on the clock when the ball struck the arm of Luiyi de Lucas from Ryan Strain’s cross. It took VAR a whole three minutes to call referee John Beaton to the monitor but, when they do, there’s generally only one outcome.

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O’Hara tucked away the penalty with aplomb and it set the tone for what was to come. The second was just another example of Saints being sharper and more alert than their visitors; Strain’s quick throw set Curtis Main darting down the channel to pick out Watt in the middle, and the forward kept his cool in sitting down Shamal George before tapping into an empty net.

Another handball, this time from Jason Holt after Main's shot, led to a second spot-kick before the first-half was out, and O’Hara kept his cool again to put the game to bed.

Livingston outmatched

It’s not often you see Martindale’s usually ultra-committed team outmatched physically, but they really struggled to keep pace with their effervescent hosts. An imaginative effort from Andrew Shinnie hit the bar and then post at 3-0, but aside from that and a pair of efforts from Joel Nouble, the visitors offered none too much.

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Nouble partnered de Lucas in attack and despite their imposing combined presence, long balls from the back just did not stick. Instead, they were batted immediately back in the direction of Martindale’s creaking back four. There was barely half an hour on the clock before a dismayed away support were calling for Bruce Anderson.

That they conceded three before the half-time whistle even sounded was a fair – and damning – reflection of their performance. That they improved in the second half with their cause already lost likely annoyed their manager no end.

Top six race heating up

With three games left until the split, the final composition of the top six remains anyone’s guess. St Mirren have done themselves absolutely no harm with this result, leapfrogging Livi and Hibs to nestle into fifth.

You suspect it was one they needed with two of their next three fixtures being at Tynecastle and Ibrox – their away form has been incomparable to their home record, and not in a good way. If they can find a bit of joy on their travels, they should find themselves in the top half at the end of April

This was undoubtedly a sore one for Livi but they are by no means out of contention, just two points adrift of Saints.