Goncalves looks the real deal again as he grabs limelight in Buddies win

THERE was a bit of chat doing the rounds last night in football circles about cult heroes.

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St Mirren striker Esmael Goncalves celebrates his opening goal with his team-mates during their 2-1 win over Inverness
St Mirren striker Esmael Goncalves celebrates his opening goal with his team-mates during their 2-1 win over Inverness

St Mirren will feel like they've unearthed one of their own this week.

Esmael Goncalves enjoyed an impressive debut at the National Stadium on Sunday as Saints ripped apart Celtic's treble ambitions, but just to show it wasn't just a fluke the on-loan Portuguese forward was it at it again for the 67 minutes that he was on the pitch in Paisley.

It wasn't just the Rio Ave' aces goal against Inverness, as decent as it was, but his all-round play that caught the eye.

Strong, industrious and with a deft touch, Goncalves looks like a decent bit of business.

And given St Mirren's need to develop an instinct for killing teams off, he could well help out in that department. Stephen Thompson, who has enjoyed a fine season so far for the Paisley side, took that honour last night as Saints took all three points after an exacting joust against high-flying Inverness.

"He's had a fantastic impact coming in but there is still more to come from him," said Danny Lennon, the St Mirren boss. "It has been a great week for us. We've beaten the top two sides in the country."

It was vital that after the celebrations that greeted their weekend defeat of Celtic at Hampden that the Buddies didn't allow it all to go flat.

The Scottish Communities League Cup final will give them something to look forward to; a day out, a chance of silverware and everything else that it brings.

But of more pressing importance, should be the lift that it can give them in the SPL. Lennon's side started the campaign promisingly and even dreamt of a top-six finish.

Such ambitions are not entirely out of their hands now, but in order to achieve that they need a sustained run of decent results. Given how tight it is in the bottom half of the table, a couple of victories could really enhance their league position.

Last night's result was a step in the right direction. By the time the interval sounded the game was level – a soft penalty on the cusp of the break gave Terry Butcher's side a way back in – but by then St Mirren ought to have been further ahead.

Goncalves had opened the scoring midway through the first period when he linked beautifully with Paul McGowan.

The midfielder was the architect of the goal, creating the chance from nothing with a little dink over the approaching Caley defence; Goncalves met it on his chest before lashing his shot into the net.

McGowan, back after his shoulder operation, is another from whom much will be expected over these coming months. Creative and with an eye for the telling pass, he is capable of making something out of nothing.

DETERMINED to hog the limelight, though, Goncalves ought to have had the chance to stretch that lead from the spot when he was upended by Graeme Shinnie, only for whistler Alan Muir to wave play on.

Caley tried their luck from an Owain Tudor Jones free-kick that was tipped over by Craig Samson in the early stages, and they continued to press late on.

As their league position would indicate, however, there was a tenacity to Inverness and St Mirren lived dangerously at times.

Shinnie looped a free-kick over Samson's crossbar while Richie Foran was denied by the Saints keeper from close range.

St Mirren, though, had the last word when Thompson bundled the ball into the net to clinch the win.

It was Gonclaves once again, however, who was the name on the lips of the St Mirren punters.Another week or two and he'll have a song in his honour.

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