Motherwell Under 20s turned in their best performance of the campaign to thrash St Johnstone 4-0 at McDiarmid Park this evening.
It was a scintillating display from the young Steelmen side, with four different scorers, three of them netting their first of the campaign.
Jack Leitch put ‘Well on their way after nineteen minutes before Dom Thomas doubled the lead just five minutes later with a silky run and shot.
Bob McHugh added the decisive third from the penalty spot with twenty minutes left to play before Adam Cummins added an exclamation point with a late header.
Jonatan Johansson made two changes from the side that drew 1-1 with Hearts seven days ago. Stuart Carswell and Kallum Higginbotham both dropped out, replaced by Antiguan International Zaine Francis-Angol and the returning Frazer Johnstone.
It was a quiet opening to the match, which only exploded to life in the seventeenth minute.
Bob McHugh had two great chances to open the scoring but was twice denied by Saints keeper Zander Clark.
The first came after an excellent pass by Lee Erwin set the former Scotland youth international racing away. Clark did very well to stand big and, eventually, pushed the shot away.
The chance wasn’t dead though as the rebounded landed at Thomas. He quickly cut it back across goal for McHugh but Clark turned around his effort.
Motherwell wouldn’t be denied though as, from the resulting corner, they took the lead.
The cross landed at the feet of McHugh, he held off two defenders only for his blocked effort to land kindly at the feet of Leitch who swept home from close range – his first goal of the campaign.
The visitors doubled their advantage five minutes later when Thomas grabbed his first of the campaign too. Cutting in from the left and with space opening up thanks to a brilliant decoy run from Francis-Angol, the youngster drifted past two before firing a low shot into the far corner.
Saints’ reply was a weak shot from Dwayne Coultness, which bounced harmlessly wide.
Down the other end, Motherwell could and perhaps should have made it three just after the half hour when Francis-Angol’s whipped cross just eluded McHugh and McCafferty before Saints eventually hooked clear.
Lee Erwin also had a couple of efforts flash wide as the Fir Parkers ended the half on a high.
The second half started much in the same way as the first ended, with Motherwell well on top.
They should have extended their lead just minutes after the restart, Erwin cutting it back from the touchline for McHugh only for his effort to be saved well by Clark again.
Both McHugh and Fraser Kerr fired over the bar as the Claret and Amber men dominated the early exchanges.
It took the home side an hour to really make Lee Hollis work for his money. Coultress’ shot from just outside the ‘D’ forced the former Airdrie stopper to push away although it was a save you would expect him to make.
Just as it looked as if the home side were creeping back into the match, Motherwell were handed the opportunity to extended their advantage from the penalty spot when Steeves fouled McCafferty inside the area.
Bob McHugh stepped up and coolly slotted it home for his fifteenth of the season.
With the comfort of a three-goal cushion, Johansson’s men went on to dominate the last twenty minutes. In fact, had it now been for Saints stopper Clark, the scoreline might have been very handsome indeed.
He made a terrific block from Fraser Kerr after the defender had got onto his own rebound to turn it over from close range. The on-loan Birmingham defender claimed for a handball and another penalty but it fell on deaf ears.
A minute later, he was at full stretch to turn round a shot from substitute Steven Higgins as Motherwell threatened to run riot.
However, he was helpless to stop Motherwell’s fourth when Adam Cummins netted his first of the season for the Under 20s. Jack Leitch was the architect; another fine delivery from a corner found the former Everton man at the near post and he bulleted a header home from about four yards out.
Saints had their best chance with virtually the last kick of the ball when substitute Craig Thomson brought out an excellent stop from Lee Hollis. ‘Well’s number two got down well low to his left to deny the youngster and confirm only the Under 20s second clean sheet of the campaign.
That’s seven points from the last nine available for Jonatan Johansson’s side, who will look forward to the visit of Kilmarnock next Tuesday night.
Motherwell: Hollis, Kerr (Neill – 83mins), Francis-Angol, Saunders, Cummins, Johnstone (Higgins – 73mins), McCafferty, Leitch, Thomas, McHugh, Erwin (Shirkie – 73mins)
Subs Not Used: Currie