Kris Jack at McDiarmid Park
A Jamie Murphy double set Motherwell on their way to a thumping 3-1 win over St Johnstone.
The former Scotland Under 21 striker netted twice in the first half to give the visitors a two goal half time lead, before Nicky Law clinched the win in the second half.
A late reply from David Robertson for Saints could not inspire a comeback, as Well inflicted a first defeat in eight SPL games on the hosts.
It was a much needed win for the Steelmen which stopped a poor run of four defeats on the trot, elevating the Fir Park side to sixth in the table, with a game in hand over Dundee United to come on Wednesday night.
Adam Cummins replaced the injured Fraser Kerr who missed out with a calf injury as Stuart McCall made only one change from the team that fell to Hibernian last time out. Steve Lomas made three changes to the side which was dumped out of the League Cup by Celtic in midweek, Frazer Wright, Nigel Hasselbaink and Steven McLean coming in for the Perthshire side.
The game was only 49 seconds old when the Steelmen took the lead, stunning the home crowd from the off. Steven Hammell’s ball up the left channel found Henrik Ojamaa haring in on Gary Miller. After cutting in, his shot cannoned off Steven Anderson and fell kindly for Jamie Murphy who was on hand to smash home from 12 yards. It was Murphy’s first goal since his double against Kilmarnock in August and The Steelmen’s first goal in four games.
It was the ideal start for the visitors and it should have been 2-0 just moments later, after a mix up in the Saints defence. A pass back to Alan Mannus wasn’t properly dealt with and as the keeper tried to control the ball, Ojamaa nipped in to steal the ball off his toe. With the whole goal to aim at, the Estonian contrived to find the stand instead wasting a glorious opportunity for his first strike of the season.
Motherwell were looking the more comfortable and Michael Higdon was unlucky to see a dipping volley sail just over the bar from 25 yards, before Chris Humphrey roasted Dave MacKay on the right but his cross had no takers in the six yard box.
Nigel Hasselbaink was then fouled on the wing outside the box, giving St Johnstone a set piece chance, but Murray Davidson’s low driven effort was kept out by the legs of Darren Randolph. Liam Craig then dropped two free kicks on to the head of Steven Anderson and Frazer Wright, both efforts floating well over the bar.
With a little momentum behind them, the Saints looked like they were edging back in to the game but they fell further behind when Murphy exploited some poor defending to double the visitors’ lead on 37 minutes.
After playing a one-two with Hammell, Murphy strode forward unchallenged past the home defence before unleashing a low shot from the edge of the box. The power of the strike caught Mannus by surprise and beat the Saints goalie at his near post, before nestling in the net. The 400+ away support cheered loud as Murphy and his team mates celebrated the second goal, which gave Stuart McCall’s side a two goal half-time cushion.
The second-half started much cagier, with the game being played scrappily in the middle of the park, with little to no goalmouth action. It took until the 58th minute for the game to spark to life again, when Ojamaa was sent clear by Humphrey on the right. However, after dragging Mannus wide, the Estonian’s shot was blocked out for a corner. From the set piece, Adam Cummins headed just over the bar.
The hosts enjoyed a fair amount of possession in and around the visitor’s box, but Hasselbaink, Tade nor substitute Rowan Vine could breach the away defence. Chris Millar curled an effort just wide of Randolph’s right hand post from the edge of the box, squandering the McDiarmid Park side’s best chance of the half.
On 75 minutes, Motherwell sealed the win in fine fashion. Nicky Law rode a late challenge in the midfield to run on to a through ball from Keith Lasley and a back-heel from Ojamaa, before composing himself to dink the ball over the sliding Mannus to make it 3-0 to the Steelmen.
St Johnstone were unlucky not to pull one back when Hasselbaink got on the end of a great cross from the left hand side but his header was miraculously kept out by Darren Randolph, eager to keep a clean sheet for the first time since the opening day of the season.
It was a fantastic stop, but his shutout was broken with three minutes remaining as Saints sub David Robertson was on hand to blast home after good work by Vine on the left.
Murphy could have secured his hat trick in the dying seconds when Zaine Francis- Angol fed him on the left wing, and despite the young left back making himself available for the cut back, Murphy shot just wide of Mannus’ far post with the Canadian stopper getting a faint touch.
It would have been a fitting end to a fine performance from the young forward, but the two he did score played their part in a great win for Stuart McCall’s Motherwell.
[tab:As it happened]
Alan Burrows at McDiarmid Park
Full time: St Johnstone 1 Motherwell 3, a well deserved three points!
91mins: Murphy almost makes it a hat-trick but Mannus makes a great save to turn it wide. Great run from ZFA to set the move up too!
90mins: 3 mins to be added on here!
88mins: Humphrey is replaced by Carswell… Few minutes left here at McDiarmid Park.
GOAL ST JOHNSTONE – Sub David Robertson. Motherwell fail to clear the ball despite numerous chances to do so. The midfielder blasts home.
87mins: Decent hit from MacKay (I think) but it flashes just over the bar!
86mins: Brilliant save from Randolph keeps it 3-0 to ‘Well. Cross from the flank, Hasselbaink’s header; point blank save from the the Irish International!
85mins: Higdon should secure the points for the Steelmen. Great play from Humphrey – cut-back for the big striker but shot straight at GK
80mins: Into the last ten minutes here at McDiarmid Park. Motherwell have only kept one clean sheet all season. Could this be the second?
79mins: Another sub for the Steelmen. Bob McHugh comes on for Henrik Ojamaa who has worked his socks off!
78mins: Couple of subs here… Hammell is off and ZFA is on for ‘Well. Robertson comes on to replace Craig for Saints. Twelve minutes to go.
74mins: Worth mentioning the excellent back-heel from Ojamaa to set-up the former Rotherham man. Excellent goal!
74mins: Great goal from Law – equally brilliant advantage from the referee. Wee midfielder nips in to dink it over Mannus…
GOOOOOALLLLLLLL NICKY LAW! 3-0 MOTHERWELL!
71mins: Liam Craig fires over from the edge of the box with ‘Well hearts in mouth. Good charging from Cummins to put him off too.
68mins: Right down there other end, Millar curls a decent effort at goal but it drops just wide of the post.
68mins: Ojamaa fires a 25-yard shot at Mannus but the ‘keeper does well to make the stop there. Still 2-0 ‘Well at the moment.
64mins: Chance for Vine after a Hasselbaink cut-back but his shot lacked power and Randolph can jump on it.
63mins: Booking for Lasley there. Little bit harsh from the officials there I think.
62mins: Saints look as if they will pull level but the Steelmen somehow hook clear inside the six yard box. Heavy pressure from St. J
60mins: Saints Sub on the hour- Tade comes off and the talented Rowan Vine.
59mins: From the resulting corner-kick, Adam Cummins rises well inside the box but heads it over the bar.
59mins: First real chance of the second half. Ojamaa breaks clear of the defensive line by Mannus does well to turn his low shot around.
53mins: Slow start to the second half from both teams. Not much in the way of fluid passing or moving from either side at the moment.
46mins: Teams are back out on the park. Saints are going to get us going again. Good luck to the ‘Well lads out there! #COYW
HT: Chat amongst the press pack is Motherwell worthy of lead but look as if they could concede. Might need another to secure three points
HT: Saints have had much more of the ball but ‘Well have had the better of the chances with Ojamaa’s close-range effort.
HT: St Johnstone 0 – 2 Motherwell (Murphy x2)
40mins: Saints look to hit back through Davidson but his long-range effort whizzes past the post – Randolph comfortably watching it wide
38mins: Brilliant solo run from Murphy. Cutting in from the left, he smashes it low past Mannus at his near post. 2-0 Motherwell!
GOOOALLLLLLL MOTHERWELL JAMIE MURPHY!
36mins: Saints players crowd the referee looking for a free-kick on the edge. Might have had a good case there too in fairness.
34mins: Referee Colvin is killing the game a little with free-kick after free-kick for both sides. Needs to let up a little.
33mins: Great ball into the box from Saints. Ramsden does brilliantly well to block Hasselbaink. Eventually ref blows for a ‘Well free kick.
31mins: Another chance for Wright. Header eight yards from goal and he should do better as it floats over!
30mins: Referee gives Saints a very soft free-kick. Wright’s header is thankfully straight at Randolph. All Saints at the minute…
25mins: Motherwell subs out to warm up. Bob McHugh gets his now traditional welcome from the noisy ‘Well support.
24mins: Motherwell allowing Saints to turn and face the play in the final third. Dangerous as they are getting some good balls into the box.
21mins: Liam Craig forces Randolph into an unusual save with his feet. A bit De Gea vs Chelsea for those that watched it last week.
16mins: Nice dink to the back post for Ramsden but his header floats over the bar. Great stuff from ‘Well so far. 1-0 at the minute (Murphy)
15mins: Motherwell have a free-kick on the edge of the Saints area. Right of centre, about 23 yards out… #COYW
13mins: Great run and cross from Humphrey. Not quite sure how a Motherwell jersey didn’t get on the end of it. Let off for Saints there again
11mins: Superb volley from Higdon from the edge of the bar goes just wide/over. Great effort from the big man – so close…
9mins: Great chance for St Johnstone. Tade sneaks round the back for the header but puts it wide of the post. Close one there…
8mins: Motherwell crowd in great voice again. Drummer on form for sure. Keep it up lads. Still 1-0 to ‘Well (Murphy)
6mins: Liam Craig has Saints’ first effort at goal but his effort flashes wide with Randolph in good position to watch it safely past.
5mins: Don’t want to curse it, but it’s been a brilliant opening 5mins from Motherwell. Saints look tasty on the counter though.
2mins: Incredible miss from Ojamaa. That should be 2-0. The Estonian pinches the ball off Mannus but with an open goal, puts it over.
1min: Great work by Ojamaa down the left. His shot/cross was deflected into the path of Murphy who swept home from twelve yards!
1min – Motherwell kick off
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“We haven’t had too many good days of late, so we’re pleased. We won’t get too carried away but, obviously, the main point is we’ve not scored in four games, so to get off to such a good start was pleasing.
“I think we’ll have burst a few coupons today because I think most people would have had St Johnstone as a home win, so it was nice, there was a lot of character in there.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t manage to keep a clean sheet because I thought we’ve done really well and we just switched off a little bit.
“We won’t get carried away, but I’m pleased for the lads because they’ve taken a bit of flak and bounced back well at what is a tough place to come.”
St Johnstone manager Steve Lomas:
“You just can’t give the type of goals we gave away, the first two, and expect to win football games. It’s just impossible.
“The first was just a lump over the top and Ojamaa gets in. And the second one, Murphy cuts inside and runs 30 or 40 yards and smacks it in.
“That’s not good enough. We did have some chances that you probably need to take.
“But one of things that got us on our run, obviously we were scoring goals, but we were quite hard to concede against. So the last two games have been a massive disappointment.
“We didn’t get out the blocks. We said Motherwell would be coming out the blocks and we would have to match that, but some of the defending was criminal.”