Phil McGhee at Fir Park
Motherwell gave the Fir Park fans some pre-Christmas cheer with a comfortable home win over St Mirren.
And after two heavy home defeats, Stuart McCall’s men bounced back with an impressive and emphatic win over Danny Lennon’s men.
Two well taken goals from Henri Anier in each half and a cool finish from Lionel Ainsworth just before half-time was more than a fair reward for Motherwell’s play.
With first choice ‘keepers Lee Hollis and Gunnar Nielsen still sidelined through injury, it gave another on loanee, Dan Twardzik the chance to make his home debut.
And after helping ‘Well to all three points at Dingwall last week the young Dundee ‘keeper helped himself to another win bonus with a shut-out.
In truth, though, he was seldom tested as Motherwell controlled the match for long spells and after the first half double the result was never in doubt.
Motherwell posted their intentions from the start and Anier headed Ainsworth’s cross just wide within 30 seconds.
Saints replied with a cross from Sean Kelly which forced Twardzik into a brave save at the feet of the in rushing Gary Harkins. Other than that the young ‘keeper had a quiet afternoon although he did have a couple of decent saves from John McGinn and Kenny McLean late in the game to deny Saints a consolation goal.
Motherwell were well on top by that stage. A sustained spell of pressure midway through the half from the home side finally paid off.
With 24 minutes played Marian Kello did well to block Ainsworth’s volley inside the six-yard box. But the ‘keeper was helpless when ‘Well made the deserved breakthrough on the half hour mark.
A good build up involving Ainsworth and Keith Lasley set up Anier who twice turned Lee Mair inside the box before slamming the ball high past Kello from close range.
Four minutes from half-time ‘Well doubled their lead with a brilliantly created and finished goal. Anier and John Sutton were involved in a smart exchange of passes before Ainsworth worked a one-two with Sutton before stroking the ball inside the post to round of a great move and make it 2-0.
Although a fight back from Saints was anticipated, it never came and it really became a question of how many more ‘Well would score.
A third almost came after 53 minutes when Sutton terrific pass sent Ainsworth down the right and when his cross was only partially cleared Sutton strike from the edge of the box was blocked by Mair on the line.
Kello then produced a wonderful save to deny Ainsworth a second goal.
However, it was Anier who grabbed his second and Motherwell’s third after 63 minutes. Iain Vigurs sent over a tempting cross and Anier drilled the ball beyond Kello from 15 yards for a superb finish.
It might have been more miserable for the Saints fans as Sutton headed narrowly past and Paul Lawson’s thundering drive was palmed out by Kello.
But nothing could detract from a fine Motherwell performance and a perfect start to the hectic programme of fixtures over the festive holidays.
[tab:As it happened]
Alastair Reilly at Fir Park
FT: Of course, an early Christmas present for all ‘Well fans too! Safe journey home everyone and have a great Christmas!
FT: A great home performance and well worthy of the final scoreline and three points.
FT: Motherwell 3 – 0 St Mirren
90mins: Lawson stings the palms of Kello with a 25 yard drive! #mfcvsmfc
89mins: Sutton almost puts the cream on the pudding with a diving header at the back post just wide. #mfcvsmfc
89mins: Sutton almost outs the cream on the pudding with a diving header at the back post just wide. #mfcvsmfc
83mins: St Mirren corner……Twardzik punches to safety #mfcvsmfc
83mins: Motherwell sub, Lasley off for Lawson. Took a bit of a knock. #mfcvsmfc
81mins: McGowan tries to pick out Thompson with a ball in however he misses it and it very nearly deceives Twardzik. Good save in the end.
78mins: St Mirren sub, Goodwin off for Van Zanten #mfcvsmfc
76mins: Motherwell sub, Ainsworth off for Kerr. That’s a great shift from the Winger. #mfcvsmfc
75mins: St Mirren sub, Harkins off for Reilly #mfcvsmfc
72mins: Almost another instant impact for Moore as he gambles at the front post to get on the end of Ainsworth’s cross.Inches away. #mfcvsmfc
70mins: Motherwell sub, Anier off for Moore. Been great today! #mfcvsmfc
63mins: Anier pokes home to make it 3 after Vigurs puts in the best delivery you’ll see this festive period 3-0 #mfcvsmfc
61mins: Ainsworth cuts the ball across the face of goal and Naismith takes no chances with Anier waiting to pounce. Corner. #mfcvsmfc
60mins: St Mirren sub, Newton off for McGinn #mfcvsmfc
59mins: Anier drives into the box and with a few options to pick from, opts to shoot straight at Kello.#mfcvsmfc
57mins: Corner to ‘Well…balls falls to McManus and to be fair, his volley is heading in until it’s blocked 6 yards out #mfcvsmfc
53mins: Glorious chance for Sutton! Kello flaps at a cross and it falls to Sutton, albeit 23 yards out. His goalbound effort is cleared
Second half underway
Motherwell well worth their half-time lead. Been an entertaining first 45. #mfcvsmfc
HT: Motherwell 2 – 0 St Mirren.
41mins: Ainsworth makes it 2-0!!! Sutton laid him off, and the winger was composed enough to slot past Kello. #mfcvsmfc
37mins: McLean whips in a dangerous free-kick which almost catches Twardzik out. Drifts inches over #mfcvsmfc
34mins: Two corners in succession for the Buddies. Eventually clawed away by Twardzik #mfcvsmfc
32mins: Almost 2! Ainsworth flashes a shot inches past of Kello’s post from the edge of the area. #mfcvsmfc
30mins: It’s a christmas cracker from ANIER who turns Mair inside out in the box and drills it home from 10 yards 1-0 #mfcvsmfc
28mins: Decent effort from Newton who curls a shot just over the bar from the edge of the box #mfcvsmfc
27mins: Another corner to Motherwell…this time Sutton dives in at the front post only to see his header fly just past! #mfcvsmfc
25mins: ‘Well break through Las who picks out Ainsworth at the back post. Should score but Kello makes a great block at his feet #mfcvsmfc
….ball falls to Goodwin who slices well wide and high #mfcvsmfc
23mins: Hutchinson slides in to block Kelly’s cross which was heading into the danger area, From the corner, Saints win another…..
21mins: Corner to ‘Well again…..close! A combination of Ramsden and Hutchinson heads goal wards but it’s cleared off the line! #mfcvsmfc
14mins: Lasley sells McGowan a dummy to win a free-kick just outside the box next to the byline. Vigurs’ delivery has no takers #mfcvsmfc
13mins: Now a corner to St Mirren, good delivery headed to safety by McManus #mfcvsmfc
11mins: Another corner to ‘Well…..Ainsworth’s delivery is headed back to him by McManus.Hutchy concedes a foul on the next cross #mfcvsmfc
10mins: Hutchinson leaps in the box to meet Ainsworth’s corner but it’s too high and he awkwardly heads over #mfcvsmfc
8mins: Free-kick from wide on the left for St Mirren, Thompson heads it harmlessly wide #mfcvsmfc
3mins Corner to St Mirren, whichs is too deep and Thompson can only head wide #mfcvsmfc
2mins: Good bravery from Twardzik as he slid out at the feet of the sliding Harkins. Gathers and clears #mfcvsmfc
18seconds: Seconds in and Anier has a header at the front post sneak just past from Ainsworth’s cross #mfcvsmfc
And we’re underway! #COYW #mfcvsmfc
Here come the teams, usual colours for both sides. #mfcvsmfc
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“It’s a great result for us – St Mirren have been on a good run and have some real talented players in their side.
“The first half was reminiscent of just about every other match we’ve played against Saints; end to end, nothing much between the teams.
“The three goals we scored were quality and we could have had more. Their keeer (Marian Kello) has had a couple of really good saves.
“We had some outstanding individual performances; it was hard to pick a man of the match for us. People will look at Lionel (Ainsworth) and Henri (Anier) for their goals but you can go right though the side, so many people were on top of their game which is what you need to win games in the Premiership.”
St Mirren manager Danny Lennon:
“The highly frustrating part is that we have dropped one or two gears in terms of our work ethic, and that has been the main ingredient of our success,” he said.
“I just felt we were off, we played second fiddle to a lot of balls and Motherwell just showed a greater hunger.
“That disappoints me and it hurts me to say that.”