Kris Jack at McDiarmid Park
Two goals from Jamie Murphy helped Motherwell to a 0-3 away victory against St Johnstone on a freezing afternoon in Perth.
Omar Daley’s opener was augmented by two close range finishes from the young forward, in a result which gained revenge for the 3-0 drubbing in the previous encounter at Fir Park.
It was arguably Daley’s best performance of the season, and Motherwell’s best effort since beating Dundee United at Tannadice.
It also strengthened The Well’s grip on third place in the SPL, as they went seven points clear of their hosts.
McDiarmid Park somehow escaped the effects of the week’s horrendous weather conditions for the third versus fourth showdown between the Saints and the ‘Well.
Stuart McCall had no fresh injuries to worry about as Keith Lasley returned to the starting line-up, having missed what was played of the Hibernian game with a thigh strain. He replaced Stephen Hughes in the middle of the park, who would have to settle for a place on the bench, alongside Chris Humphrey, who was rotated in favour of fellow Jamaican Omar Daley.
St Johnstone were without Cillian Sheridan and Francisco Sandaza, who tormented Motherwell in the Saints 3-0 victory at Fir Park earlier in the season. Carl Finnigan and Marcus Haber were the fall back forwards, while Frazer Wright and Kevin Moon also missed out.
Saints came in to this game off the back of wins over Hibernian and Hearts, while Motherwell’s last outing had been cut short due to floodlight issues in the South Stand against Hibs. With ‘Well four points ahead of St Johnstone, a win for the away team would put some breathing space between them and their hosts in the quest for third place, and hoped the impressive away performances in the silver kit would continue in Perth.
Motherwell were first to attack, when Steve Jennings tenacity allowed Michael Higdon to play in Nicky Law. The little midfielder got in behind Dave Mackay, but his shot drifted well wide. Omar Daley then tested Peter Enckelman when he cut in from the right hand side and hit a daisycutter right at the former Aston Villa keeper. St Johnstone looked dangerous in attack, with Murray Davidson bringing out a fine stop from Darren Randolph, after getting in behind the Well defence.
On sixteen minutes, Motherwell took the lead thanks to Nicky Law’s ingenuity and St Johnstone’s calamitous defending. The former Rotherham man collected the ball just outside the box, ran around the outside of Dave Mackay and fizzed a cross along the six-yard line. Enckelman and Calum Davidson failed to lay claim to it, leaving Omar Daley with the simplest of tap ins.
It was just about a deserved lead, which could have been wiped out moments later. A deep cross from Liam Craig found the head of the diving Murray Davidson, but with Randolph at full stretch, his effort went inches wide.
Daley was looking dangerous after scoring and only a last ditch block stopped him from finishing a mazy run with another goal. The Jamiacan was soon to be the instigator of Motherwell’s second goal of the game.
A lung bursting gallop down the right by Daley ended with a cross to Higdon. The striker played the ball back to Tom Hateley, whose first time cross was headed home from eight yards by Jamie Murphy. It was Murphy’s second headed goal of the season and was one which delighted the freezing band of Motherwell fans who had travelled to Perth.
To their credit, the St Johnstone front line kept plugging away and Murray Davidson went close with a header after a cross from the left created a bout of head tennis around the penalty spot. The second goal galvanized Motherwell, who were now looking deadly on every attack.
With ‘Well running riot, they were unlucky not be given a penalty just before half time. Daley burst in to the box and seemed to be felled as he rounded Enckelman. However, referee Alan Muir awarded a corner kick instead of a spot kick, which was eventually cleared by Anderson. Hateley then tested the Saints keeper with an arrowed free kick from the left wing, which was comfortably taken by the home side’s stopper.
The second half began with the hosts trying to battle back in to the game. Craig and Finnigan combined in the box, but the latter’s touch deserted him at the vital moment. Stevie Hammell then conceded a soft free kick for a foul on Robertson on the right. As Craig’s delivery rebounded to the edge of the box, Jennings was penalised for barging in to Davidson. It was another soft free kick but Dave Mackay wasted the chance from the set piece, blasting high in to the empty stand.
Keith Lasley was shown a yellow card on 57 mins for a foul in the middle of the park, as the game sprung back to life. Mackay stung Randolph’s palms form the edge of the box, before another Daley dander in to the box forced Enckelman in to a sharp near post save. From the corner, Craigan headed over. Davidson then hit a half volley wide which had Randolph scrambling.
The work of Hateley and Law on the wings had caused St Johnstone problems all afternoon and a third Motherwell goal was the fruit of their labour. A training ground corner between the pair worked its way to Daley. His first time shot was on target but took a massive deflection off Jamie Murphy and flew past Enckelman, who’d dived the opposite way. It was now a reverse of the fixture at Fir Park, with Motherwell well on top.
Saints kept pushing and danger man Davidson had an effort just wide before a smart clearance at the back post by Hutchinson maintained the clean sheet. Parkin and Gibson were thrown on by Steve Lomas to salvage something from the game. Keith Lasley also left the park to a standing ovation from the travelling contingent, replaced by Stephen Hughes. Omar Daley was then serenaded off the park by the Well faithful, replaced by Humphrey for the final ten minutes.
A three man move almost produced a fourth goal for the rampant visitors, when Hammell and Law played in Steve Jennings, who strode on to the pass and fired a low shot goalward. Enckelman was equal to it and gathered the ex Tranmere man’s effort.
It was the last effort of a magnificent performance by Motherwell. It put to bed the 3-0 drubbing from earlier in the season and extended their lead in 3rd place over todays hosts. St Johnstone had a lot of possession, but Motherwell had the goals, running out 0-3 winners at McDiarmid Park.
[tab:As it happened]
Kris Jack at McDiarmid Park
Full Time: St Johnstone 0 Motherwell 3. Another great three points on the road for McCalls men, Daley, Jennings and Murphy outstanding.
89mins: Three man move with Hammell, Law and Jennings ends with Enckelman smothering Jenno’s shot from edge of box.
87mins: Davidson has another effort that dips over. Would be dangerous if he could get one on target.
80mins: Humphrey on for Daley, first involvement a cross for Higdon which is intercepted by McCracken.
78mins: Haber heads harmlessly wide from penalty spot.
77mins: Hughes for Lasley.
73mins: Parkin on fort Finnigan, Saints sub.
69mins: Davidson has a volley inside the box, which beats Randolph, but sails narrowly past. Clean sheet still on!
67mins: Law and Hateley corner laid back to Daley, whose shot takes a massive delelction off Murphy for his second of the game! 0-3!
GOOOOOALLLLLLLLLLL!!! 0-3! JAMIE MURPHY AT THE DOUBLE!
65mins: Murray Davidson smacks a half volley form 20 yards, which Randolph watches skid out. Law and Murphy break, latters cross cleared.
61mins: Saints sub, Gibson on for Robertson
59mins: Craigan heads over from corner. Is a 3rd Well goal on the cards?
58mins: Mackay shoots straight at Randolph from edge of box. Daley then brings out near post save from Enckelman at other end.
56mins: Dave Mackay blasts a free kick well over from 18 yards, from Jennings soft foul. Lasley booked for foul in middle of park.
51mins: Liam Craig plays a reverse pass to Finnigan inside the box, but pass is over hit.
49mins: Murphy does well to get to bye-line and cuts back for Hateley, however, ball kicks up just as Tom tries to control it.
Half Time: St Johnstone 0 – Motherwell 2. The best Well performance since Tannadice, Daley playing the best he has since joining. Thoughts?
44mins: Hateley free kick from left wing easily gathered by Enckelman,
41mins: Well unlucky not to get a penalty when Daley is felled going ropund Enckelman, Corner instead.
37mins: Robertson booked for scything down Law, as Well looked to break once more.
35mins: Craig gets in behind Craigan to create a half chance, despite the Saints man looking to foul the Well skipper. No foul given.
33mins: Davidson again gets a header in, but it drifts wide of Randolph’s left hand post.
27mins: Daley’s cross goes back to Hateley form Higdon, whose cross is headed past Enckelman by Murphy from 8 yards! 0-2!
GOOOOOAAAALLLLL! 0-2 MOTHERWELL, JAMIE MURPHY!
26mins: Randolph makes a cracking save from an Anderson header, but ref calls foul once again.
25mins: Daley goes on a mazy, but is blocked out as he strides in to box. Law then works a cross from the right, but is cleared.
20mins: Motherwell making most of the running since Daley’s goal, Saints defence seems a tad hesitant.
17mins: A diving header from Murray Davidson goes just wide as Saints look to respond.
16mins: Nicky Law ghosts past Dave Mackay on the left and drills a cross along the 6 yard box. Anderson can’t deal with it and Daley taps in
GOOOOOAAAALLLLLLLL!!!! 0-1 Motherwell, Omar Daley!
15mins: Craig heads goalward from Millar cross, but the Saints man is penalised for a shove on Hutchinson.
11mins: Lasley cracks one from 30 yards, which deflects up off a Saints defender, taking the sting out of his shot.
7mins: Murray Davidson is played in behind Jennings, but his shot is well smothered by Randolph.
3mins: Omar Daley fires straight at Enckelman after cutting in from the right. Saints then put a ball in the box, but Finnigan miscues.
1min: Nicky Law shoots well wide after being played in behind Dave Mackay.
St Johnstone manager Steve Lomas:
“I just think the whole mindset of the players wasn’t the same as it was for the last three games. But the good thing about it is that we’ve got Aberdeen on Tuesday night to turn that around.
“Our performance was not what it usually is in terms of winning individual battles. Motherwell won most and that’s why they won the game.”
“The days when you’re lacking a bit of creativity, you’ve got to be sound at the back and hopefully keep it tight. Unfortunately, we did neither of the two today. You’ve got to earn the right to play and Motherwell did that better than us.
“We have a few injuries – not wanting to make that an excuse – and we’re hoping to get as many as we can back as soon as possible.
“That’s football. Three weeks ago we had a full squad, three weeks down the line you’re missing six or seven players, which does hurt you at times. That’s not taking anything away from the lads that have come in, because I think the team as a whole weren’t like they normally are.”
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“We took our chances and all-in-all it was a great team performance. It was a little bit of revenge after the 3-0 deficit against them at our own ground.
“That’s five wins on the bounce. Probably it was consistency that was lacking last season. Omar Daley gives us a spark at times,” said the manager. “We played Jamie Murphy and Omar out wide with Nicky Law just in behind Michael Higdon and I thought it worked a treat.
“There have been one or two voices saying that Motherwell were rocking a bit – I think we’ve lost once in nine.
“All right, the home performances sometimes haven’t been great, but it’s sometimes difficult to play the football we can play with a tight ground and if the conditions aren’t great. We’re third, we’ve got 33 points and the lads deserve every tribute, but we’re not even halfway through the season, so we’ve got to keep ploughing through it.”