JOHN SUTTON scored on what was his 100th start for St Mirren last night. It could prove to be one of his finest.

Amid the howling wind and swirling rain at Cappielow, the striker slid along the soaking turf on 56 minutes to put his team 3-1 up against old foes Morton in a barnstorming Renfrewshire derby.

While goals from Stelios Demetriou and Stevie Mallan either side of an Andy Murdoch strike gave Jack Ross’ team the lead twice, it was Sutton’s strike which allowed the travelling Buddies the chance to breathe that bit easier in the bracing conditions. It also killed off any chance of a Morton comeback and allowed Gary MacKenzie to seal an emphatic 4-1 win late on.

Off the bottom of the Championship table on Saturday for the first time since September – albeit on goal difference – Ross witnessed a committed performance from his team haul the Paisley club out of the relegation play-off place and into eighth.

It was a victory the team in red and white richly deserved. They coped with the conditions better, their link up play was intuitive, their defending slightly less ropey. Most importantly, though, they looked like they wanted it more.

The first real chance of the match fell to St Mirren on 18 minutes when they came within inches of taking the lead. Rory Loy nipped in to take advantage of some dithering in the Morton defence with his bulleted ball along the face of goal being just missed by the sliding Cammy Smith at the front post and Sutton at the back.

Morton responded immediately as Murdoch burst into the box only to fire straight at Billy O’Brien. It would be a miss that was punished within a matter of seconds at the other end as St Mirren struck on 20 minutes.

A Mallan pass found left-back Stelios Demetriou 20 yards from the home box. The Cypriot turned outside then back in as the goal opened up for his sweeping right-foot shot at the edge of the area to swish along the sodden turn and into Derek Gaston’s bottom right corner. Cue bedlam behind the goal in the Wee Dublin End as several St Mirren fans rushed the pitch in celebration and hypothermia.

Somehow, though, their lead lasted just nine minutes.

The home side broke on the counter attack through Michael Doyle. With Demetriou nowhere to be seen, the Morton man was afforded time to pick out the inrushing Murdoch 12 yards out to slam the ball low under O’Brien for his first in Morton colours since signing from Rangers. Lawrence Shankland, who was on loan at Saints last season, would be denied a dramatic strike by Jack Baird seconds later who somehow managed to deflect his close-range bundled effort just wide.

Just moments before this game went screeching into the interval, one more glorious chance would present itself, this time for the windswept visitors. A quick Smith Crossfield pass found Demetriou bulldozing his way through the heart of the Morton defence. He jinked back on his left to unleash bound for the top corner if it weren’t for a heroic block from Doyle to whip the ball inches over the bar.

If it was a strong finish to the first half for St Mirren, their start to the second was even more formidable as they struck 57 seconds in. A looping Demetriou throw in bounced and bobbled its way along the edge of the Morton box for Mallan to swipe a swirling low shot away from Gaston and into the bottom corner.

When Sutton turned in Loy's low cross midway through the second, it was game over. There was style time for St Mirren to find one more, though.

It came eight minutes from time and a Mallan corner. The midfielder stood the ball up in the box and, with Gaston stranded, MacKenzie had the simple task to nod into a gaping net.

While St Mirren can now go to Falkirk with the momentum of six league games unbeaten behind them, Jim Duffy’s men, now five games without a win, slip down to fourth place.