CRAIG SAMSON has backed St Mirren to continue their push for a first top-six SPL berth after the winter shutdown.

The Paisley men took their unbeaten run to three with a 1-1 home draw against Kilmarnock, and the visitors had a fine performance from keeper Cammy Bell to thank for a share of the spoils.

But with Saints now just five points away from the top half of the table, Samson says the best is yet to come.

The Saints No.1 said: "It is frustrating to only have the point to show for our efforts.

"But the pleasing thing for us is that we have taken eight points from a possible 12 over the festive period and have been unbeaten during that run.

"We are in a very strong position to kick on after the break.

"If anything it has come at the wrong time for us but that is football and when you see the conditions during this game it is a good thing.

"But things would have been better if we had got the win. Really, this is one that got away."

The Saints keeper believes his side have shown real character to respond to a six-game losing run that had dragged them into the relegation mire just a month ago.

He said: "We have come back strongly from that run and now have lost only to Celtic in our last eight games.

"That shows the character we have in the squad and that will be vital in the months ahead."

Saints took seven points from a possible nine from the three previous festive card outings, so Danny Lennon's men entered the Killie match on a hot streak.

Perhaps the two key ingredients in the Paisley revival have been the relocation of skipper Jim Goodwin to centre-back alongside Mark McAusland with Lee Mair dropped, and the return from injury for Paul McGowan.

But with only four minutes gone, Saints were dealt a blow when Jon Robertson brought down James Dayton and referee Brian Colvin pointed to the spot.

And Liam Kelly lashed home the resulting penalty.

It took 17 minutes before Killie keeper Bell was tested by McGowan's rising, 20-yard strike.

Moments later only a stunning save from Samson denied Paul Heffernan's header as the Ayrshire men threatened to go two up.

After the interval Saints continued to push for the equaliser and only tremendous saves from Bell denied Paul Dummett and David Barron.

But with 68 minutes gone Killie sub Mark O'Hara was deemed to have brought down Dougie Imrie and McGowan equalised from the spot.