ST MIR­REN ST JOHNSTONE HAMIL­TON LIV­INGSTON 1 1 3 3

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Mullen goal gave us mas­sive men­tal boost, says McGinn NICK RODGER AT THE SIM­PLE DIG­I­TAL ARENA WHEN Chris Kane trun­dled in an opener for St Johnstone with barely 10 min­utes to go of this tight tus­sle in Pais­ley, the sigh­ing de­fla­tion in the home stands was so pal­pa­ble it just about reg­is­tered on the Beau­fort Scale. The rau­cous roars that greeted Danny Mullen’s barn­storm­ing equaliser on 90 min­utes, mean­while, could’ve jud­dered the Richter Scale. This was a topsy turvy af­ter­noon at the wrong end of the Lad­brokes Premier­ship. News drift­ing through from La­nark­shire re­ported that Hamil­ton, St Mir­ren’s ri­vals in peril in that scrap to avoid a rel­e­ga­tion play-off, were 2-0 up on Liv­ingston. And then it was 2-2. And then it was 3-2 to Liv­ingston. As St Mir­ren cel­e­brated Mullen’s late show, though, Hamil­ton were savour­ing a last gasp equaliser of their own. In Mother­well, mean­while, Dundee’s in­jury-time de­feat at Fir Park would have had fans of both St Mir­ren and Hamil­ton in ra­bid ex­ul­ta­tion while si­mul­ta­ne­ously reach­ing for the gas and air mask. If Satur­day is any­thing to go by, there will, no doubt, be a few more twists and turns yet be­fore things fi­nally come out in the wash as the sea­son shud­ders to a fraught fi­nale. “It was a crazy last 20 min­utes,” gasped the St Mir­ren cap­tain, Stephen McGinn. “When you look at how the scores went, at one point we were four or five points be­hind and there were all sorts of per­mu­ta­tions and I am glad I wasn’t watch­ing it live. It was just an amaz­ing feel­ing at the end. It would have been a real sore one to lose, but it’s the type of game we’ve been los­ing all sea­son. Psy­cho­log­i­cally, it was a mas­sive point for us.” St Mir­ren re­main two points be­hind Hamil­ton in the ta­ble. Oran Kear­ney’s men visit Mother­well next week, then en­ter­tain Hamil­ton be­fore end­ing the cam­paign with a trip to Dundee. It will all un­ravel over the next cou­ple of weeks. McGinn is well used to nail­nib­bling con­clu­sions when backs are Danny Mullen cel­e­brates after scor­ing the equaliser, much to the re­lief of Stephen McGinn (in­set) against the wall. Dur­ing his first stint at St Mir­ren he watched from the side­lines as they came from 2-0 down at Mother­well to win 3-2 and safe­guard their top flight sta­tus. A cou­ple of years ago, he helped the Saints com­plete a great escape from the drop in the Cham­pi­onship with a draw on the fi­nal day at pro­moted Hiber­nian. On Satur­day, the cheers that erupted around the ground with de­vel­op­ments from the Hamil­ton game kept ev­ery­body in­formed. Not that McGinn was read­ing much into them. “It’s weird be­cause two years ago there were mad cheers at Easter Road and it turned out the Ayr United had a penalty against Raith, but they (the fans) didn’t ac­tu­ally tell us they missed it,” he re­flected of that day when Raith Rovers still could have dropped St Mir­ren into a rel­e­ga­tion play-off. “After that ex­pe­ri­ence you tend not to get too in­volved with it. The Mother­well game was one of the best days I have had at St Mir­ren even though I wasn’t in­volved. “We were dead and buried that day. And it was an amaz­ing cou­ple of min­utes on Satur­day be­cause it was ac­tu­ally quite a flat game with not much hap­pen­ing and then the place just erupted [with news from else­where] and it was a fran­tic last 15 min­utes.” Mullen’s last gasp vol­ley, a strike so clean it looked like it had been buffed up with a lint-free cloth, was a just re­ward for St Mir­ren’s re­silience and drive after the set-back of Kane’s break­through “It was eu­phoric at the end,” added 30-year-old McGinn. “We are in the best place we have been all sea­son and you can see that by our form.” Strug­gle of Hou­dini act sees Im­rie yearn for free­dom push away from rel­e­ga­tion and al­ways be­ing the favourites to go down.” Hamil­ton will likely need to show greater met­tle over the com­ing weeks just to get that op­por­tu­nity. They fell apart spec­tac­u­larly on Satur­day as they frit­tered away a two-goal lead earned through Ge­orge Oak­ley’s strike and Im­rie’s penalty to find them­selves trail­ing go­ing into in­jury time after Scott Pittman’s dou­ble was sand­wiched by Steve Law­son’s fin­ish. Aaron McGowan’s de­flected ef­fort saved their ba­con but Im­rie knew it would need to be bet­ter. “We are soft all over the park and we can’t be like that,” the 35-year-old, in his sec­ond spell at Hamil­ton, and who has also played at Clyde, In­ver­ness for Satur­day’s 3-3 draw with Liv­ingston – and works off one of the small­est bud­gets in the Lad­brokes Premier­ship that would count as a praise­wor­thy achievemen­t. Im­rie, though, has grown weary of the con­stant cy­cle of Hamil­ton sur­viv­ing each year by the skin of their teeth. If they can make it through this sea­son un­scathed, the vet­eran for­ward hopes there might be scope for greater am­bi­tion. “We have been here be­fore,” he sighed. “For me, 10th or 11th shouldn’t be ac­cept­able for us. We should be push­ing higher than that, stay­ing in the league on merit and not hanging on ev­ery sea­son. “If we do stay up this sea­son, we have to aim to do that next year and Cale­do­nian This­tle, St Mir­ren and Mor­ton, added. “It’s not good enough. It’s prob­a­bly a men­tal­ity thing. We are com­fort­able at 2-0 but when we lose a goal and it’s like: “What do we do?” We can’t do that. “For me it will go to the last game of the sea­son against St Johnstone. This was an op­por­tu­nity to stop that. If we had picked up three points, we would have been four in front of St Mir­ren go­ing to Dundee. A win there and it was prob­a­bly done. But not now. It will prob­a­bly go right to the wire.” That match at Dens Park could be sea­son-defin­ing for both clubs. “With the sit­u­a­tion Dundee are in, and the bit of nee­dle there has been be­tween the clubs, they will be up for the game,” Im­rie ad­mit­ted. GRAEME MACPHERSON AT THE FOUN­TAIN OF YOUTH STA­DIUM HAMIL­TON Aca­dem­i­cal have mas­tered the sort of an­nual es­capol­ogy act that even Hou­dini might have even­tu­ally tired of but Dougie Im­rie be­lieves it doesn’t al­ways have to be that way. The La­nark­shire side will se­cure top flight foot­ball for a sixth suc­ces­sive sea­son if they can main­tain their two-point lead over St Mir­ren over the last three games of the sea­son. For a club that strug­gles to draw a crowd – there were only 1100 there Hamil­ton’s Dougie Im­rie leaps for the ball above Livi’s Scott Pittman READ MORE ON HERALDSCOT­LAND.COM AND EVENING­TIMES.CO.UK

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