KILMARNOCK pulled four points clear of St Mirren in fourth place in the Premiership table as they sent their huge travelling support home happy from Paisley.

Marley Watkins' first half strike was enough to give them the victory, with their fans singing manager Derek McInnes’s name after another impressive win.

Stephen Robinson’s men, on the other hand, slipped to another disappointing result as their recent drop-off in form continued.

Here are the talking points from the SMiSA Stadium…


The most entertaining thing about the opening exchanges was watching an animated McInnes berating his players for their inability to complete even the most basic of tasks, turning to his bench in disgust as passes went astray and men went untracked.

From nowhere though, they fashioned a really well constructed opener after 25 minutes of not very much at all, as Kyle Vassell held the ball up and found Matty Kennedy in a central position. The wing-back got his head up and slid a lovely pass through the wide-open home defence, and Watkins kept his cool to finish high past Zach Hemming.

From there, Killie chests were puffed out and the St Mirren players seemed to visibly shrink, allowing their opponents to bully them. And no one relished that more than the Killie captain…


The forward had played his part in Killie’s opener, but he was the one visiting player who looked at it from the get-go, trying to set the tone and giving the Saints back three all sorts of trouble with his physicality.

The lesser-spotted James Bolton was thrown in by home manager Robinson for his first league start since joining Saints in the summer, and he was given a torrid time of it by Vassell, who peeled onto him at every opportunity.

In truth though, not one of the Saints back three could really handle him, and he showed his worth at the other end of the field too, his height proving useful as St Mirren shelled crosses into the area.

St Mirren lacked anyone with his presence at the other end of the field, but their failings at the back proved crucial too once more…


St Mirren manager Robinson has been perturbed by his side’s inability to defend set-plays of late, hence the decision to throw Bolton in from the start, but he will be just as concerned by how easily Killie sliced through them from open play to get their goal.

Aside from a pasting at Dundee, Saints haven’t been shipping shedloads of goals, but the manner of the vital goals they are losing – and at crucial times - is proving a huge problem.

Killie, on the other hand, were resolute, with Stuart Findlay, Robbie Deas and Lewis Mayo all outstanding, in contrast to their hosts.

What has been more well documented though about St Mirren are their issues at the (supposed) sharp end, and they were laid bare here too once more…


St Mirren’s impressive start to the season is fast becoming a fading memory, as they slumped to their sixth defeat in their last 10 outings, winning just two of those matches along the way.

The major issue for Robinson’s side during that run has been their inability to put the ball in the net, scoring just five goals since early November.

The Saints manager had quipped before the game that he would quite like Lawrence Shankland, Bojan Miovski and Martin Boyle in the January sales, which might not do the fragile confidence of his frontmen any good.

No matter the combination he tries at the top end of the pitch, it doesn’t seem to work. He plumped for a pairing of Olutoysi Olusanya and Jonah Ayunga here, but apart from a correctly disallowed goal when Olusanya went too early and Ayunga bundled home his shot on the rebound, they didn’t really threaten Will Dennis’s goal too regularly.

Olusanya did have one more opportunity, finding the ball at his feet in the six-yard area after a long throw, but he couldn’t turn and finish and Killie managed to scramble clear.

In fact, the closest they came to a leveller was a Bolton header that Dennis tipped over late on, and Killie might have added to their lead but for a good Hemming save from a spectacular Rory McKenzie volley.


Another huge problem for St Mirren at the moment is the diminishing influence of their own skipper O’Hara, who was so impressive for them last term.

The midfielder was in the shake-up for player of the year awards last season, but he is struggling to be the driving force that he once was so consistently for this team at present.

He was quiet again here, with passes going astray more often than you would expect of a player of his quality and his deliveries failing to find the mark. As the game wore on, his lack of confidence was evident, as he increasingly took on the safe option or simply helped the ball on the way he was facing.

It is likely no coincidence that his own drop-off in form has coincided with Saints’ downturn, and they must find a way for their skipper to get his mojo back to help arrest their collective slump.