Alan Burrows at Fir Park
A sublime James McFadden free-kick rescued a deserved point for Motherwell against St Mirren this afternoon.
The Steelmen played well all afternoon but somehow found themselves behind, Conor Newton cancelling out Michael Higdon’s opener before substitute Lew Guy fired Saints ahead with fifteen minutes left on the clock.
It looked like the curse of St Mirren all over again but step forward McFadden with a pearler of a free-kick into the postage stamp top-right hand corner to send Fir Park delirious.
It was the least the Fir Parkers deserved from the match with Craig Samson again in inspired form for the Buddies.
Only time will tell if it’s a point gained or two dropped as the race for European places is nearing its conclusion.
‘Well boss Stuart McCall had hoped to go with the same eighteen as last weekend at Dens Park, but after Stevie Hammell tweaked his hamstring in the warm-up, he was replaced by Antiguan International Zaine Francis-Angol. Steven Saunders was promoted to the substitutes bench.
Danny Lennon made three changes to the Saints side that drew at Rugby Park during the weak. Isma Conçalves missed out through suspension, Gary Teale was injured and John McGinn had to be content with a place amongst the subs. Dougie Imrie, Kenny McLean Sander Puri all came into the starting eleven.
Scottish Communities League Cup winners Saints started well and Darren Randolph had to look smart in the early moments to deny at the feet of McLean, the midfielder having made a good run into the area.
Motherwell’s reply was almost immediate. Chris Humphrey got the better of Paul Dummett and his delivery almost found McFadden in the middle. Saints somehow managed to defend it, but it squirmed out to Higdon who could only screw the rebound high and wide of target.
The hosts were having more of the ball and Higdon almost finished a lovely McFadden ball towards the back post but he crashed the volley high into the Maxim Office Park Stand from about twelve yards out.
Samson got a great hand to a cross to once again deny Higdon and Tom Hateley fired a shot from distance well wide of the post as the Steelmen looked to go in front.
Those chances were sandwiched between a decent chance for Marc McAusland who found himself in space at a corner but his shot lacked power and was straight at Randolph.
Stuart McCall’s side did eventually find the breakthrough their pressure deserved when Higdon returned to haunt his former club. Keith Lasley’s delivery to the back post found the big striker in space and he bulleted a header past Samson for his 23rd goal of the campaign.
The former Crewe hitman now needs just one goal to level Willie Pettigrew’s post war record for top league goals set back in 1975/76.
To their credit, St Mirren’s reacted quickly to going a goal down and they almost drew level right away, but Randolph was again in the right place to smother at the feet of McLean for the second time in the match.
It was a warning the Fir Parkers would fail to heed though as, with just four minutes remaining until the interval, Conor Newton thundered his side level. It was a patient build-up, Imrie feeding Puri on the right. The Estonian teed up the on-loan Newcastle midfielder who took a touch before rocketing a shot high past Randolph.
It was a fine strike although the Republic of Ireland international stopper was right to question the lack of pressure on the ball.
Just before Brian Colvin brought the first forty-five to a close, Nicky Law came within a yard of putting ‘Well back in front but his shot from the edge of the ball flew over the bar.
The Steelmen made a positive start to the second half and Samson had to make another good save to deny Henrik Ojamaa whose stinging effort was turned over for a corner.
Stuart McCall has encouraged his side to play good football on the deck and one example almost brought about what would have been a goal-of-the-season contender.
A free-flowing move involving McFadden, Ojamaa, Higdon, Humphrey and eventually, a shot from Keith Lasley was deflected around for another corner.
The Claret and Amber men were well on top and Samson was again proving the thorn in the Motherwell side. The Scotland International was on great form to turn Chris Humphrey’s shot up and over the bar.
McFadden’s mazy run and shot went a yard or so wide, another deflected Lasley shot spun just over with Samson rooted and Law flicked a Hateley effort just wide as Motherwell continued to dominate.
You got the sense that ‘Well were going regret the missed opportunities and, completely against the run of play, St Mirren got themselves in front. Substitute Lewis Guy, who had been introduced at the interval in place of the otherwise quiet Puri, played a neat one-two with McLean on the edge of the area before coolly slipping it under Randolph for 2-1.
The way results have gone between the two sides in recent years; there was an air of almost resigned inevitability about it all for the Fir Park faithful. But their frustration would soon turn to jubilation as the talismanic McFadden dragged his side level in sensational style.
A long, almost hopeful, ball towards Higdon caused McAusland to give away what looked like a pretty needless foul on the edge of the area. The former Birmingham City and Everton man grabbed it straight away. What happened next was a moment of genius, the 29-year old curling it beautifully into the top-right hand corner despite the best efforts of the otherwise excellent Samson.
The roof came off the old ground and Faddy looked as if he loved it – celebrating with his young children who were pearched at the rear of the Cooper Stand.
Incredibly, Motherwell could and probably should have won it. Higdon had a great chance in the dying seconds when an Ojamaa ball flashed across the face. To be fair to the big striker, the cross was fizzed at him and was probably more difficult that it first looked. His touch allowed Saints to eventually hook it clear.
With virtually the last kick, Humphrey had another effort deflected just wide for a corner.
McCall will be delighted to grab a point from a losing situation but will be scratching his head at how his side never won after creating so many opportunities.
[tab:As it happened]
Alastair Reilly at Fir Park
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“I would say the same even if we lost – I was really proud of the players. I thought it was a terrific game of football on a really lively pitch, which was a bit dry and bumpy.
“I thought second half we were terrific. I thought first half we were dangerous and had opportunities. It was a cracking goal by them, having said that all four goals were well executed.
“But some of the stuff we played second half was terrific and I was really pleased with the performance against a good, good St Mirren side. As good a team as St Mirren are, I think it would have been a travesty if we didn’t at least get something out of the game.
“Everyone gave their all. Managers aren’t supposed to enjoy games but I really enjoyed it, I thought it was a terrific game of football. If we can take that form into the last five games I’ll be more than happy.”
St Mirren manager Danny Lennon:
“You could probably dig out the same reports you have done from the last couple of years,
“They are always fixtures I look forward to and once again both sets of players and supporters brought a great deal to the game.
“It was thoroughly entertaining – goalmouth action, quality goals – and football certainly won today again.”