Kris Jack at Fir Park
A solitary strike from St Mirren’s Jack Smith was enough to earn the young Buddies a win over a hard-working Motherwell side.
A first half-full of chances for both sides gave the small crowd plenty of entertainment, but the match’s only real clinical moment condemned Jonathan Johansson’s side to a narrow defeat.
With his side missing top scorers Bob McHugh and Craig Moore, the Finn fielded a younger than usual side, giving starts to Under 17s Steven Higgins, Dom Thomas and David Ferguson. With only three subs named on the ‘Well bench, all schoolboys, it was a makeshift side to say the least, but to their credit, the battles of the first half were mainly won by those in claret and amber.
Despite St Mirren controlling the early proceedings, it was ‘Well who were first to threaten, when Lee Erwin’s free kick from 25 yards was well covered by Saints keeper Grant Adam. Not to be out done, the Buddies forced Steelmen stopper Ross Stewart in to early action, after a neat exchange on the right hand side teed up Robertson, but his shot was too direct.
A home corner then dropped at the feet of McCafferty, but the winger could only blaze the ball high in to the South Stand. Stewart then made a fantastic double save to keep the game level, firstly blocking out a half volley from Jon Scullion from eight yards, before reacting to Mo Yaqub’s follow up at the other side of his goal.
At the other end, Dom Thomas created two excellent chances for the hosts after getting to the by-line, but neither could be converted. The first one was somehow turned over the bar by Lee Erwin from all of three yards under pressure form Sean Kelly, before a replica move saw the ball bounce behind Adam, before being cleared off the line to safety.
In between those efforts, Euan Murray had thought he had put the Well ahead when he nodded Erwin’s front post flick-on goalwards. Adam was on hand to claw the ball away, despite shouts from the hosts that it had crossed the line. The goal wasn’t given and play raged on.
Despite the efforts of the Steelmen, St Mirren always looked lively, and when Stewart spilt Robertson’s shot, Scullion should have put the Buddies ahead. Instead, he managed to shank the ball over from eight yards with a gaping goal in front of him, to the amazement of his teammates.
Erwin then was thwarted by Adam again, when the tall striker turned his men in the box, only to have the Scotland U21 keeper react quickly to save at his feet, leaving the forward injured for a few moments. McCafferty then showed great technique to shuffle away from two men, but his shot once again ended up over the bar.
‘Well were almost made to pay for passing up their opportunities, when a great ball in from the right by Williams was begging to be poked home, but frontman Scullion didn’t gamble and the chance was gone.
However, within four minutes of the restart the hosts were left to rue their missed chances as St Mirren took the lead.
A ball forward from Brown had the ‘Well defence caught on their heels, with Jack Smith reacting quickest to get the ball under control, sliding the ball through the legs of Stewart to give the visitors the lead.
It would be the only moment of real quality in the game, as the Paisley side dominated the second half without adding to their tally.
Johansson’s side had goalkeeper Stewart to thank for that, after he pulled off some fantastic stops to keep the score down. Firstly he blocked well at the feet of Smith after the goal scorer had broken the offside trap once more. He then had to react sharpest after Morgyn Neill had done well to block out a Scullion volley, the ball falling to Brown who looked on as Stewart palmed the ball wide.
The young Motherwell keeper made it a hat trick of second half stops with the best of the bunch, when Smith’s lay off for Scullion saw the diminutive front man bend a shot from 18 yards towards the top corner, only to see it batted away by the finger tips of Stewart.
Erwin and Shirkie failed to bother Adam in the second half, with Jack Leitch’s set piece deliveries as close as ‘Well would come to putting the St Mirren defence under any real threat.
In the dying moments, Scullion passed up two further chances to secure the pints. The first came when Williams flashed a ball in to the six-yard box, which the striker couldn’t stretch to connect with. He came closer with the second, as his outstretched toe diverted the ball on to the bar from a similarly dangerous delivery.
Another free kick from Erwin was well marshalled by the Saints keeper as the clock ticked down ahead of the final whistle.
There were plenty of positives to take in the first half for Johansson’s and the on looking Stuart McCall, but their fourth game in ten days ultimately ended in defeat. Games are coming thick and fast with Aberdeen at Fir Park on Tuesday afternoon as the U20s season nears its conclusion.
Motherwell: Stewart, Ferguson, Neill, Murray, Asghar, Leitch, McCafferty, Erwin, Shirkie, Thomas (Cadden – 78mins), Higgins (Mackie – 78mins)
Subs Not Used: Currie