Kris Jack at Fir Park
A Bob McHugh goal 12 minutes from time salvaged a point for Motherwell as they battled back from being a goal and a man down to earn a draw with St Johnstone.
Steven Hammell saw red after giving away a second half penalty, which Darren Randolph saved, before Murray Davidson headed the visitors in front minutes later.
Substitute McHugh levelled after great work on the right from Nicky Law, before Rowan Vine also earned his marching orders from referee Iain Brines for a terrible lunge on Shaun Hutchinson.
After the exertions of Athens, Stuart McCall made a solitary change to the side that fell 3-0 to Panathinaikos. He swapped Adam Cummins for Michael Higdon, setting out a more attack minded team to face Steve Lomas’ side. The Saints gave a first start to striker Vine, in the absence of the suspended Grégory Tadé, and we’re unable to field new signing Craig Beattie.
Both sides were set up for a battle in the sunshine, and despite an early scare for Darren Randolph, when a lofted ball hit the bar and bounced awkwardly in front of him, it was Motherwell who looked the more likely to open the scoring.
The first clear cut chance fell to Henrik Ojamma, after the Estonian had outmuscled Frazer Wright to latch on to Jamie Murphy’s ball up the left channel. After cutting in, he struck a ferocious shot low to Alan Mannus’ right, but the Northern Irish keeper got down to it well.
Nigel Hasselbaink was looking tricky and should have done better when he found space in the box, only to fire disappointingly wide of Randolph’s left hand post. Up the other end, Nicky Law flashed a side footed volley beyond the far post form Murphy’s tantalising cross as both teams traded chances.
Murphy then made a great effort to latch on to Hammell’s weighted pass up the East Stand side, but his deft lob over Mannus dropped off target.
Despite some decent attacking play, St Johnstone could not carve out any meaningful opportunities, and Vine’s frustration led to a booking when he scythed down Hutchison on the half way line. On Motherwell’s next attack, Henrik Ojamma scudded an effort from the edge of the box right at Mannus, who could only punch it back in to the danger zone, before it was eventually cleared to safety.
A foul on Murray Davidson by Shaun Hutchinson gave St Johnstone a set piece opportunity but Liam Craig’s lofted effort was palmed over the bar comfortably by Randolph as the scores remained all square.
As the half came to an end, ‘Well had a decent shout for a penalty turned away, when Ojamma looked to be bundled over in the box by Anderson. Referee Brines however was not convinced there was a foul.
Bob McHugh replaced the injured Omar Daley at the beginning of the second half,as Motherwell looked to stretch the Saints defence , but it was the visitors who had the better pressure of the opening spell.
Murray Davidson drove a 20 yarder just wide after latching on to Liam Craig’s lay off before Hasselbaink was denied a penalty after a challenge in the box with Hutchinson.
Ojamma showed a nice turn of pace on the edge of the Saints area before crossing for Higdon, but his header flew just past Mannus’ post, as Well looked to make one of their opportunities count.
However, on 55 minutes, St Johnstone were given a spot kick when Chris Millar tumbled under a shoulder challenge from Steven Hammell. The veteran left back saw red for the foul, much to the ire and confusion of the home support. Captain Dave McKay stepped up to take the spot kick, but Darren Randolph made a great one handed stop low to his right to prevent the visitors from taking the lead.
The save galvanised the home crowd, but they were silenced moments later when Lomas’ men took the lead.
A corner from Craig was arrowed to the front post, and with a man less in defence, Murray Davidson stooped to head the Perth side in to the lead. Defensively, it was a poor goal to concede from a Motherwell point of view, and with a man less, they now faced an uphill struggle to get anything from the game. The ill Keith Lasley and Estonian Ojamma made way for Steven Hetherington and Zaine Francis-Angol, as their tired legs could run no more.
McHugh had looked lively since his introduction, and he dragged an effort wide of the far post after latching on to a ling kick out, as he sought to pull his side back in to the game. With the man advantage, St Johnstone looked to counter attack when possible and Hasselbaink wasted a great opportunity to sew the game up when he outfoxed Hateley on the edge of the box, but his shot was blasted well wide of target. He was soon made to rue his miss.
Some neat passing in the midfield broke to Nicky Law on the right, and after dropping his shoulder, he cut to the bye line before pulling the ball back for McHugh on the penalty spot, whose first time effort rolled past Mannus and in to the net. The celebrations inside Fir Park were loud, as the Steelmen had clawed their way back in to the game, and were given a helping hand towards winning it when Vine was given a straight red for a shocking lunge on Hutchinson.
The winner almost came for Motherwell, buoyed by the goal and the Saints dismissal. Murphy found some space just inside the away box, and his cross was met forcefully by the forehead of Higdon. The header looked goal bound, but Mannus brilliantly prevented a match winning goal.
From the resulting corner kick, it looked like Motherwell had snatched the points when the ball broke through a cluster of bodies before being cleared off the line, only as far as Hitchinson, whose first time shot looked destined for the net. Somehow it was blocked out and over for a corner, as the home fans urged their team to find a winner.
However, it was not to come, and the game finished 1-1, with both sides reduced to ten men. It was a pulsating first home game of the season, and the draw was the least that McCall’s men deserved from the match.
After a busy week, they now have a few days off before preparing for next weekends game away to Kilmarnock.
[tab:As it happened]
Alastair Reilly at Fir Park
FULL TIME: Motherwell 1 – 1 St Johnstone. Craig and McHugh the scorers. Hammell and Vine sent off.
90mins: 3 minutes added on.
89mins: Late chance as Higdon wins a flick-on which Murphy latches on to. Unfortunately it’s just too far ahead for him to get.
85mins: St J. Sub Cregg off for Adams
83mins: And from the resulting corner, how we didn’t score there I’ll never know. Ball looked goal bound three times but was somehow blocked!
82mins: What a save from Mannus there! Unbelievable stuff to tip Higdon’s head past the post.
81mins: Looks set to be a dramatic end to this one!
80mins St J. Sub- Davidson off for Higgins
79mins: RED CARD: Vine sent off for a second booking. Terrible challenge on Hutchinson anyway.
78mins: Bob McHugh makes it 1-1. Superb cut back from Law and the sub has a cool enough head to slot home. Come on!
78mins: GOOOOAAAALLLLL !!!!!!!
75mins: Craig booked for wrestling Francis-Angol to the ground.
74mins: What a challenge there from Hutchinson! Hasselbaink had Hateley turned inside out but the big man got over to cover and clear.
71mins: Hasselbaink almost kills the game with a lovely curled effort from just inside the box. Had Randolph beaten but goes past the post?
70mins: Craig attempts a speculative effort from a free-kick what must have been 35 yards out. Sails well over.
66mins: Also, as a side note, for anyone wondering, Hateley now has the captain’s armband in Lasley and Hammell’s absence.
65mins: Decent effort there from Law. His volley looked goal bound but was blocked by Wright sliding in.
62mins: 292 St Johnstone fans here. 4490 in total.
60mins: ‘Well Subs – Francis-Angol and Hetherington on for Lasley and Ojamaa
58mins: Davidson lost his man and nodded home a corner at the near post.
58mins: GOAL: St Johnstone – Murray Davidson.
56mins: Penalty wonderfully saved but ‘Well still a man down. Got it all to do now.
54mins: RANDOLPH SAVES!!!!
54mins: Penalty to St Johnstone. Hammell sent off.
53mins: And straight up the other end, Millar drags his right footed shot just past Randolph’s post.
52mins: Good play from McHugh and Ojamaa. Their one-two would have allowed Bob a free run at goal had he taken a better touch,
51mins: Penalty shout from St Johnstone this time. Hasselbaink appeared to have been tripped as he went to pull the trigger. Nothing given!
48mins: Liam Craig tries his luck with a 25 yarders. Not going to trouble Randolph with that though. Slow start to second half.
45mins: McHugh is on for Omar Daley. Second half is now underway.
45mins: That’s half time. Motherwell 0 – 0 St Johnstone.
41mins: Penalty shout there albeit half-hearted. Ojamaa looked to have been barged off the ball but it would have been harsh if given.
35mins: Been quite an entertaining game so far. Both sides with plenty of half chances. Just no killer touch as of yet.
33mins: Red card for the advertising board after it scythes Hateley down as he takes a corner. Awful! Fir Park seems amused though.
24mins: Dangerous counter-attack from St J. ends with Hasselbaink with his back to goal 10 yards out. Thankfully Hammy slides in to clear.
23mins: Next there’s a hand ball shout and Ojamaa stinging the ‘keeper’s hands with a right footed drive just outside the box.
22mins: Starting to liven up here. First Murphy goes close with a long range chip then Vine crunches Hutchinson and is booked.
20mins: Fir Park crowd not happy there. Murphy looked to have been nudged in the back just outside the box. Nothing given though.
18mins: Ramsden booked for hauling Davidson down just inside our half. Looked harsh.
15mins: Our best chance of the game so far. Murphy beats his man and swings it in. Law meets it on the volley but can’t get enough on it.
14mins: Hasselbaink goes way too close for comfort there. His left footed effort from 15 yards whistles just past.
9mins: Corner for Motherwell after Ojamaa’s 25 yard effort is tipped past the post. Hateley’s delivery too long though.
8mins: ‘Well with a good spell of possession. St J are well organised though and no real breakthrough was found.
4mins: Bit of end to end football there. Both sides with crosses but never troubling either ‘keeper.
2mins: Looks like Randolph lost the ball in the sun there. Very nearly dropped the ball into the net from a harmless cross.
1min: Lasley and Murphy kick the game off.
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“That’s one of my most pleasing results. Without making excuses for the boys, I know what they went through the other night in Athens – the heat, the size of the park, the quality they were up against.
“And to go with the same 11, bar one change, I feared as the game went on. I felt if we wanted to win the game we would have to be ahead at half-time because of the exertions the other night. We got back at Fir Park at half five on Thursday morning.
“I know they are professional players but it’s human nature, you could see them wilting. To go down to 10 men and lose a goal straight after Daz had saved the penalty, it would have been easy to roll over and get beat three or four, which could have happened.
“I don’t normally celebrate a goal but I certainly celebrated that one today.”
St Johnstone manager Steve Lomas:
“Apart from the first 15 minutes, it was a very good performance. But when you go up and they have got 10 men, with the chances we had, we have got to finish them off.
“We could have lost it, that was the ridiculous thing. I thought we passed the ball well and looked a threat going forward.
“We got ahead and at that stage I could only see one winner. I thought it could have been four or five and probably should have been but when you don’t take your chances, something like that can happen.”