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Report: St Mirren 3-1 Alloa Athletic

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http://www.saintmirren.net/pages/?p=51734

By Stuart Gillespie at the Paisley 2021 Stadium

Last time Saints won a home league game, they had to come from behind to do it and Stephen Mallan scored a goal in stoppage time.

Swap Motherwell for Alloa, a sunny day in May for a freezing January afternoon and history just about repeated itself this afternoon.

Isaac Layne gave Alloa an early lead from the spot after Keith Watson was deemed to have handled inside the box. It was a harsh decision but the fullback made amends when he scored a fine equaliser just before the break.

The turnaround was completed just before the hour mark as Calum Gallagher nipped in to head past Scott Gallacher. However, with only a one goal advantage the home fans couldn’t relax until the final few seconds, Mallan breaking from a corner before tucking the ball away to ensure the points were staying in Paisley.

The arrival of three new players – and the return of Tony Fitzpatrick – in the past few days had helped generate some much needed optimism around the club. One of the new players started as David Clarkson joined Lawrence Shankland up front. He took the place of Scott Agnew, who was joined on the bench by new recruits Alex Cooper and Gary Irvine. Alloa were unlucky to lose to Queen of the South last week and the only change was Mitch Megginson replacing Robbie Crawford with former Saint Burton O’Brien starting in midfield.

After a minute’s applause in tribute to Saints legend Tommy Bryceland, the home fans hoped the appearance of the sun would mean their side started brightly. Instead, they could only watch in horror as their side fell behind inside the first 10 minutes. Saints lost possession in the middle of the park, allowing allowing Alloa to attack and as Isaac Layne tried to force his way forward, his poor shot hit the arm of Keith Watson. Ref Craig Charleston pointed to the spot and booked the incensed Saints defender before Layne sent Jamie Langfield the wrong way from the spot to give the Wasps an early lead.

Saints initially struggled to respond before a trademark Stephen Mallan effort from distance stung the palms of keeper Scott Gallacher. A corner a few minutes later presented another chance, Watson’s header being blocked by one of his team-mates before Clarkson’s attempt to force the ball home was somehow smuggled behind. After the Wasps had Colin Hamilton booked for time wasting, they almost added a second, Michael Duffy meeting a cross to the back post with a superb volley only for Langfield to produce a fine save to keep it out.

The Buddies were toiling to create any real chances, home debutant Rocco Quinn’s low shot from 20 yards being deflected behind for a corner. Gallacher hardly had anything to do in the Alloa goal but he looked a little worried when a Saints corner ended up with Calum Gallagher at the edge of the box, the forward taking a touch to compose himself before sending his shot narrowly wide. Next time Saints attacked they had rather more luck. Quinn’s shot was intercepted by Watson and the fullback made his way past an Alloa defender before firing past Gallacher with his left peg. It was a tremendous goal and even his manager admitted afterwards he was surprised at the fancy footwork on display from the defender!

Having drawn level, Saints were almost behind again seconds after the restart, the ball breaking to Layne at the edge of the box before he fired his shot into the stand. It was then Alloa’s turn to panic, a long ball finding Clarkson who took a touch before colliding with the on-rushing Gallacher. The home fans wanted a red card but the keeper escaped with a booking, which was probably the correct call. The resultant free-kick was clearly in Mallan territory and his effort was parried by Gallacher with no one in a black and white shirt able to force home the loose ball. Just before the break Mallan sent Clarkson scurrying down the right and he teed up Quinn but this time he could only duff his shot well over the bar.

Half-Time: St Mirren 1-1 Alloa Athletic

Alex Cooper was handed his Saints debut for the second half, the new signing replacing Cameron Howieson at the break. His new team-mates, manager and supporters were soon incensed when some neat interplay at the edge of the box led to the ball appearing to hit the arm of an Alloa player, only for ref Craig Charleston to turn down the loud claims for a penalty. The sense of injustice seemed to fire Saints up and they took the lead just before the hour mark. Shankland’s shot was blocked, sending the ball spinning towards goal and seemingly into the arms of Scott Gallacher. However, the keeper hadn’t realised that Calum Gallagher was charging forward and he got to the ball first, nodding it over the goalie to put the Buddies in front.

Alloa tried to hit back, Robbie Crawford replacing Graeme Holmes before Douglas Hill and Mitch Megginson both failed to score with headers. Shankland should also have done far better with his header from Gallagher’s superb cross, trying to send it back across goal into the far corner only to put too much power into his effort and send it off target. Alloa had Hill booked for a foul on Clarkson and after the free-kick came to nothing the defender was replaced by Jason Marr. Duffy tried his luck with a 20 yard curler that sailed a couple of yards over the bar before another new Buddie made his debut as Gary Irvine took over from Clarkson, Alloa replacing Hamilton with Edward Ferns at the same time. Saints were forced into their final change a couple of minutes from time, Shankland having to go off with an injury as Steven Thompson replaced him.

It looked as if the Buddies would have no trouble seeing out stoppage time but with seconds remaining Alloa forced a corner. Given Saints’ poor form at home this season there was understandable concern from the home support and sure enough a goal arrived – at the other end. After dealing with the corner, Gallagher tried to send Mallan away only for Megginson to appear to intercept his pass. However, he inexplicably gave possession straight to Mallan and he charged forward, keeping his composure before slotting past Gallacher to secure a long overdue home league victory.

Full-Time: St Mirren 3-1 Alloa Athletic

St Mirren: Langfield, Kelly, Webster, Howieson (Cooper 46), Mallan, Baird, Watson, Gallagher, Clarkson (Irvine 81), Shankland (Thompson 88), Quinn.
Subs Not Used: McMullan, Gow, Agnew, Wilks (GK).

Alloa Athletic: Gallacher, Doyle, McKenna, Hill (Marr 75), Hamilton (Ferns 81), O’Brien, McManus, Duffy, Holmes (R. Crawford 61), Megginson, Layne.
Subs Not Used: McAusland, Hetherington, Williams, D. Crawford (GK).

Referee: Craig Charleston.
Assistant Referee: Ivan Stankovic.
Assistant Referee: Willie Ferguson.

Attendance: 2,589 (88 Alloa Athletic fans)

Star Saint: David Clarkson.

Match report pictures by Allan Picken – © Allan Picken Photography.

Match Gallery Pictures © John Millar.

Match Report,The Match