Paisley Daily Express
Eyes on the prize
Semi-final Semi final clash has got Jim fired upclash has got Jim fired up
Jim Goodwin insists it’s time for St Mirren to shake off their ‘nearly team’ tag and prove they can win when it matters most.
The Buddies head to Hampden Park tomorrow for their Scottish Cup semi- final clash with St Johnstone, hoping to avoid the same heartache that followed their gutting League Cup loss to Livingston at the same stage.
It was their Perth adversaries that put paid to Goodwin’s side’s hopes of a historic top-six spot earlier this season, bagging a dramatic late win against Ross County that saw them leap above the Paisley side on goal difference.
Goodwin admits those failures still sting him and his players, and he’s determined to lead his side to this season’s showpiece final and prove his squad can hold their nerve when the chips are down.
He told Express Sport: “The fact we missed out on the top six is still heartbreaking. It was in our own hands and we didn’t get the job done.
“I don’t want to be a ‘nearly’ team. We nearly beat Livingston in the League Cup semi-final. We nearly finished in the top six.
“I don’t want this to be another one of those ‘nearly’ moments. I want us to do whatever it takes to get the job done on Sunday and find a way to get through.
“We’re not just satisfied to get to this stage. We need to aspire to go further.
“We want to be recognised as winners.
“We want to be recognised as a successful team and a successful club. Not a team that gets to big occasions and chokes.
“We want to be able to go to Hampden tomorrow and have a little bit of swagger about us, a little bit of confidence and belief that we belong in this situation, and just give a far better reflection of the all-round team we are than we did against Livingston in the League Cup semi-final.
“The more often you get to these types of games, the better the group handles the situation.
“I don’t think we handled the occasion well enough last time round.
“This time, the guys have got that experience to draw on and hopefully that will show tomorrow.
“We could have been a little more on the front foot against Livingston. Maybe nerves played a part in the whole group.
“This time around, I think it will be different. The guys will remember that feeling of disappointment and regret after the game.
“We are going to go there, have a great go and see what the final outcome is.”
The Perth Saints have been rocked in the buildup to tomorrow’s tie, having seen four players ruled out by coronavirus.
Goodwin insists he feels for Callum Davidson and his players, having experienced the difficulties posed by Covid- 19 outbreaks earlier this season.
That being said, he doesn’t believe it will make a great deal of difference to the McDiarmid Park side who have already lifted the League Cup trophy this campaign.
Goodwin said: “Of course, we have great sympathy for them.
“On behalf of everyone at the club, we hope the players involved
are well first and, foremost, that they’re asymptomatic and we hope none of their families have been affected by it either.
“Football always needs to take a backseat at times like this.
“We’ve been there, nobody needs to tell me what it’s like.
“I don’t think there’s anyone more affected by covid this season than us.
“In September and October, we were travelling to games with 13 fit players, with two keepers on the bench at times.
“We played Hibs in Paisley and three hours before kick- off we didn’t know if we had a goalkeeper available or not. We were still being told to go and play the game.
“It’s a hard time for St Johnstone as no doubt their training schedule will have been disrupted.
“But they’re probably grateful that they’ve had two positive cases and only had two close contacts.
“They’ve come off pretty well considering it could have wiped out another eight or nine players really.
“Callum’s got a good squad there. I don’t know the names of who’s out. Whoever it is, Callum will have very good replacements there and they’ve shown that already.
“They made a lot of changes for the Hibs game recently at Easter Road and won comfortably.”
While Goodwin won’t know just who is missing for St Johnstone until the teams begin their warmups on the Hampden turf, he’s focusing on his own players ahead of the massive occasion.
He believes playmaker Jamie McGrath is pivotal to his side’s chances of making it through to this season’s final, although he’s banking on all his players performing to their highest levels to seal a win.
Goodwin added: “Jamie has been a match winner for us on a number of occasions this year and we are lucky to have him.
“We are delighted he has a year on his contract and we are planning next season with him being here.
“You always hope in big games the big players play to the level they are capable of.
“He loves the big occasions. He showed it against Celtic and Rangers and this is another opportunity for him and others to show how good they are.
“We need all our best players to perform on the day. We aren’t a one-man-band and we need everyone to be right at it tomorrow.
“If we do that, then hopefully we can do enough to win the game.”