Kris Jack at Fir Park
Motherwell strengthened their grip on third spot with a fine 5-1 win over St Johnstone at Fir Park this afternoon.
A Michael Higdon penalty was followed by a Nicky Law close range effort to put Motherwell 2-0 up at the break. The goals continued to flow as Jamie Murphy bagged a great volley, and substitute Henrik Ojamaa scored twice in the last 10 minutes to give ‘Well their biggest home league win of the season.
Chris Humphrey had a magnificent game, with his pace and width creating three of the five goals. The only blot on the copybook was the penalty Liam Craig scored after Shaun Hutchinson felled Marcus Haber in the box, to make it 3-1.
Having seen Dundee United only manage a draw with Hearts earlier in the day, Stuart McCall and his men knew that a win would create a great five point cushion between United in the battle for third in the SPL. St Johnstone were without top scorer Francisco Sandaza and Cillian Sheridan, while Dave MacKay sat the game out after picking up a last minute injury.
‘Well welcomed Keith Lasley back to the starting eleven after serving his suspension against Celtic. Omar Daley made way for Jamie Murphy in the home attack, and his selection almost paid instant dividends.
A ball out left form Law to Murphy allowed the former Scotland U21 striker time and space to cut in on the edge of the box, only to fizz a shot just wide of Alan Mannus left hand post.
Steven Robertson and Derek Riordan both hit long range efforts on goal but Darren Randolph pulled off two comfortable saves to stave off the danger.
The game was waiting for one of the sides to take the initiative, and when a lung bursting run by Chris Humphrey ended with the Jamaican being felled in the box by Anderson, Motherwell were given just that opportunity on 16 minutes.
While the spot kick was soft, Michael Higdon made no mistake in picking up the ball and blasting the ball in to Mannus’ right hand corner, banishing memories of his miss against Rangers four weeks ago.
The crowd was on its feet again only four minutes later, when more fantastic work by Humphrey set up Nicky Law for goal number two. Jody Morris found himself with the ball on his own byline, but failed to clear his lines as Humphrey harried him to eventually win the ball. One look up and a drilling cross along the six-yard line found Law sliding in to net his seventh goal of the campaign…
Try as they might, St Johnstone could not muster a positive response, despite the best efforts of Derek Riordan. Usually so prolific against Motherwell, he was unable to grab his 100th SPL when he fired a free-kick narrowly wide of Randolph’s right-hand upright.
The Steelmen could smell blood and could have gone further ahead had it not been for a plethora of chances in the box created by Law and Humphrey on either side.
A neat interchange between Murphy and Law saw the ball float across the box evading everyone until Humphrey picked it up on the right. Instead of shooting, he chose to cross for Higdon but Saints got back to clear.
The Jamaican then played a similar ball in from the right which eventually ended with Murphy volleying straight at Mannus. Steve Lomas men were at sixes and sevens at the back, and had to rely on Mannus saving a Higdon effort after good play on the right by Murphy, to keep the score down.
Motherwell went in to the break two goals to the good and all but secured the win just after. Tom Hateley and Chris Humphrey combined to get in behind the St Johnstone defence. When Hateley stumbled it looked like the attack had faltered, but it merely created space for him to get up and fire a cross to the penalty spot where Jamie Murphy was on hand to smash a half-volley past the despairing dive of Mannus.
The returning Murphy could have had his second moments later when Wright misjudged a long ball, allowing the striker to go one on one with Mannus. However, the Saints keeper pulled of a great save low to his right; perhaps a lob would have found the net? It was a vital save as the Saints went up the park and got themselves back in to the game.
Marcus Haber fell under a challenge from Shaun Hutchinson, and referee Madden had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Liam Craig stepped up and sent Randolph the wrong way to give Lomas’ men a lifeline.
Despite keeping the momentum from their goal going the visitors never looked like adding to their lead, and again found themselves on the back foot. Higdon managed to work some space in the box from a neat passing move but had his shot well saved.
As the game looked to peter out, Stuart McCall made a double substitution, bringing on Henrik Ojamaa and Stuart Carswell for Murphy and Jennings with 10 minutes remaining. No sooner had the Estonain took to the park, than he was on the score sheet.
Yet another outstanding sprint down the East Stand side by Humphrey led to a square ball in to the feet of Ojamaa, who took a touch before finding the bottom corner. There were no pistols from the goalscorer on this occasion as he calmly acknowledged Humphrey’s efforts in celebrating his goal.
With three minutes left, Ojamaa bagged his second of the game to add a five star flourish to the scoreline. Nicky Law flicked a neat overhead pass in to the path of the onrushing Ojamaa, who outpaced Alan Maybury before cutting in to the box, and striking a low shot which squirmed under Mannus.
The fifth goal put a great seal on a great performance, which helped to consolidate third place in the SPL with just three games left to play.
[tab:As it happened]
Alastair Reilly at Fir Park
FULL TIME: An absolutely superb 5-1 victory! Did anyone see that coming?
90mins: 2minutes left until you can all get your passports out.
87mins: Getting a bit excited? Yes. It wasn’t the entire side but it they all count. Fantastic from Henrik.
87mins: Midfield dogfight? Reverse psychology there! Ojamaa skins the entire St Johnstone side and his shot sneaks under Mannus.
87mins: GOOOALLLLLLLLLLLLLL IT’S 5! STOP! Ojamma time again!
86mins: Motherwell sub – Lasley off for Ross Forbes.
83mins: Absolutely wonderful from Humphrey. His pace is phenomenal and takes him in behind the whole defence. He squares to Ojamaa who takes a touch before slotting home!
83mins: Ohhh yes! It’s 4-1, Ojamaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.
83mins: YASSSSSS!!!! GOOOAAALLLLLLLLL
80mins: No real chances worth commenting on recently. It’s going to be a midfield dogfight until the end now.
79mins: Motherwell subs – Murphy departs for Henrik Ojamaa and Jennings comes off for Carswell
75mins: St Johnstone sub: Keatings on for Craig
74mins: St Johnstone enjoying some possession here although it hasn’t amounted to any chances as of yet.
72mins: Nervous times as we look to tick down that clock.
66mins: Davidson booked for leading with his arm going for a header.
63mins: Two good chances there. Firstly Mannus denies Higdon from a close range shot and then denies Murphy from 20 yards out.
58mins: GOAL- Liam Craig sends Randolph the wrong way 3-1
58mins: Penalty for St Johnstone.
54mins: A chance to kill it right there but Murphy’s deft lob isn’t strong enough to beat Mannus.
54mins: Chance here for St Johnstone. Free kick right on the edge of the area……Craig tamely shoots straight at Randolph
52mins: Hateley gets a low cross in which Jamie Murphy meets on the volley and fires it past Mannus!
52mins: GOOOALLLLL MOTHERWELL! 3-0!
49mins: which is over-hit and comes to nothing.
49mins: Steady start to the half. Humphrey winning a corner which Hateley swings in…..
45mins: Second half underway!
HALF TIME: And there goes the half-time whistle. It’s Motherwell 2-0 St Johnstone and it’s a well deserved lead!
45mins: 1 minute added on.
40mins: Approaching half-time and, so far we’re well in control. Law and Humphrey’s pace is causing St J’s defence so much problems.
32mins: Agonisingly close from Higdon there. His toe-poked effort travels in slow motion and trickles just past Mannus’ post.
28mins: The Steelmen peppering the goals there. Lasley, Humphrey and then Murphy with attempts within 30 seconds.
22mins: The drum is out and the chants of “Keith!” coming from the east stand as Las worms his way into the box but over-runs it out of play
21mins: Riordan goes close with a 25 yard free-kick. Just over.
19mins: Hunphrey’s pace gets him to the goal line and his low cross is met 4 yards out by the sliding Nicky Law!
19mins: GOALLLLL! Nicky law!
15mins: GOAL! Higdon slams the ball home 1-0
15mins: It’s a penalty for Motherwell!
12mins: Up the other end, Murphy tries his luck from 25 yards. Well past the post though.
11mins: Great save from Randolph! The big man gets down to his left brilliantly to tip Riordan’s shot past the post.
10mins: Nice one-two between Riordan and Robertson see’s the latter volley straight at Randolph.
5mins: A roar erupts around Fir Park as Murphy’s shot curls towards goal. Just past unfortunately!
4mins: Another half chance…this time Davidson drives from 30 yards only to see his shot fly well over.
1min: Half chance for St Johnstone. Craig crosses in deep and Randolph’s attempted punch looks a little uncertain. No real danger though.
1min: And St Johnstone kick off at a sunny but cold Fir Park.
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“There were a lot of pleasing factors. To score five goals is terrific at any level but against a normally resolute St Johnstone, it was pleasing.
“I’d have settled for a 1-0 but we did say we wanted to come out and show the quality we’ve got. In patches, we did that. We defended quite well when we had to.
“We finished the job in style. It’s nice to get all your forwards scoring goals and in confident mood for what we’ll need; a big push in the last three games.
“I thought some of our football was excellent and we took the goals really well.
“It’s no good us looking at other results if we can’t make our own performances count and that was the key for the lads, to go out and get the three points and they did it in style.”
St Johnstone manager Steve Lomas:
“In my opinion it wasn’t a penalty but Bobby is in no way to blame for our 5-1 defeat.
“It was simply not good enough in defence, midfield and up front.
“We started well but we just had nothing after that.”