St Mirren boss Oran Kearney was glad to see Gary McKenzie make his long-awaited return to action in Saturday’s crucial 2-1 win over Dundee.
The 33-year-old defender was back in the side for the first time since last April after recovering from an Achilles injury.
He was as stunned as any Saints player inside the Simple Digital Arena when Sunderland loanee Ethan Robson swept in his first goal for the Taysiders within a minute of the kick-off.
However, Saints showed their mettle and in the 12th minute attacker Danny Mullen, starting for the first time since December 5, levelled from a Duckens Nazon cross.
Midfielder Brad Lyons, on loan from Blackburn Rovers, headed in his first St Mirren goal in the 58th minute and helped by former Dundee player McKenzie, the Paisley side survived some late pressure to go two points clear of Jim McIntyre’s side with seven Ladbrokes Premiership fixtures remaining.
Kearney said: “Gary is a top pro and he has worked extremely hard with Alex McQueen (physio) to get back.
“It has been a long year. I have done those injuries myself and I know it is like when you come to that end point and you are itching to play again.
“Our form has been as good as it has been for the last six weeks and there hasn’t been the opportunity to put him in.
“He is a top pro, he hasn’t chapped my door once or asked questions, he has kept his head down and trained hard and waited his chance with Ethan Erhahon moving out (suspended) we rearranged it a bit and I felt it was the right moment to let Gary loose again.
“I felt his overall performance was outstanding, typified by the block he made in time added on when he throws everything at it to get his body in the way.”
“We have to do better, ” said McIntyre, whose side felt the wrath of over 1,600 travelling fans at the end.
“The second goals is ridiculous. We have men in place, we don’t pick up.
“It is a free header at the back post, a free run for the midfielder, our midfielder passes him on to our centre back who already has a striker to deal with and that is just not doing your job and we got punished.
“And after that, St Mirren deserved it and the players have been told, if they want to get out o the situation they are in, they will have to stand up and be counted more than they did.”