Alan Temple at Hampden
Motherwell reached the final of the Scottish Cup with a sensational display against St Johnstone at Hampden this afternoon.
It’s the Steelmen’s first final in this competition since they won the trophy back in ’91, and the ‘Well fans will be hoping that is an omen, as the claret and amber hordes prepare to march upon Mount Florida once more on May 21st.
Fittingly, it was Motherwell legend and club captain Stephen Craigan who started the rout, heading past Peter Enckleman after a pinpoint Tom Hateley cross.
The Saints defence completely failed to deal with the superb Jamie Murphy throughout the game, and the Scotland under-21 star made it 2-0 with just 14 minutes on the clock, firing brilliantly past Enckleman.
The game was effectively ended as a contest in the most spectacular manner, as John Sutton lashed home a brilliant 30-yard drive.
Keith Lasley, Jamie Murphy and John Sutton also came close in a match which could have provided an even more comprehensive score-line. Murray Davidson and Danny Invincible came closest for the Saints, who worked diligently until the final whistle, but were unable to penetrate the stubborn ‘Well rearguard.
Motherwell come into this mammoth encounter on the back of a superb run of form, having gone four matches unbeaten and clinched top-six football in the preceding few weeks.
So, unsurprisingly Stuart McCall was keen to continue the momentum and go for the jugular from the outset, selecting an adventurous 4-4-2, with Chris Humphrey and quarter-final ‘Player of the Round’ Jamie Murphy attacking the wide expanses of Hampden.
There was a more cautious approach from a St Johnstone side who had only scored once in their previous eight SPL matches – and that was an own-goal – with Collin Samuel leading the line up front on his own. Captain Jody Morris returned from injury, while Michael Duberry also started at the heart of the Saints’ defence.
Despite the Saints’ chronic lack of recent goals they came out of the blocks firmly on the offensive, and within two minutes Darren Randolph had to be at his brilliant best. Danny Invincible powerfully headed an in-swinging cross towards goal, and the big Irishman had to stretch to tip the effort safely over the bar.
It was a warning which the Steelmen clearly heeded, because within a couple of minutes the men in claret and amber were in front. It came through the simplest route possible; a superb bending corner by Tom Hateley which left Peter Enckleman grasping at thin air, and ‘Well captain Stephen Craigan powered home a header at the back-post.
Ten minutes later Motherwell doubled their advantage, as Jamie Murphy weaved his magic at Hampden. The former Scotland under-21 international cut in from the left flank, evaded two challenges, and fired low past the helpless Enckleman.
Derek McInnes’ side pushed desperately to find a way back into the game, with Murray Davidson coming close with a ferocious 25 yard effort, although Randolph appeared to have to drive covered.
For all St. Johnstone’s endeavour and possession, Motherwell were still looking vibrant and dangerous going forward. This was illustrated as Francis Jeffers linked up beautifully with Keith Lasley, with the latter firing just wide from inside the area.
And the men in claret and amber made it 3-0 five minutes before the break as John Sutton lashed home a spectacular 30-yard volley past a flat-footed Peter Enckleman, all but assuring Motherwell’s place in the final by the end of the first half.
John Sutton then curled a good effort inches wide of the post as the Steelmen ended the half firmly in the ascendancy.
As expected, St Johnstone were sent out for the second period with a flea in their ear, and enjoyed much of the early possession, and they threatened in the early stages of the half through a Danny Grainger free-kick which was well held by Darren Randolph.
That was immediately followed by a Murray Davidson shot, which was well turned over the bar by the ‘Well keeper, performing to his usual exemplary standards.
A terrific defensive effort from Stuart McCall’s side managed to weather the Saints storm until the 80th minute, when Murray Davidson – the Perthshire side’s most impressive performer – managed to finally beat Randolph, only to see his header crash off the bar.
That would prove to be the final measure of resistance from St Johnstone as the game petered out to a 3-0 score-line; and Motherwell will be back for the final in May.
[tab:As it happened]
Graham Barnstaple at Hampden
Full time – 3-0, When the Well go up to lift the Scottish Cup we’ll be there!!!
90mins – Three minutes of stoppage time to go before the celebrations can really begin.
84mins – Crowd today is 11920, good turn out from ‘Well as it looks as though about 7000 is in Claret and Amber.
83mins – Just under 10 to go and we are almost there, Saints fans are leaving and Well fans are finding their voice.
81mins – Davidson hits the bar with a header from a corner, then Craig booked for a tackle from behind on Lasley .
78mins – Jones comes on for Humphrey.
75mins – Maurice Ross on for Jennings, he goes to right back and Hateley into midfield.
73mins – Big shout for a Saints pen as May goes down in a challenge from Hammell, Brines waves away the appeal. Think he got it just about right judging by the TV pictures we have.
66mins – Obligatory Yellow for Jennings – the new Nick Cusack? McHugh coming on for Jeffers, Steven May on for Saint.
56mins – Another fine save from Randolph this time from a long range shot from Davidson that he turns over the bar.
50mins – Robertson’s first involvement is to be shown yellow for a late, high challenge on Hutchinson.
46mins – Second half underway – no changes for Well, one for Saints Samuel off and Jordan Robertson on.
Half time 3-0 – Rapturous applause from Well fans, Saints fans booing!! Well deserved lead.
45mins – One minute being added on.
42mins – Well fans singing “Are you watching Craig Brown!!” I imagine he probably is!
39mins – That brought back memories of O’Neill in the 1991’s Semi Final!!
39mins – GOOOOOAALLLLLL – 3-0!! Sutton picks ball up 30 yards out turns and his volley can only be turned in by Enckelman!!!! 😉
35mins – Jeffers rolls ball to Murphy, surging 40 yards run ends with a 15 yard shot just wide.
33mins – Duberry yellow for a late challenge on Lasley.
31mins – Jeffers combines with Lasley in the box, Keith leaves a defender in his wake but shoots just wide from an acute angle.
25mins – Craigan’s goal is his first since April 2006, he scored against Dunfermline in the SPL then! FIVE years.
23mins – Murray Davidson shot just over from about 25 yards out. Randolph had it covered though.
14mins – Murphy’s 12th goal of the season.
14mins – GOOOOAAAAALLLLLL – 2-0, Murphy cuts in from left weaves to the edge of the box and smashes a low shot into bottom right corner.
4mins – Crags first goal of the season, what a time to get it!!
4mins – GOOOOOAAAAALLLLLL – Hateley corner swung into six yard box, Craigan heads in unmarked.
3mins – Game underway, Saints on front foot in the opening minute or two….with Randolph having to tip an Invincible header over.
1mins – Saints kick-off.
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“It was a great result; I looked at the clock and there were 25-30 minutes gone and we were 2-0 up but had not really played.
“We got a goal from a set piece and then a bit of magic from Jamie Murphy. The third goal was fantastic.
“I’m delighted to be through, we can play better but at the times it counted, we were very good.
“I thought it was a competent display, good energy, willingness for each other and if you don’t put the hard work in, you don’t get anything so I’m delighted for every on of them.
“I’ll let them have a shandy tonight, I’ll let the staff have a couple of shandies.
“For eveyone, the supporters, the staff, the players, we’ve got to enjoy the moment and we’ve got a cup final to look forward to but, prior to that, we’ve got five great games in the SPL.”
St Johnstone manager Derek McInnes:
“Today of all days to be so poor defensively as we were in the first 45 minutes, very rarely do you get away with defending in the manner we did.
“Motherwell will feel their forward players were inspirational at times, the third goal was an instinctive strike but we failed to deal with the first header.
“The second goal was a catalogue of errors and to lose a goal from a set-piece is very unlike us. All that combined made it a difficult afternoon.”
“You are always learning about your players and mentalities when it comes to the business end, can you make that stride to be successful?
“Some of them were exactly how we expected, some of them didn’t do as well as they can. I know the ones who I can hang my hat on and trust if I get back to his stage again as a manager and St Johnstone get back to this stage.”