ST MIRREN battled to a 3-1 win at Livingston on Saturday despite playing nearly an hour with 10 men.

Gary Irvine saw red in the 33rd minute for a rash lunge on Dale Carrick with the match poised at 1-1. But Gavin Reilly struck twice from close range in nine second-half minutes to send Saints back to Paisley with all three points.

Buddies manager Jack Ross was sent to the stands for protesting that Stelios should have been allowed treatment on the pitch, after suffering a heavy challenge from Danny Mullen, but he could have no complaints about his side’s performance as they ended Livingston’s 18-match unbeaten run.

Ross made four changes from the side that scraped past East Kilbride last Tuesday. Gary Irvine, Craig Samson, Stelios and Gavin Reilly came back into the side as Ross opted for a back three for the first time this season.

St Mirren quickly seemed at ease in their new system. But it was a bit of good fortune that put them in front.

In the ninth minute Stephen McGinn picked up the ball in midfield and drove forward through a crowd of bodies, he put in a cross from the right for Reilly which Livi captain Craig Halkett swung a boot at to try and clear, but the ball looped over Neil Alexander into the far corner of the net.

Saints didn’t let the tempo drop as minutes later Lewis Morgan played Reilly through and his shot from a tight angle went inches wide.

But the home side responded and Craig Samson was forced into a top class one-handed save from Scott Pittman’s header.

Livi wouldn’t have to wait long for the leveller and it was Halkett who made amends for his earlier blunder. Josh Mullin swung in a corner kick and the defender outmuscled McGinn to bullet a header into the corner of the net.

The game’s first real flashpoint came after 33 minutes. As Carrick and Irvine contested a ball on the St Mirren right, the Saints defender appeared to lunge in on the stretch and make contact with Carrick and referee Craig Thomson had no hesitation to show Irvine the red card.

The Buddies struggled to cope with the numerical disadvantage as Livi turned the screw. Mullin’s cross from the right was perfect for Raffaele De Vita who out jumped Morgan and got his header on target but it was comfortably held by Samson.

Saints were under pressure again at the start of the second half but against the run of play the away side retook the lead in the 51st minute.

An Ian McShane free-kick from deep was cleared only as far as Cammy Smith, the midfielder’s shot from the edge of the area was parried by Alexander and Reilly was first to it to sidefoot home.

Things got even better for Saints on the hour and it was that man Reilly again. A McShane free-kick from the right was brilliantly headed back across goal by Stelios and Reilly, on the stretch and with the angle against him, got a foot to the ball to put Saints two to the good.

The Saints were on the wrong end of the law again when manager Jack Ross was sent to the stands for protesting after Stelios was crudely taken down by Danny Mullen and referee Thomson refused to allow the Cypriot to be treated on the pitch.

Livi struggled to break down the 10 men of Saints as they sat deep and absorbed the pressure. With five minutes to go Nicky Cadden squared for fellow sub Nikolay Todorov, but his sidefooted strike bounced back off the crossbar and was cleared.

St Mirren: Samson, Irvine, Buchanan, Eckersley, L.Smith, McGinn, McShane, Stelios, C.Smith (Kirkpatrick, 74), Morgan, Reilly (Sutton ,67)