By Stuart Gillespie at St Mirren Park
Saints and Dunfermline played out a pulsating 4-4 draw in Paisley this afternoon. The two managers looks back on the game.
Saints boss Danny Lennon was furious with his side for squandering a great chance to take all three points. He said: “As a neutral coming and watching that today it would have been absolutely fantastic – a thoroughly entertaining game with good quality goals and end to end action. Standing here as St Mirren manager I’m absolutely livid in terms of not taking maximum points and also having the game sewn up on a number of occasion.
“If people think we’ve arrived and we’re safe and we find ourselves in new unfamiliar territory and looking up the way that’s further from the ambition we have for this football club. I’ve just challenged the players on it and if any of them disagreed to speak freely. I didn’t expect any of them to say anything.
“I said to them at half-time this game is there for the taking if we just turn it up and if we manage to go out there and leave everything behind on that pitch the victory will be ours. I asked them if they’d left everything on the pitch and the answer was no, the reason being we haven’t come away with the three points. We’ve had Stevie Thompson scoring an absolutely wonderful hat-trick but we also conceded poor goals. We’re a team that, from wide areas, has defended very admirably this season but today there was certainly a few mistakes we didn’t enjoy.”
Many people may consider Saints’ season to be over with only a few games left but as far as Danny was concerned nothing could be further from the truth: “I’ve challenged the players and the challenge for them is to make sure they come back in next week with the proper reaction. We’ve four very important games still to go and we want to see the fruits of our labour and the progression we’ve seen this season. That was certainly an opportunity.
“I’ll go home and analyse my own performance also to see if there were certain things I could have done better but it’s the first time I’ve challenged my players to get that response. With three weeks to go we’ve got everything to play for and that is the challenge I give to my players. I certainly believe the character we have in there, the frustration in how angry I am is because I know they can do it but they must have that belief, desire and commitment to get it.”
What particularly annoyed the Saints gaffer was the way his side repeatedly threw away the chance to see the game out. He said: “We got off to an absolutely terrific start – why do we not go for the jugular? It’s another 15-20 minutes before we get another strike on goal. Once they equalise we start to ascend again and we get our noses in front again at half-time.
“We had an absolutely terrific start and get ourselves into a two goal lead. Dunfermline got a break to get back into it then David van Zanten does absolutely fantastically to help us get a two goal lead. How many times in a game of football do you want to learn how to hold onto that lead? I’m very, very angry because it’s an absolutely wonderful opportunity missed.
“I must give a great deal of credit to Dunfermline for not giving in. You expect that, we were in that situation ourselves last season, they’re fighting for everything and that could be a very valuable point for them in their relegation battle. Let me stress while we are safe our season’s certainly not finished. We’re hungry to try to succeed and do something this club hasn’t done for over 27 years and that’s finish higher than 10th.”
Dunfermline boss Jim Jefferies was happy with the fighting qualities his side showed even if he wasn’t best pleased with the nature of the goals they conceded. He said: “It could have been 8-8. I criticised the linesman for offside at the first goal but it seems like he got it right. When we equalised we had three great opportunities prior to that and were unlucky with one that came back off the post. We were quite happy, apart from losing the opening goal, with how well we started.
“We were playing virtually four attackers because it was a game we were desperate to win but then we went and made a mistake and the centre-half isn’t expecting it, from there the striker got it, it’s played wide and into the box and they’re more determined to get there than we are.
“We came out in the second half and lost another one. We were 3-1 down and got it back to 3-2 with a terrific goal and then there was a bundle of mistakes, it’s played into the box and the defenders have got to be picking up. They let the striker take a touch, sort it out and rifle it into the top corner.
“For the last 10 minutes we went 3-4-3, we just threw (Andy) Kirk on and went for it and we had another chance that if he’d hit the target we’re winning the game. Tommy Craig said to me that every time we went forward we looked like we were going to score, but where we were wrong is we shouldn’t score four goals away from home and only come away with a draw. A lot of it was down to our own making. Steven Thompson had two headed goals and I think our centre-halfs could have done it. Strikers like him show why they’ve played at a higher level because they get in there and use their physical presence.”