Phil McGhee at Fir Park
Motherwell kicked off the new year where they finished the old one with a superb 4-0 win over a good St Johnstone.
And while goals from John Sutton, Iain Vigurs, Lionel Ainsworth and James McFadden eased ‘Well to a fifth consective win with some style, both teams can take credit for serving up a festive feast in horrendous conditions.
In a breathtaking 90 minutes of action, both sides had some amazing escapes as the respective goal frames were hammered an incredible 6 times.
Despite his influential display in the 5-1 win over Thistle, James McFadden was back on the bench, alongside Zaine Francis-Angol, both making way for the inclusion of Shaun Hutchison and John Sutton who rejoined Henri Anier in attack.
And the strike pair combined within two minutes when Anier’s pass into the box found Sutton but his lobbed attempt drifted over the bar.
The Saints’ goal had amazing and controversial escape a minute later. Lionel Ainsworth’s corner drifted across the packed penalty area to Stephen McManus and his thundering drive cannoned down off the underside of the cross bar and bouncing up into goal before Alan Mannus could grab the ball. But despite the celebrations the assistant referee indicated that the ball had not crossed the line.
The visitor’s goal was under seige at that stage and another Ainsworth corner found its way to Shaun Hutchison and his effort looked net bound until Mannus strecthed to scoop the ball off the line.
Saints reply was a stunning strike from Dave Mackay which rebounded from Twardzik’s left hand post.
Motherwell’s pressing start was finally rewarded after 20 minutes. A great break down the left ended with Vigurs sweeping a cross to the front post, where Sutton headed home his tenth of the season.
Saints finally coped with ‘Well’s furious opening and Twardzik got down to make a great block from David Wotherspoon. Then a timely interception by McManus cut out Gwion Edwards cut back as the lethal Stevie May waited to strike.
‘Well came within inches of a second goal after 27 minutes. Ainsworth’s effort was blocked but the ball fell for Stuart Carswell whose volley from 10 yards rebounded off the inside of the post.
With Saints no doubt thinking that a goal early in the second half would bring them right back into the game, it was Stuart McCall’s men who produced a killer second within minutes of the restart.
Ainsworth cut in from the right to deliver a low drive which Mannus could only palm out to Vigurs who from 6 yards poked the ball into the empty net for his first Motherwell goal.
It was Saints’ turn to be denied again by the woodwork when, after a goal mouth scrammble, May’s shot was brillainly turned onto the post by Twardzik.
The game was end to end and Mannus matched his opposite number when he denied Ainworth, whose run from the halfway looked to perfectly finished, only to see his drive pushed onto the post by the ‘keeper.
The winger was not to be denied his fourth goal infour games though and it arrived after 71minutes.
Vigurs’ free kick was headed onto the post Hutchison, but the ball was only partially cleared and from the corner of the box Ainsworth rifled a drive across the ‘keeper to make it 3-0.
McFadden came on for Sutton and, four minutes from time, completed the scoring when he curled a right foot drive from 25 yard drive beyond the diving Mannus.
As the ‘Well players celebrated at the final whistle, Dan Twardzik took a well deserved final bow for his fine contribution having completed his amazing short term loan from Dundee, with his fifth win and third clean sheet.
[tab:As it happened]
Alastair Reilly at Fir Park
FT: An incredible performance today. 4 goals, hit the woodwork 3 times and could have been more! Happy new year indeed! #mfcvsjfc
FT: Motherwell 4 – 0 St Johnstone
90mins: Moore almost makes it 5 but drags his shot just wide #mfcvsjfc
86mins: MCFADDEN completes the rout with a superb curling right footed shot from 25 yards! 4-0 #mfcvsjfc
84mins: St Johnstone sub, Millar on for McDonald #mfcvsjfc
83mins: Motherwell sub, Lasley off for Lawson #mfcvsjfc
81mins: Motherwell sub, Sutton off for McFadden #mfcvsjfc
81mins: Vigs slides in Moore whose shot is straight at Mannus form 12 yards. Just had to find a corner! #mfcvsjfc
78mins:Vigurs’ cross evades the entire St J defence and falls to Ainsworth.His volley’s drilled into the ground and Mannus gathers #mfcvsjfc
75mins: Motherwell sub, Moore on for Anier #mfcvsjfc
74mins: May fails to hit the target with a volley 15 yards out. #mfcvsjfc
73mins: Inches past again from Ainsworth as he dropped the shoulder and got away from MacKay and curled a shot with his right foot #mfcvsjfc
Just before that, McManus’ header crashed off the post! #mfcvsjfc
71mins: It’s that man AINSWORTH who has been on fire today and drills in the third from just inside the box 3-0 #mfcvsjfc
68mins : St Johnstone sub, Fallon on for Brown #mfcvsjfc
67mins: Ainsworth’s counter-attacking run ends when his shot is palmed onto the post by Mannus! #mfcvsjfc
66mins: Hammell booked, Free-kick on the edge of the area for St J,,………Hutchy heads clear #mfcvsjfc
64mins: Superb again from Ainsworth as he skins his man and drills it across goal. Sutton inches away from connecting #mfcvsjfc
59mins: St Johnstone sub, Wotherspoon off for Hasselbaink #mfcvsjfc
58mins: Good play from Vigurs as he cuts in from the right left and gets a right footed shot away at Mannus. Decent effort #mfcvsjfc
55mins: MacKay’s free-kick from 25 yards whistles just past the post. Unlucky #mfcvsjfc
52mins: Outstanding save from Twardzik to deny May from 6 yards. Not sure how much he knew about it but it remains 2-0 #mfcvsjfc
48mins: VIGURS makes it 2 after an amazing run from Ainsworth. Was on hand to poke home rebound from Lionel’s shot! 2-0 #mfcvsjfc
Teams are back out at a sodden Fir Park #mfcvsjfc
…call if it was over the line from either bounce. Ref had a good view of it. #mfcvsjfc
Looking back on the incident early in the first half. The ball actually hits the bar twice from McManus’ spectacular volley. Too hard to….
HT: Motherwell 1 – 0 St Johnstone #mfcvsjfc
44mins: Brown skims the paint off the top of the bar with a good effort from 20 yards #mfcvsjfc
34mins: St J have a corner after Wotherspoon’s shot is deflected over. Hutchinson heads clear #mfcvsjfc
30mins: It’s chucking it down here, which is a concern #mfcvsjfc
28mins: ‘Well peppering the Saints goal! Somehow bodies keep flying in the way and the ball doesn’t find the back of the net! #mfcvsjfc
27mins: May spins Hutchinson just inside the ‘Well half and gets a shot away. Trouble Twardzik but he deals with it #mfcvsjfc
24mins: Great chance for St J as Edwards get in behind and he cuts it back for the waiting May. McManus slides in to clear! #mfcvsjfc
22mins: Saints go straight up the pitch and Twardzik has a great save to deny Wotherspoon on the angle #mfcvsjfc
21mins: Superb delivery from Vigurs in the left straight to the head of SUTTON who nods home from 8 yards! 1-0 #mfcvsjfc
17mins: MacKay hits the ball with a fine effort from 20 yards! McDonald’s follow up is deflected wide #mfcvsjfc
9mins: Anier gets the break of the ball inside the box and cuts in on his left foot. Fires just wide of the post. #mfcvsjfc
5mins: Another good chance! This time Hutchinson ghosts in at the back post from a corner and his volley is cleared off the line #mfcvsjfc
4mins: Moment of controversy as ‘Well claimed to have the ball over the line. Red not convinced and waved play on. Hard to tell. #mfcvsjfc
3mins: Early chance. ball falls to Sutton just inside the box. He tries to clip it over Mannus but it sails over #mfcvsjfc
Underway at FP #mfcvsjfc
So, here we all are now, all the lads are up for this one. Just moments away from kick off #mfcvsjfc
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“I thought it was a fantastic performance. We keep reverting back to last season and the season before and the players we have lost, but I thought the second half was as good as we have been, on a par with anything.
“The football was terrific and we have created some fantastic chances. Bear in mind it was against a side who don’t lose a lot of goals.
“It was a good game. St Johnstone could have scored a couple, they have hit the woodwork a couple of times and we hit it three or four times.
“We said it might not be a day for pretty passing but they passed it well and moved. I was really proud of the performance. I thought it was the perfect all-round way to start the new year. It was just a delight.”
St Johnstone assistant manager Tommy Wright:
“It’s a strange game at times because it could have been 4-3 at half-time.
“We didn’t start the game well, which was key. We let them get a good foothold in the game and the tempo they played at.
“We settled down and created enough chances in the first half to be level but we did contribute to our own downfall.
“The goals are poor from our point of view, ill-discipline and not dealing with one against ones, giving away soft free-kicks to a team that has good delivery.
“It could have been 6-4 to them because there were a lot of chances.”