A sensational strike from Nick Blackman gave Motherwell a share of the spoils at St Mirren Park this afternoon.
Saints had earlier taken the lead late in the first half when Gareth Wardlaw met a Paul McGowan cross from the right to put his team in the driving seat.
But Motherwell pushed and pushed for a leveller and it eventually came on the 74th minute when Blackman hammered a stunning drive high into the top corner leaving Craig Samson absolutely helpless.
Craig Brown opted to start with the same side that lost at Easter Road seven days ago. But whilst the personnel remained the same, the side lined up slightly different with Blackman operating in a slightly wider role with Murphy utilised through the centre.
Both teams started bright but it was the Steelmen who would create the first real chance through Alan Gow. The former Falkirk man launched a stinging free-kick that forced Samson into a decent one-handed save at the expense of a corner.
Two minutes later, another free-kick, this time from Tom Hateley again caused problems for the keeper. His shot took a wicked deflection off the wall but the deflection proved kind for the Buddies as it cannoned back off the post before eventually being hooked clear.
Motherwell continued to pick away and a long range effort from Blackman came within an inch of nestling in the top corner but skimmed over the top of the bar.
Saints survived and almost scored somewhat against the run of play just two minutes after Blackman’s strike. David van Zanten sent a stinging half-volley just wide of Darren Randolph’s left hand upright with the former Charlton man at full stretch.
It was to prove the shot across the bow that the Steelmen failed to heed as Saints took the lead eight minutes before the interval. A corner from the right wasn’t properly cleared allowing Paul McGowan to collect on the right flank. His cross found Gareth Wardlaw inside the six yard box and he flicked a header in off the right hand post.
Patrick Cregg fired a free-kick way over the bar and Higdon blasted a low shout bouncing wide of Randolph’s post before the interval but St Mirren couldn’t add to their tally.
Into the second forty-five and a completely uneventful first ten minutes was rudely interrupted by Higdon who, after turning well inside the box, fluffed an effort high over the bar.
It took Motherwell fifteen minutes to register an effort at goal but an Alan Gow free-kick from twenty yards out failed to trouble Samson.
Set pieces were causing problems at both ends and Higdon came within an inch of putting his side two in front but was denied by a brilliant Randolph block. His low strike clipped the wall, sending the ball spinning in the opposite direction but the Irishman did exceptionally well to get a toe out and blocked.
It was a crucial save and proved the catalyst for the Steelmen getting back into the game.
The leveller should’ve came through Steve Jennings; Alan Gow played in Chris Humphrey and his cutback from the touchline was perfect for the Liverpudlian but his low shot from sixteen yards screwed wide of the post when a goal seemed certain.
Steven Saunders launched a volley way over the bar before ‘Well finally got level and it was a goal of some quality from Nick Blackman after seventh-four minutes.
The on-loan Blackburn man picked up a neat pass from substitute Ross Forbes before turning and unleashing an unstoppable strike that rocketed past Samson into the top right hand corner. There was bedlam behind the goal, even more so when the 10-goal hitman jumped in to join them in sheer jubilation.
The goal gave the Fir Parkers obvious confidence and they almost made it 2-1 when Gow combined with Sutton inside the area only for his controlled side footer to curl inches wide of the post.
To make things worse for Saints, Michael Higdon was sent for an early bath for a second bookable offence. Whilst his trip on Stephen Craigan wasn’t the worst challenge in the game, the former Falkirk man had been lucky to remain on the pitch after lashing out at Jamie Murphy whilst already on a yellow card during the first forty-five.
That meant a late flurry for the Steelmen who went in search of a winner. Mark Reynolds met a Hateley corner from the right but could only head over. John Sutton cushion a header of his own narrowly wide and, with virtually the last kick of the ball, Ross Forbes came within a whisker of the winner but his low bouncing shot dropped just wide of the post with Samson beaten.
A game where Motherwell probably just shaded it but a draw was probably a fair result all things considered. Inverness’ impressive win over Hibs means Brown’s men drop to fifth in the table with third place Hearts the visitors to Fir Park next Sunday.
[tab:As it happened]
90+3: FT: St Mirren 1: 1 Motherwell
90+3: Free-kick for Saints on the edge. Last kick of the ball stuff…
89mins: Ross Forbes almost gives Motherwell the winner but his bouncing strike goes just wide.
85mins: Corner from the right is headed over by Reynolds! A Sutton header also drops wide as Well go in search of a winner.
84mins: Higdon sent off for a foul on Craigan. He’s been walking a tightrope for most of the game,
83mins: Sutton booked for dissent. He joins Blackman who was carded after his goal for juming into the ‘Well fans behind the goal.
79mins: Almost 2-1 ‘Well! Great interplay on the right. Gow then flashes a shot just wide of the post. So unlucky there.
74min: What a bloody belter from Blackman! Turn and strike from the edge of the area almost takes the net down…
GOAL BLACKMAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WHAT A SCREAMER FROM THE BLACKBURN ROVERS MAN!
69mins: Saunders fires a volley over the bar following a Humphrey corner.
65mins: Great chance for Motherwell. Gow plays Humphrey in: his cut-back finds Jennings but he screws his shot wide from 16 yards.
65mins: Wardlaw booked for a bad challenge on Hateley.
64mins: Saints almost make it two. Higdon free-kick hits the wall but Randolph makes a great save with his foot. Kept ‘Well in the game!
61mins: John Sutton is on for Jamie Murphy.
60mins: Alan Gow hits a curling effort into the arms of Samson! First chance of the second half for ‘Well but it’s easy for the Saints GK.
55mins: Higdon has the first chance of the second half but his turn and shot from close range goes high wide and not so handsome.
46mins: Second half gets underway,….
45+3: Half Time: St Mirren 1 – 0 Motherwell
45+3: Shot from Higdon flies way wide of post: Big oooohhhh from the home fans but it was never going near the goal.
45+1: Looks to be in trouble and is hobbling very bad. Not the first time a bad challenge has been missed by the ref I am afraid.
45+1: Blackman is down again after a heavy kick. He looks hurt and JP is on to check. No free-kick from the ref though.
45mins: Ball is eventually cleared but Higdon manages a shot that bounces harmlessly wide of the post.
44mins: Saunders gives a needless corner kick there after a slice. Hope it’s not costly.
42mins: Cregg free-kick troubles the back row of the North Stand more than Darren Randolph. Terrible effort…
41mins: Reynolds booked for a foul on Higdon. Looked like a stumble from the defender but a foul and, as such, a yellow card.
37mins: That was the first shot on target for Lennon’s men and they take the lead.
37mins: Cross from the right by McGowan finds the former Cowdenbeath man in the six yard box and he heads home! Poor goal for ‘Well to lose
GOAL St Mirren. Gareth Wardlaw!
35mins: Higdon is lucky to stay on the pitch after swiping down Murphy! Can’t believe the ref hasn’t booked him after the card to Cregg.
34mins: Cregg booked for a late foul on Hateley. Not sure if it was for back chat or the actual challenge itself?
32mins: Absolutely freezing here at Saints. Ref isn’t helping with constantly stopping and starting things.
24mins: Saints are starting to get the upper hand here. Few corners and half things on the edge of the box.
23mins: Down the other end, van Zaten dipped a lovely half volley from the edge of the box just wide of the post. That too was close.
22mins: Stinging long range drive from Blackman goes a foot or so over the bar… Close one.
16mins: Police go in and remove some ‘Well fans for standing (I think). Meanwhile, Higdon is booked for a challenge on Randolph.
14mins: Hateley hits the free-kick and it’s deflected onto the post… So close to 1-0 to ‘Well there!
13mins: Another free-kick for the Steelmen at the edge of the box. Potter on Gow!
12mins: Free-kick from Gow from about 30 yards forces Samson to touch over. Think it was heading over anyway but GK was right to make sure.
11mins: van Zaten challenge on Blackman draws a foul. The big striker looks in some pain as he hobbles away. Hope he’s ok…
7mins: Saints win a corner on the right: taken by McGowan but off the line by Hammell. Ref had blown up for a foul anyway…
2mins: Kenny McLean has the first attempt at goal for Saints but his effort flies into the car park, Hope my brief is okay! :-s
Motherwell manager Craig Brown:
“I am never satisfied with a point but when you are one goal down and you get a goal back, you have to be happy with a point.
“Then for the rest of the game there was only one team going to win the game. But I need to credit St Mirren with a good performance; I said to our players that I saw them against Celtic and I think they had more possession when they hit the bar.
“I thought then that they were a good side and I thought they played better against Celtic than they did against us, which is a compliment to our team.
“Our first half performance should have been better, but in the second half we were. Even in the first half Darren Randolph hadn’t really a save to make in the game, while we hit the post at the other end.
“I am biased but I think everyone is agreeing a draw was the right result but I think we just edged it.”
St Mirren manager Danny Lennon:
“Over the piece I’ve probably not got any qualms with a draw. I felt the first half we defended very well but I’d like to have seen us taking more care of the ball.
“I was absolutely delighted for Gareth Wardlaw. I think his efforts since coming here deserve more return than what he has at the moment so I was delighted to see him back on the scoresheet.
“We go in 1-0 up albeit Motherwell have a lot of possession, but they don’t really carve us open in the first half. Anything they have is more from dead ball situations and silly free-kicks we were giving away very cheaply.
“I felt for the initial period in the second half we could have taken another one to try to put the game more in control and that’s where I think we lost that wee bit of momentum. To be fair to Motherwell they asked questions, changed their system and stretched us again.
“They turned the momentum of the game in their favour. They got a great individual goal. The boy looks as if he’s got nothing and he turns wonderfully and gets a terrific finish. I’m not frightened to admit we were very much against it in the last 10 or 15 minutes.”