LIAM SMITH feels his decision to join St Mirren on a season-long loan from Hearts has been vindicated with the right-back getting regular game-time under manager Jack Ross.

The defender spent much of last season in and out of the Tynecastle side’s first team, making 12 starts, but being on the bench 18 times last term. 

The Edinburgh team had a raft of injuries in the full-back position earlier this year, having to draft in youth team players to fill the void.

But the 21-year-old, who has only missed one game for the Buddies this league campaign and bagged his first goal for the Paisley side on Saturday in their 2-0 win over Queen of the South, feels his choice was the right one.

He said: “That was a decision I had to make between me and Hearts before I went. I knew places might have opened up there, but I don’t have any regrets coming here. I’m playing week in, week out and I think that was the main thing for me. I’m enjoying it and if we can go on and win the league then that would be great.”

The Scotland Under-21 international curled in a glorious opener for Saints after just four minutes against Queens, with the league leaders eventually going on to win 2-0.

It looked like the type of finish any attacker would be proud of, let alone someone whose only senior goal prior to Saturday was against Queen’s Park for East Fife in 2014. And it was a big surprise to his team-mates and manager Ross as well.

The right-back added: “They’ve never seen me do that in training never mind in a game.

“It opened up for me and I didn’t get closed down, and it was a decent strike in the end.”

With Smith and centre-back Harry Davis both getting on the scoresheet at the Paisley 2021 Stadium on Saturday, it means the Paisley outfit have had 14 different goalscorers in the Championship so far.

Bar the January signings, one of the regular starters not to score this season is midfielder Kyle Magennis.

And Smith quipped he’ll be desperate to end the drought after getting some stick at training.

He said: “We were joking about it in training last week; the boys that were yet to score.

“Magennis is one of the only ones so he might be shooting from all sorts of angles in the next game.”

With St Mirren out of the William Hill Scottish Cup, Ross’s men now have a week’s break before they play third-place Livingston on February 17.

They now have considerable breathing space over nearest 
challenegrs Dundee United in second place, sitting 14 points ahead of the Tannadice outfit after their game against Inverness Caley Thistle was postponed on Saturday.

And Smith believes it will deal another blow for the Tannadice side, who have two games in hand and a sizeable gap to make up if they want to realise their goal of automatic promotion back to the Premiership.

The right-back added: “For them looking at the league table when it’s 14 points it probably psychologically affects them.

“We know if we just keep knocking down the games with wins we know where we’ll be at the end of the season, that’s the main thing.”