saints v aberdeen
ABERDEEN0 ST MIRREN1
GARETH Wardlaw was the St Mirren hero last night as the Buddies guaranteed themselves another season of SPL football.
The big striker slammed home the winner after 65 minutes to earn a priceless 1-0 victory over Aberdeen at Pittodrie.
In the end, a point would have been enough to ward off relegation as bottom dogs Hamilton Accies crashed to a 1-0 defeat at St Johnstone but the win will delight Buddies boss Danny Lennon.
It also means that, if Lennon’s men can defeat the Perth Saints at home on Saturday and Aberdeen lose to Hibernian, the Paisley club may still finish the season in 10th place.
Wardlaw was handed a rare start against the Dons, while Jure Travner was brought back into the team following his red card shame against Hamilton earlier this month.
There was plenty of huffing and puffing from both sets of players as the first half developed, but there was a distinct lack of quality on show.
Both teams were giving away silly free-kicks, with Travner being handed a few chances to swing the ball into the Aberdeen penalty area, but the Dons rearguard coped with whatever the Slovenian could hurl their way.
The Saints faithful were also keeping tabs on what was happening at McDiarmid Park and they were handed a massive boost after 30 minutes of play when news filtered through from Perth that Mark McLaughlin had been red-carded for denying St Johnstone hitman Andy Jackson a goalscoring opportunity as he made his way into the Hamilton penalty box.
Much to the delight of St Mirren’s travelling fans, Liam Craig netted the resultant spot-kick for the Perth Saints.
However, there was still work to be done at Pittodrie and the Buddies were finding themselves under increasing pressure from the home team.
With the first half drawing to a close, Aberdeen midfielder Rob Milsom tried to take advantage of a slip by John Potter but the Saints defence recovered to avert the danger.
And, just moments later, Ryan Jack made his way towards the St Mirren goal, but Steven Thomson was on hand to make a decisive block.
As the half-time whistle blew, neither team had managed to make the breakthrough.
Lennon will have hoped to have his players fired up for the second half and, within three minutes of the restart, Wardlaw earned a booking for a challenge on Dons defender Nikola Vujadinovic.
Saints were enjoying a decent start to the second period and, after 52 minutes, Thomson was given the chance to swing in a free-kick from the left but Jamie Langfield was on hand to make a save.
However, with 65 minutes played, Langfield was helpless to prevent Wardlaw from grabbing the opening goal for St Mirren.
Wardlaw was teed up by Darren McGregor and fired home from close range.
Just three minutes later, the goalscorer was replaced by Craig Dargo as Lennon freshened things up.
Steven Smith became the first Aberdeen player to earn a yellow card following a challenge on Thomson.
St Mirren continued to work hard and Jim Goodwin fired in a long-range shot but his effort was blocked by Derek Young.
That sparked the Dons into life and, for a 10-minute spell, most of the play headed towards the St Mirren goal but the visitors stood firm.
With time running out, Nick Blackman picked up a yellow card for a foul on David Barron.
David van Zanten then joined the action, with Barron being substituted.
It was the last meaningful action of the match and, as the final whistle sounded, the St Mirren players and fans were able to celebrate – safe in the knowledge that, late on a Tuesday night, the SPL relegation issue had finally been put to bed.