Phil McGhee at McDiarmid Park
Motherwell ended the season with a disappointing 2-0 defeat to euro-chasing St Johnstone at Perth.
A tremendous 1000 plus “Well fans crammed into the Main Stand at McDiarmid Park, with an overspill behind the goal, intent on celebrating the conclusion of a fabulous season.
But it was Saints who deservedly took the points to secure the last European slot with goals from Liam Craig and Nigel Hasselbaink.
In the end it was a disappointing afternoon for the Steelmen who never managed to match the hunger of the home side or acclimatise to a very difficult playing surface.
Lee Hollis took over in goal from Darren Randolph and with Tom Hateley and Chris Humphrey both injured, Fraser Kerr and Stuart Carswell made it into the starting line-up.
And while it was a chance for those three to shine, in truth, ‘Well hade few bright moments in an otherwise forgettable afternoon.
The pitch made football difficult for both teams and the play, like the surface, was very patchy. Incredibly as every pass bobbled up off the surface, and both the players and referee looked for a solution, the match ball was replaced four times in the opening 20 minutes.
By that stage the only football thing of note was when Steven McLean slid the ball past Hollis and into the net only for the Saints celebrations to be curtailed by an offside flag.
“Well’s only threat came when James McFadden, wide on the right fed in Nicky Law who blasted his shot high and wide.
After half an hour though Saints looked much more intent and a great move and cross from Callum Davidson found Chris Miller whose side foot volley smacked off the face of the post.
‘Well’s luck did not carry much further though and in the 35th minute, the Perth side took the lead.
Simon Ramsden did well with a double block outside the box but when the ball fell in front of Liam Craig, he unleashed a superb left foot drive which gave Hollis no chance.
Saints fans were cheering again minutes later as news came through that Inverness Caley were a goal down placing the Perth men in pole position for Europe.
That nearly changed on the stroke of half time when ‘Well almost equalised. Law’s corner found Higdon and his powerful downward header was blocked by Alan Mannus but from six yards, Henrik Ojamaa hoisted the rebound over the bar when a leveler looked likely.
Saints reply to that scare was almost immediate and two minutes after the break they grabbed their second goal to make the points secure. Nigel Hasselbaink, who has a habit of scoring against ‘Well, collected the ball with his back to goal, turned Shaun Hutchison and guided his shot just inside the post.
That lead might have been increased when a dipping volley from Murray Davidson crashed off the cross bar.
Hollis then produced a fine one handed save to push away a low drive from substitute Mehdi Abeid.
With Saints content to protect their lead, Motherwell never looked like getting back into the game and the best they had to offer a subdued travelling support was a Hutchison header which was held by Mannus and a Kallum Higginbotham shot which was deflected just outside the post.
Undaunted by the result, the Motherwell fans joined the Saints fans on the pitch at the final whistle to celebrate both side’s European qualification and an otherwise sensational 2012/13 drew to a close.
[tab:As it happened]
Alan Burrows at McDiarmid Park
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“I was disappointed we lost the game.
“There are no excuses. St Johnstone had the bit between the teeth. I don’t like losing anything but we have to take a reality check.
“It’s not been about today, it’s been about the season.”
St Johnstone manager Stevie Lomas:
“I thought it was a day of excellence. We carried out our gameplan to perfection and it could have been by a lot more.
“The boys were excellent. We just had to do what we could do.
“The lads were fully focused and you saw that from their effort and commitment and the quality of play.”