Danny Mullen scored the winning penalty for St Mirren

St Mirren beat Kilmarnock 3-2 on penalties after an exciting Scottish League Cup opener finished goalless.

Lee Erwin ought to have netted for Killie after 12 minutes, but it was the youthful, dynamic Buddies who created the better opportunities.

Jack Baird blazed over with the goal at his mercy in the second half after Danny Mullen, Cammy Smith and Jordan Kirkpatrick spurned big chances.

Mullen scored the decisive spot-kick, earning Alan Stubbs’ side two points.

It means the former Hibernian and Rotherham United boss begins his tenure in Paisley with victory.

Steve Clarke’s Kilmarnock finish the evening with a solitary point in Group H.

The game was the first of 80 group stage fixtures between now and the end of July before the eight group winners and four best runners-up join European representatives Celtic, Aberdeen, Rangers and Hibs in the last 16.

St Mirren took a healthy following to Rugby Park for Alan Stubbs’ first competitive game in charge

St Mirren, with three new players in their line-up, started well, but one of the old guard, Baird, made the mistake from which Kilmarnock should have opened the scoring.

Jordan Jones burgled the ball from him and set up Erwin, but his shot was straight at Craig Samson in the Buddies goal.

In the wake of that, though, Mullen was inches from converting a delightful Ryan Flynn cross, before the excellent Middlesbrough loanee Hayden Coulson embarked on a glorious run which led to Smith firing a volley into the ground, then off the crossbar.

Stubbs’ newly-promoted team weaved some lovely interplay around the Killie box, and when Mullen sent Kirkpatrick scurrying into the area, the midfielder could only drag his effort wide as an entertaining first half ended without a goal.

The Paisley club lost Kirkpatrick to a second-half knee injury, and he was replaced by another summer signing and debutant, Jeff King.

Jamie MacDonald produced a brilliant reaction save to deny Danny Mullen from close range

It was King who curled in a teasing cross from the right, met by Mullen at the near post, but the striker’s effort was brilliantly blocked at point-blank range by Jamie MacDonald.

The rebound fell to Baird, the goal was gaping, but on the swivel, the big defender scooped his volley over.

Come full-time, each team was guaranteed a point, but there was a bonus on offer for the shootout winners.

The penalty duel actually threatened to continue the goal drought. Erwin and Buddies captain Stephen McGinn had their spot-kicks saved. Killie’s Gary Dicker lashed his high into the stand.

Paul McGinn then Chris Burke netted to level proceedings at 1-1, Kirk Broadfoot was denied by Samson and Coulson struck confidently beyond MacDonald to nudge Saints ahead.

Although new signing Ross Millen scored for the home team, Mullen stepped up to secure St Mirren the extra point and a satisfying start to life under Stubbs.

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