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Match Report: St Mirren 2-2 Spartans (5-3 on penalties)

St Mirren survived a real scare from Lowland League champions Spartans at the Simple Digital Arena tonight - coming from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 and claim a bonus point after a 5-3 penalty shoot-out win.

The Buddies were stunned as the Edinburgh side scored either side of the break through Jason Stevens and Scott Maxwell. 

But substitutes Stephen McGinn and Danny Mullen pulled Saints level, before 

Alan Stubbs took charge of St Mirren for the first time at the Saints' home ground and made six changes from the team that drew 0-0 with Kilmarnock on Friday night.

Ian McShane came into the team, while Danny Rogers and Josh Heaton were given debuts. There were also first starts for Jim Kellermann, Cody Cooke and Jeff King. Dropping to bench were Craig Samson, Cole Kpewaka, Stephen McGinn, Cameron MacPherson and Daniel Mullen, with Jordan Kirkpatrick missing out due to injury.

It was the visitors who took the lead in bizarre circumstances with just six minutes gone. The far side linesman raised his offside flag as Jason Stevens ran on to a pass by Jack Smith. The whole Saints defence stopped still at the sight of the flag, but Stevens ran through to slot beyond Danny Rogers. The forward looks despondent to see the linesman's flag being raised only for the referee to allays his fears and award the Lowland League champions the goal. The Saints players were furious, but found themselves 1-0 down. 

Cody Cooke, making his home debut for Saints, will feel he should have done better on 20 minutes when he rose highest to meet a decent Paul McGinn cross. But the striker's header was easy for Blair Carswell in the Spartans goal. 

Jim Kellermann, another home debutant, spurned a glorious chance to put Saints level five minutes before the break when he got on the end of an inch perfect cross form Jeff King. The midfielder was unmarked, but bulleted the header past the post.  

Half Time: St Mirren 0-1 Spartans 

Alan Stubbs clearly wasn't pleased with what he saw in the first half and responded by bringing Danny Mullen on at the interval in place of Kellermann.

Saints looked to spark themselves into life and had a good free kick opportunity when Cody Cooke was felled right on the edge of the box with the second half just a little over 20 seconds old. Half time sub Mullen and Jeff King stood over it with the latter curling a low shot straight at Carswell. 

Less than 10 minutes into the second half, the visitors almost doubled their lead with Danny Rogers at full stretch to deny Stevens a second with the striker's effort creeping into the top corner. 

It was only a mere delay though as Spartans would get their second just a minute later. Rogers came to punch clear, but only succeeding in pushing the ball straight to Scott Maxwell. With the keeper off his line, Maxwell lifted the ball high over him before it nestled into the back of the net to stun the Paisley crowd.

Alan Stubbs reacted by making two quick changes. Ross Stewart came on in place of Cody Cooke, while Stephen McGinn replaced Ian McShane. 

And trust the skipper to step up when it mattered. Less than three minutes after coming on, the midfielder rifled home after a corner to reduce the arrears. 

Just two minutes later Saints really ought to have levelled when Stewart, another sub, was sent racing clear on goal. The forward got on the end of a ball over the top but slammed his effort over. 

There was a scare for the home side when Jack Smith found himself in space inside the Buddies box but his attempt was straight at Rogers.

After that St Mirren battered the Lowland League side in an attempt to get on level terms. Stewart missed a good chance with a header over from around six yards out and Hayden Coulson crashing a curling free kick off the cross bar. 

Saints would be given a penalty with just 15 minutes to go when Ryan Flynn was tripped on his way into the box. Mullen stepped up and made no mistake from the spot to make it 2-2.

Spartans were living a charmed life heading into the final 10 minutes Carswell denying a Mullen header at point blank range and then making another big save from Cammy Smith. Mullen protested that he had scored when a header came off the underside of the bar, before Carswell made a stunning stop to deny Smith once again.

And so, for the second game running, Saints would head to penalties. Like Friday night, the Buddies would claim this bonus point with Ross Stewart, Paul McGinn, Ryan Flynn, Danny Mullen and Cammy Smith all netting from 12 yards. 

Full Time: St Mirren 2-2 Spartans (St Mirren win 5-3 on penalties to gain bonus point)

St Mirren: Rogers, McGinn, Baird, Heaton, Coulson, McShane (McGinn 56), Flynn, Kellermann (Mullen 45), Smith, King, Cooke (Stewart 55)
Subs Not Used: Samson, Kpekawa, MacPherson, Erhahon

Spartans: Carswell, Cennerazzo, Brown, Tolmie, Corbett, Herd, J.Smith (Girdwood 78), McFarland, Greenhill, Maxwell (Bremner 62), Stevens (Atkinson 70)
Subs Not Used: Costello, Bremner, Stevenson, Dawson, Dishington

Referee: Alan Newlands
Assistant Referee: Andrew McWilliams
Assistant Referee: David Burns

Attendance: 1,430 

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