Saints enjoy their moment in the sun

St Mirren 1 Celtic 0

St Mirren began yesterday on a high, at 30,000 feet on a pre-dawn Spain-bound flight to a week of warm-weather training, booked before they became the hot story of Scottish Cup quarter-finals weekend.

This victory on Saturday, courtesy of Billy Mehmet's second-half penalty, will gird them for the week's work. "Sun on our backs, and double sessions," said the terrier of a forward, Craig Dargo, who earned the spot-kick when felled from behind by Celtic's captain, Stephen McManus. If the only sessions this week are on a training pitch, it will be a surprise.

A week after Saints were mauled 7-0 at Celtic Park in the SPL, the penalty was a match-winner thanks to Mehmet, a 25-year-old London-born, Anglo-Irish Cockney of Turkish heritage, who started his footballing life at West Ham and wound up at St Mirren via Dunfermline. "Me and the boys went out and put a shift in," was his sweet summary of success.

If the precis of Mehmet's life is a mind-scrambler, so too was this shocking cup exit for Celtic and their numbed manager, Gordon Strachan. You have to trawl back through the record books 47 years and nine cup meetings to find the last time St Mirren sent Celtic crashing out, in March 1962. St Mirren will face Rangers in the semi-final next month after Walter Smith's side saw off Hamilton 5-1 at Ibrox yesterday. In the other tie, Falkirk take on the winners of Aberdeen and Dunfermline.

So Celtic start this week at a low, both floored and flawed. Strachan stated the obvious when he said: "We don't have consistency." Specifically, he lacks consistent strikers. In the SPL, Scott McDonald is Celtic's joint top scorer with 12 goals, the same as Georgios Samaras, but the Greek scored seven of his in a month at the start of the season.

Then there is Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, with two goals from 17 SPL games all season and none in six matches in other competitions. Strachan's faith in the Dutchman, 30, seems more misplaced by the week, and Hesselink's critics now include the former Celtic and Scotland midfielder Craig Burley, who articulated an opinion as withering as it is widespread.

"Vennegoor of Hesselink is over the hill," said Burley with a brutal frankness born not just of his professional punditry but from his status as an ex-Hoop trying to fathom their torpidity. "If the legs aren't gone, they are very much on their way," he added. "His lack of movement is showing... He always looks cumbersome."

Such tough-love judgements – combined with a dose of self-flagellation that most of Celtic's misfiring players should be administering – should, fans will hope, stir a response. They certainly will if McManus' "devastation" at costing his team the match is as genuine as it seemed.

Hampden, next weekend, would be the ideal arena for that response, in the League Cup final against Rangers. It is not a venue Celtic will be visiting for any other occasion this season. Unlike St Mirren, in the Scottish Cup semis and maybe beyond.

Goal: Mehmet pen (55) 1-0.

St Mirren (4-4-2): Smith; Ross, Potter, Haining, Camara; Murray, Dorman, Thomson, Brady; Mehmet, Dargo (Wyness, 90). Substitutes not used: Howard (gk), Hamilton, Barron, McGinn.

Celtic (4-4-2): Boruc; Hinkel, Caldwell, McManus, O'Dea (Conroy, 83); Nakamura, S Brown, Crosas (Samaras, 74), McGeady; McDonald, Vennegoor of Hesselink. Substitutes not used: M Brown (gk), Loovens, Hartley.

Referee: C Richmond.

Booked: St Mirren Dorman, Thomson; Celtic McManus, Vennegoor of Hesselink.

Man of the match: Dargo.

Attendance: 5,925.

Homecoming Scottish Cup semi-final draw: Rangers v St Mirren; Falkirk v Aberdeen or Dunfermline. Ties to be played on weekend of 25-26 April.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
News
The Swiss Re tower or 'Gherkin' was at one time the UK’s most expensive office when German bank IVG and private equity firm Evans Randall bought it
news
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on