By Stuart Gillespie at Palmerston Park
Four is not Saints’ favourite number in pre-season. For the third friendly in a row they conceded four goals as their losing friendly run continued against Queen of the South this evening.
The Doonhamers deservedly enjoyed a half-time lead thanks to Stephen McKenna’s volley but it looked as if Saints would take control when Gary Harkins brought them level at the start of the second half.
But they were level for only a few minutes when Danny Grainger was short with a header back to Christopher Dilo and the keeper brought down Gavin Reilly, Michael Paton scoring from the spot.
Another terrific goal had Saints level again as Gary Teale chipped Callum Antel, but in the last 20 minutes Queens took control with Derek Lyle bagging a brace while he and others passed up plenty of chances to make the win far more convincing than 4-2.
Dilo had started in goal with David Cornell injured, fellow new signings Harkins and Dillon also in from the off. Grainger played on the left of midfield in a 3-5-2, with Thomas Reilly joining Steven Thompson up front.
Queens looked brighter in the opening stages, a few attacks coming to nothing before Michael Paton’s fierce shot smacked off Saints skipper Jim Goodwin and went behind. Dilo then tipped a fine Paton free-kick onto the bar for a corner, from which McKenna looped a shot over the top. A terrific ball from Harkins out to David van Zanten allowed the fullback to get in a cross to Steven Thompson for a rare Saints chance, but the pass was maybe a bit behind the big striker and he had to readjust himself before seeing his shot blocked.
The home side were looking by far the livelier in attack and should have been in front when Lee Mair’s pass was blocked by Paul Burns and ran through for Gavin Reilly, but the youngster’s shot was well kept out by Dilo. His opposite number Callum Antell was tested for the first time moments later when he had to parry away a deflected Harkins shot before Queens took the lead. Iain Russell made himself some space on the left before crossing for McKenna to volley past Dilo for the opener. The midfielder’s late run wasn’t tracked by the Saints defence, giving him all the time he needed to put his side into a deserved lead.
Saints tried to respond, van Zanten crossing for Thompson but he was always stretching for the ball. Russell blasted over from a good position as Queens looked for a second but Saints’ best spell of the half then followed, Thompson knocking the ball down for Reilly to produce a volley that was blocked. The corner was cleared back to Grainger and when his cross was headed back across goal by Darren McGregor it looked as if Marc McAusland would fire in the equaliser, only for his fierce volley to rattle the post and somehow bounce away to safety. As the half came to a close McKenna went close to a second, his shot fizzing past Dilo’s right hand post.
Half-Time: Queen of the South 1-0 St Mirren
Gary Teale and Sean Kelly replaced McAusland and Mair at the break and it was the younger of the subs that nearly brought Saints level within seconds of the restart, Kelly stinging the palms of Antell after a fine run and pass from Dillon. The travelling support didn’t have to wait too much longer for the equaliser though, Teale slipping the ball through to Harkins who beat two men and drew Harkins before slotting the ball home at the near post.
Parity lasted less than five minutes. After some confusion Grainger was woefully short with his header back to Dilo and was intercepted by Gavin Reilly. He tried to go round the Saints goalie and was promptly brought to the ground by the Frenchman, who was booked before Paton slotted away the penalty to put Queens back in front. More poor defending gave Paton a chance to make it three soon after but Dilo got down well to hold the shot.
Queens then used all their subs aside from their back-up keeper and it was one of the new players that nearly put them further in front, Dan Orsi going on a fine run before his shot across goal went wide. It was to prove costly as a few minutes later Saints were level again, Teale collecting the ball before producing a fantastic lob over Antell that dropped into the net in slow motion to have the Saints fans singing the traditional song.
Queens had a chance to restore their lead immediately when Dan Carmichael was sent through but his shot was well kept out by Dilo. It was merely a reprieve, Carmichael playing the ball through to Derek Lyle who nutmegged the Saints goalie to have Queens in front once more. They weren’t content with that lead either, Carmichael lifting the ball over the top as they went looking for a killer fourth.
In the final 10 minutes Saints went looking for their third equaliser of the night. Harkins sent Teale scurrying away down the right and he cut in before aiming for the far post, Antell turning the shot behind for a corner. McGregor then had a header cleared off the line by Lyle before young Jon Scullion – on for Thompson - saw his close range shot deflected behind for a corner.
As they pushed for a goal the Buddies were liable to be caught on the break and Chris Mitchell burst away from the tiring Grainger and pulled the ball back for Lyle, only for the striker to somehow put his shot wide. With a couple of minutes left he redeemed himself, Orsi this time pulling the ball back and Lyle made no mistake from close range to seal a deserved win for the Doonhamers.
Full-Time: Queen of the South 4-2 St Mirren
Queen of the South: Antell, McGuffie, Higgins, Young (McShane 56), Durnan, Dowie, McKenna, Burns, Reilly, Paton, Russell.
Subs Not Used: Holt, Mitchell, Carmichael, Slattery, Lyle, Orsi, Atkinson (GK).
St Mirren: Dilo, van Zanten, McAusland (Kelly 46), McGregor, Dillon, Goodwin, Mair (Teale 46), Harkins, Thompson (Scullion 74), Trialist, Reilly.
Subs Not Used: Naismith, Brady, Yaqub, K. Hughes (GK).
Referee: Calum Murray.
Assistant Referee: Brian Templeton.
Assistant Referee: Stuart MacMillan.