Kris Jack at Fir Park
A late leveller from St Mirren sub Thomas Reilly denied 10-man Motherwell top spot in the SPL at a rain-soaked Fir Park this afternoon.
A goal in the first minute from Michael Higdon against his former side looked to be enough heading in to injury time before the young Buddie rescued a deserved point.
Shaun Hutchinson saw red for the second time in as many games following two controversial bookings in the final 10 minutes.
After a tough defeat to Levante U.D. in the Europa League in midweek, Motherwell looked to bounce back with a decent performance against St Mirren.
Stuart McCall handed a first SPL start to both Steven Hetherington and Fraser Kerr, as Chris Humphrey dropped to the bench and Tom Hateley missed his first game in 143 appearances. The front line of Murphy, Ojamaa and Higdon would be charged with breaching a St Mirren defence, which proved stubborn in last season’s encounters.
Danny Lennon was forced in to one significant change, with Darren McGregor suffering another cruciate injury in the defeat to Hibs last week. Sam Parkin and Steven Thompson spearheaded the St Mirren attack, with David van Zanten given a defensive start for the Sunday kick off.
Having lost the coin toss, ‘Well kicked off facing the Davie Cooper stand, and within 67 seconds had taken the lead. A long ball up the left channel from Stevie Hammell bounced over Henrik Ojamaa and Lee Mair. As the St Mirren defender looked to usher the ball back to his goalkeeper, Higdon stole in to dispossess him and slot under the advancing Craig Samson to give his side the ideal start.
The early goal spurred the Steelmen on and Jamie Murphy almost added to his goals against Kilmarnock last week but dragged his shot wide of the far post after good build-up from Ojamaa.
St Mirren looked to get a hold on the game and could have levelled when Imrie’s pacy cross was diverted over by the boot of Adam Cummins when poked toward goal by Steven Thompson. Paul McGowan then stung the palms of Darren Randolph as Saints looked to haul themselves back into the match.
Randolph then made an unorthodox stop from Thompson when the goalie was drawn out under a cross to the far side of his box. As he scampered back, the ball broke to Thompson, but his effort was stopped by the Irishman’s heel before pouncing on the loose ball. The Paisley side were coming more and more in to the game and Parkin should have tested Randolph when he had a free header from a Carey ball, but headed it wildly over.
Murphy was looking impressive in the break and after being forced from left to right, he fed Ojaama inside the box, but the Estonian shot wide of Samson’s left hand post. Saints replied via Kenny McLean who passed up a glorious chance to tie the game when played in by Thomson, but he badly miscues from eight yards, and the chance was gone.
The first half ended with Higdon falling short of bagging a brace, when Murphy found him on the edge of the box but his low drive was too straight to flummox Samson.
Randolph was the first keeper called in to action in the second half, diving to push away an effort from 25-yards from McGowan. Kenny McLean then almost caught Randolph out with a cross cum shot, as the second period raged from end to end.
Ojaama’s trickery was tying up Carey on the left and after ghosting past him to the byline, the Estonian’s cutback for Higdon was cleared by Lee Mair.
St Mirren sensed an equaliser was imminent and continued to come at Motherwell with Jim Goodwin given space at the edge of the box to crash a low drive just wide.
Both managers made substitutions, with Murphy, Law and Ojamaa replaced by Humphrey, Carswell and Francis-Angol for Motherwell, while Gary Teale replaced the ineffective Imrie.
Higdon could have put the game to bed when Humphrey picked him out on the 18 yard line, but his first time effort was blasted over and in to away fans, who jeered their former striker.
With ten minutes remaining, the game became scrappy with a flurry of bookings, most notably for Shaun Hutchinson, who complained vigorously that Steven Thompson had illegally blocked him off, injuring the defender in the process. As he received treatment, he pointed an accusatory finger at Thompson to show his displeasure and picked up a booking from Mr Norris for letting his frustration boil over and not leaving the pitch quick enough.
Steven Hetherington then went in to the book for a late challenge on McGowan, before Hutchinson received a second yellow and had to head for an early bath. A ball played to the feet of Reilly was knocked away in a challenge from the big Geordie defender; however, the sub hit the deck to draw the foul.
Norris had no hesitation in brandishing a yellow followed by a red for the challenge, which seemed harsh. The former Wallsend player did win the ball but caught the youngster in the process. A foul? Yes. A bookable offence; probably not!
Visibly distraught, he trudged off the park to applause from the home fans, but the supportive chants turned to boos directed at the officials as St Mirren grabbed an equaliser deep in to injury time.
Hammell and Teale came together with the ball spinning off the Wigan man for what should have been a home throw. Before the ball had even gone over the line, referee Norris was point for a Saints throw despite not having a great position.
A hanging ball from Teale was met by Thompson, whose downward header was brilliantly kept out by Randolph, but Reilly was first to react to slam home a cruel, but deserved leveller. It was a controversial ending to an entertaining game, but the result deprives Motherwell from taking top spot in the SPL ahead of their trip to Valencia on Thursday.
[tab:As it happened]
Alastair Reilly at Fir Park
FULL TIME: Motherwell 1 – 1 St Mirren
93mins: GOAL, St Mirren equalise. Dejection as Reilly slams home from 5 yards after a scramble.
90mins: 4 minutes added on.
89mins: Backs to the wall stuff now as ‘Well look to cling onto the three points.
87mins: RED CARD: Hutchinson off for a second booking. Didn’t look like much in that.
83mins: Hutchinson booked for dissent after he went down clutching his face. Hetherington also carded for a tackle on McGowan.
81mins: Into the last 10 mins….feels like there is still a goal in this one.
77mins: St Mirren sub; Parkin off for Reilly.
76mins: Great chance there! Higgy looked like he was going to burst the net from Humphrey’s pass but scooped over.
75mins: Motherwell Sub: Ojamaa off for Francis-Angol
72mins: McGowan booked for what looked like a wrestling clothesline on Lasley
70mins: St Mirren with a penalty claim there. McAusland went down under slight contact from Hammell. Ref was having none of it.
68mins: St Mirren sub, Teale on for Carey. And a Motherwell sub: Law makes way for Carswell.
63mins: Motherwell Sub, Chris Humphrey on for Jamie Murphy.
61mins: And again Randolph has to react quickly to tip a McGowan effort over the bar. St Mirren piling on the pressure.
59mins: Solid hands there from Randolph to hold Carey’s rasping 30 yard free-kick.
56mins: Sensational tackle from Hutchinson there. Just as they are about to burst clean through, the big man throws himself at it and clears
53mins: McLean with a specualtive effort from 35 yards. Almost looked to have caught Randolph out but it sails just over.
51mins: Murphy, switched to right mid, cuts inside on his left foot but shoots wildly over from a good position.
48mins: Motherwell starting the brighter of the two sides but Randolph has just made a fantastic reaction save from a long effort at goal.
45mins: Parkin and Thompson get the second half under way.
45mins: It’s half-time. Motherwell 1 – 0 St Mirren
39mins: The busy Fraser Kerr wins a free-kick 30 yards out on the angle. Law to whip in….Nothing comes of it sadly.
36mins: Bit of a half chance. Ojamaa’s effort from just outside the box is neither a shot nor a cross and Samson happily collects.
33mins: Ojamaa goes close. Best chance since the goal. Murphy jinks the entire length of the St Mirren half and with the help of Kerr…slides in Ojamaa. The angle is tight but he gets his shot away and it flashes just past.
30mins: It’s a wet pitch which is helping neither side as when it gets to the final pass,it’s always going wayward. Entertaining game so far
21mins: St Mirren have had a good spell of possession. They’re throwing in crosses but the ‘Well defence is standing firm.
18mins: Randolph going for a bit of a wander there. It’s unortodox as he sprints about his box after the ball. Still 1-0 though.
17mins: Great chance for St Mirren. McGowan gets in behind Hammell and his effort is beaten away by Randolph straight to Thompson…..Thankfully Cummins gets in to clear for a corner.
9mins: Mair booked for a clumsy challenge on Murphy. Looks a dangerous position for the free-kick. Hammell floated it in but Cummins couldn’t get enough power in his header and Samson collects with ease.
7mins: Up the other end, Imrie whips in a cross and Thompson gets in front ot Cummins to divert goalwards. Somehow goes out for a corner.
5mins: Murphy being utilised in the hole behind Ojamaa and Higdon and he’s already causing problems. Looks dangerous.
4mins: Kerr with some neat play with Lasley wins a corner. Samson spills Hetherington’s delivery but mops up at the second attempt.
1min: GOAL!!!! Michael Higdon opens the scoring! Bit of a nothing ball up front which Ojamaa flicks on. Higdon shows his strength and brushes off his man before sliding the ball home.
1min: Teams switching ends. The Steelmen shooting towards the Cooper Stand in the first half. Game now underway.
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“I was disappointed for the lads and didn’t want to see them around (referee Euan) Norris at the end of the game,” he said.
“There’s no doubt that St Mirren deserved a share of the points but we’re disappointed in the way that it came about.
“Overall we weren’t good enough in possession and struggled to keep the ball.”
St Mirren manager Danny Lennon:
“It is a very difficult place to come and this was a very valuable point.
“We can look at Motherwell and aspire to reach the levels of consistency they have in order to qualify for Europe.
“We got off to the worst possible start and that’s two weeks in a row we’ve been punished for brave defending, but the response we got after that was great.
“We certainly deserved something from the game and I was thinking before the end that we would take something from it regardless of the result.”