By Chris Irving at Central Park
St Mirren’s pre-season campaign ended in defeat as they lost to Second Division side Cowdenbeath at a wet Central Park. There was to be no welcome return for Danny Lennon to the ground where he won back-to-back promotions as his side were punished as they lacked a cutting edge in front of goal. Lennon sent out a fairly strong side with new signings Steven Thompson and ex-Scotland International Gary Teale both included in the starting line-up.
Despite dominating the first half, Saints fell behind to an early goal from Cowdenbeath midfielder John Robertson but went in level at the break thanks to Paul McGowan. However, two second half goals from Gregg Stewart sealed a shock win for the Blue Brazil.
The Buddies began the match on the front-foot, getting forward from the off and spraying the ball about on what was a slick surface. Lee Mair almost fired Saints into the lead after three minutes, latching onto a Gary Teale cross but the big defender’s powerful header flew over the bar. After receiving plaudits for their attractive style of play against Morton in the Renfrewshire Cup victory on Saturday, Danny Lennon’s men went about their business in similar fashion and produced some lovely football that was pleasing on the eye in the early stages.
Colin Cameron’s Cowdenbeath side were simply chasing shadows in the opening ten minutes as Saints kept the ball with great ease and under no pressure whatsoever, were keeping the ball for fun and building from the back. However, the Fifers did manage to muster an attempt of sorts with fifteen minutes played, player-manager Cameron trying an audacious effort from the half-way line after spotting Graeme Smith off his line but his effort was closer to the corner flag than the goal. The Blue Brazil were presented with a golden opportunity from a set-piece after eighteen minutes and despite having so far struggled to string two passed together they took a shock lead. Jim Goodwin’s late lunge just outside the box presented the home side with a golden opportunity from a set-piece which they grabbed with both hands.
John Robertson’s low drive eluded everyone in the wall and nestled under Smith in the corner of the net to fire his side into the lead very much against the run of play. That goal seemed to unsettle Saints momentarily but they soon got going once again and began playing the attractive possession football that saw them dominate the opening stages.
Finally the Buddies’ dominance showed and they were level just before the half-hour mark. A neat exchange between new signing Nigel Hasselbaink and Paul McGowan produced the deserved equaliser, McGowan spotting Flynn off his line and chipping the Cowdenbeath keeper with a lovely effort and it looked like they would push on in search of more goals. After the equaliser, there was very little in the way of goalmouth action at either end with Saints continuing to dominate possession but things were turning a little scrappy in the middle of the park as the home side tried in vain to keep the ball and get forward.
However, goalscorer Robertson tried to test Smith with a low drive but the former St Johnstone keeper got down well to save easily with what was his first involvement since picking the ball out of the net.
Half-Time: Cowdenbeath 1-1 St Mirren
Surprisingly there were no changes for either side at half-time but it was surely only a matter of time before both managers made a raft of substitutions but the lack of them at the start of the second half meant that we would see some continuity to the play for a while at least.
Cowdenbeath had an opportunity to restore their lead from the kick-off, Mark Ramsay with a low drive from distance that found the wrong side of the post. Saints replied immediately with a half-chance of their own when Hasselbaink tried an ambitious chipped effort similar to that of McGowan’s in the first half but it was never in danger of troubling Flynn.
For all their attractive passing and creative play, Saints showed they were still capable of getting the ball to the frontmen from the back, Marc McAusland almost finding Hasselbaink in the box. However, just when you thought that the Second Disivion sided would begin to tire, they were ahead once again. A lovely ball from the left from Mark Ramsay found the head of Gregg Stewart whose powerful header found the back of the net from close range and once again it was harsh on Saints who had dominanted throughout.
As expected the changes came in their droves midway throught the second half and that affected both sides, in particular Saints who lacked the fluency to their play that was so evident in the first half. However, they still tried to get forward in search of an equaliser, Teale swinging in one of his trademark corners finding Thomson whose effort was blocked by Brett in the cowdenbeath defence.
However, despite being outplayed for most of the match, Colin Cameron’s men were clinical in front of goal when it mattered and they put this result beyond any doubt with five minutes remaining when Stewart grabbed his second goal of the game. The Blue Brazil striker picked up the ball just outside the box and his neat effort flew past substitute keeper Craig Samson into the bottom corner.
Full-Time: Cowdenbeath 3-1 St Mirren
St Mirren: Smith (Samson), van Zanten (Barron), Tesselaar (Carey), McAusland, Mair (McGregor), Goodwin, Teale, Thomson, Thompson, McGowan (McQuade), Hasselbaink (McLean).
Subs: McShane, Kennedy, McKernon.
Referee: Kevin Clancy.
Assistant Referee: Michael Banks.
Assistant Referee: Lorraine Clark.
Match pictures by Allan Picken – © Allan Picken Photography.