Mehmet strikes late to save Saints

Chris Maguire’s first-half poacher’s goal after Paul Gallacher had

spilled Craig Bryson’s modest shot looked to have continued

Kilmarnock’s superb recent form under new manager Jimmy Calderwood.

But Mehmet struck in the 82nd minute with a glorious volley from 14

yards out to give Gus MacPherson’s side hope that they can

kick-start their league campaign. Kilmarnock at least preserved an

unbeaten record which stretches back to January 23, a seven-game

run which has seen the Ayrshire side move well clear of the bottom

of the league after the disappointment of the last days of Jim

Jefferies’ eight-year reign. But the point was of much greater

significance to St Mirren, who have not won in the league since

January 12 and had picked up just one point from a possible 18

before the game to leave them perilously close to Falkirk, surprise

winners on Saturday, in the relegation zone. It was just their 12th

goal in 12 away SPL games this season and Mehmet’s strike brought

the Co-Operative Insurance Cup finlists – who have beaten

Kilmarnock three times already this term – their first league draw

on the road this campaign. Calderwood made two changes to the side

which defeated St Johnstone, key defender Manuel Pascali returning

after a leg injury to replace Tim Clancy while Conor Sammon came in

for Danny Invincibile in midfield. MacPherson was without Jack Ross

as a result of the knee injury he picked up against Rangers and he

was replaced by Steven Robb in the only alteration to the team

which suffered a Scottish Cup exit at Ibrox. St Mirren betrayed

their recent dismal run of form by knocking the ball about

beautifully in the opening minute and from the corner their fine

play produced, the visitors had a couple of solid strikes blocked

by timely Kilmarnock challenges. It took the home side until the

ninth minute to create their first chance, Maguire breaking clear

down the right and crossing towards Sammon, who failed to strike

his shot cleanly first time and allowed the visiting defence to

clear. St Mirren could have taken the lead three minutes later when

English striker Mehmet rose impressively above the Kilmarnock

defence but failed to direct Andy Dorman’s corner on target. St

Mirren were far more comfortable in the first quarter of the match

and came close to capitalising on their superiority in the 27th

minute when Michael Higdon met Dorman’s free-kick with a powerful

header which forced Cameron Bell to tip over his bar for a corner.

Nothing came of the subsequent set-piece but the men from Paisley

were threatening the Kilmarnock goal again within a minute, Dorman

cutting in from the left to fire a right-foot shot which Bell

handled competently. The Ayrshire side’s keeper also had to be

alert on the half-hour mark when he dived at the feet of Steven

Thomson after the playmaker had surged through the home defence

from the centre of midfield. Then, typical of the differing

fortunes currently being enjoyed by both clubs, Kilmarnock took the

lead in the 32nd minute against the run of play when Maguire, on

loan from Aberdeen, scrambled the ball home from three yards out

after Gallacher spilled Bryson’s shot across goal. Maguire, who

also scored in last week’s win over St Johnstone, almost doubled

his tally – and Kilmarnock’s lead -10 minutes later when he

collected a headed flick from Kevin Kyle and volleyed just wide of

Gallacher’s right-hand post. Calderwood made a change at half-time,

Simon Ford – who had ensured a poor half by his standards and was

continually beaten in the air by Higdon – being replaced by Rob

Kiernan. While the young Irishman started solidly in defence, the

substitution did nothing to alter the pattern of the game as the

visitors continued to look sharper in attack. Calderwood’s men did

mount a dangerous counter-attack on the hour mark though, Sammon’s

direct running opening the way for Kyle to shoot powerfully enough

for Gallacher to be happy just to turn the ball away for a corner.

MacPherson made a double switch in the 64th minute when Graham

Carey and Allan Johnston entered the fray at the expense of Robb

and Hugh Murray. Maguire should have scored his second of the

afternoon three minutes later when he sidefooted Sammon’s inviting

cross just wide of the right-hand post. Perhaps sensing a late

charge from the visitors, Calderwood took off striker Sammon and

replaced him with defender Clancy with 20 minutes remaining, Jamie

Hamill moving forward to midfield to accommodate the substitute at

right-back. St Mirren continued to press for the equaliser and

Higdon volleyed just wide on 72 with Bell motionless in the

Kilmarnock goal. Kilmarnock were beginning to assert some authority

in midfield but Calderwood decided to make another switch, Jamie

Adams replacing Hamill with nine minutes remaining. St Mirren then

got the equaliser their play had warranted when Mehmet superbly

volleyed into the left-hand corner of the net in the 82nd minute

after Kilmarnock failed to clear their lines on several occasions.

Both sides pushed for a late winner but neither side could carve

out a clear-cut chance as the game ended in deadlock.