St Mirren 1 Hibernian 0: Van Zanten's sublime strike fires up Saints

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The Independent Online

Promoted sides often have their wings clipped before the autumn but St Mirren are still ascending after a celestial strike from David van Zanten yesterday sent them up to third place in the Scottish Premier League.

The right-back's sublime 39th-minute volley decided this contest at Love Street against a Hibernian side who were a shadow of the team that took Rangers apart a fortnight ago.

St Mirren's manager, Gus MacPherson, kept faith during the summer with the unheralded players who took the Paisley side up and challenged them to show the outside world that they were capable of playing in the top flight.

Van Zanten, a young Irishman who was picked up from Celtic, did just that and completed an Edinburgh double for Saints, who have already won at Hearts this season.

The visitors arrived having endured yet another week in which their manager, Tony Mowbray, has been linked with yet another job in England. The former Middlesbrough player's impressive work at Easter Road - on a strict budget - has not gone unnoticed at West Bromwich Albion, where Bryan Robson's departure has left a vacancy.

Sadly for Mowbray, his two best players, Scott Brown and Kevin Thomson, were missing after being sent off last week against Falkirk and that contributed to a lack of drive and invention in the Hibernian midfield. It was 25 minutes before the visitors created an opening, when Ivan Sproule's menacing cross was narrowly missed by Merouane Zemmama's attempt to fashion a diving header.

Then, Hibernian's other Moroccan, Abdessalam Benjelloun showed great skill to carve St Mirren open on two occasions but wasted both, overhitting one pass to Dean Shiels and greedily shooting at Tony Bullock when Sproule was screaming for a pass.

However, just when the game looked as if might be suffocated by ineptitude, Van Zanten conjured up a sublime moment of skill to put St Mirren in front. The right-back profited from a fine diagonal ball by Simon Lappin before thrashing a dipping right-foot volley over the goalkeeper Zibi Malkowski from the edge of the box.

Hibernian were stung and Zemamma almost equalised within two minutes but the Moroccan midfielder saw his deft free-kick come back off the post. The second half was a far more entertaining affair, peppered by fine saves from Bullock and Malkowski, however the contest might have been different had the referee, Stuart Dougal, punished a handball by St Mirren's Kirk Broadfoot.

John Sutton responded for the hosts with a clever stepover and shot that narrowly flew over. Hibernian's anxiety grew as the substitute Steven Fletcher saw his goalbound volley blocked by Van Zanten and the Edinburgh side sensed it would not be their day when Bullock produced a breathtaking save to paw away Benjelloun's hooked shot.

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