Alan Burrows at St Mirren Park
Motherwell failed to take advantage of results elsewhere after suffering a controversial 3-2 defeat at St Mirren Park this afternoon.
Henri Anier and John Sutton took advantage of space in the St Mirren defence to put Motherwell two ahead inside 27 minutes.
But, with Motherwell missing injured centre-back Shaun Hutchinson, St Mirren looked dangerous at corners and Steven Thompson converted one just before the break to give the Buddies hope.
They pressed in the early stages of the second half but Motherwell had chances on the break and appeared to have withstood the pressure.
However, stand-in referee Iain Brines awarded the hosts a controversial penalty for handball by Stephen McManus in the 86th minute.
Thompson’s header hit the former Scotland defender’s face at point-blank range but Brines, after some hesitation, decided it was deliberate handball despite the Motherwell defender’s protests.
Kenny McLean converted from the spot and Thompson stunned the visitors when he turned and fired home from close range a minute later.
Both teams made changes from matches against Inverness. Saints replaced Wylde and Campbell with McAusland and McGowan whereas McCall was forced into one switch, Hutchinson missing out only to be replaced by Lionel Ainsworth.
St Mirren had the first chance when Darren McGregor won McLean’s corner but Gunnar Nielsen got down well to stop.
Sutton headed just wide from a Craig Reid cross at the other end and Motherwell were ahead in the 16th minute after St Mirren were caught out by a diagonal ball from McManus.
Lionel Ainsworth had yards of space to run into and he squared for Anier to stroke home after Saints goalkeeper Christopher Dilo rushed out unconvincingly.
Saints lost Paul McGowan to injury in the 22nd minute as Gregg Wylde came on, and they missed a great chance to equalise when Jim Goodwin sent a free header wide from six yards following another McLean corner.
Motherwell punished them two minutes later to double their lead after probing for an opening on the edge of the St Mirren box.
The home defence was again stretched as Steven Hammell crossed and Ainsworth volleyed the ball across the face of goal for Sutton to stoop and head home.
The Saints defence was soon exposed again as Reid broke down the right to cross but Jason Naismith got across to cover and divert Sutton’s shot wide.
But the hosts continued to look dangerous whenever they got a corner and Thompson headed not far over before he pulled one back in the 41st minute.
McGregor headed back McLean’s deep delivery from the right and Thompson swept the ball home with his left foot from 10 yards.
Fourth official Brines replaced Euan Norris as referee at half-time and the pattern of the game changed as well as the home side pushed for an equaliser.
Naismith fired several dangerous balls across the face of goal and Thompson had a series of efforts, including a diving header and a shot on the turn that Nielsen both saved well.
Saints brought on striker Josh Magennis for midfielder Conor Newton but Dilo kept them in the game when he acrobatically tipped Ainsworth’s 20-yard strike over the bar.
Saints survived another major scare when Craig Moore beat the offside following Sutton’s pass, moments after replacing Anier, but he snatched at his shot when clean through and dragged it a yard wide.
And Motherwell were made to pay for the miss in a dramatic finale as St Mirren climbed above Partick Thistle and consigned Hearts to relegation.
[tab:As it happened]
Ally Reilly at St Mirren Park
FT: St Mirren 3 – 2 Motherwell #SMFCvMFC
3 minutes added on #SMFCvMFC
87mins: GOAL! St Mirren unbelievably make it 3-2 through Thompson #SMFCvMFC
85mins: GOAL! McLean slots it home to make it 2-2 #SMFCvMFC
85mins: Penalty to St Mirren! Ref says McManus handled when facing the other way? #SMFCvMFC
is blocked then cleared by Saints #SMFCvMFC
82mins: Free-kick to ‘Well just inside the St Mirren half. McManus slides it into Moore who releases Francis-Angol but his cross….
Into the final 10 minutes. Been a battling performance in this half. #SMFCvMFC
79mins: Motherwell sub, Francis-Angol on for Ainsworth #SMFCvMFC
73mins: St Mirren sub, Teale on for Goodwin #SMFCvMFC
72mins: Moore passes up a great chance to make it 3 – 1, draggin well wide from 16 yards #SMFCvMFC
71mins: Motherwell sub, Anier off for Moore #SMFCvMFC
64mins: Goodin booked for wiping out Vigurs and Leitch #SMFCvMFC
63mins: Corner to Saints, Kerr getting in front of Magennis to clear #SMFCvMFC
59mins: Ainsworth forces a great save from Dilo who tips it over the bar! #SMFCvMFC
…seconds later, Nielsen again has to push away Thompson’s goal bound effort. #SMFCvMFC
56mins: Saints peppering the ‘Well goal! First Nielsen has to stop from Naismith, then Kerr has to react first to clear for a corner…
53mins: St Mirren sub, Newton off for Magennis #SMFCvMFC
51mins: Naismith’s shot is deflected which wrong foots Nielsen. Thankfully it goes behind for a corner #SMFCvMFC
47mins: Free-kick to St Mirren, practically on the corner flag…Nielsen punches it well clear #SMFCvMFC
Both teams out for the second half. Leitch and Lasley kick it off #SMFCvMFC
HT: St Mirren 1 – 2 Motherwell #SMFCvMFC
44mins: Wylde cuts inside with a good run but from 25 yards, drags a shot well wide #SMFCvMFC
41mins: GOAL! Thompson finally gets Saints on the scoresheet, slotting home a knockdown from a corner 1 – 2 #SMFCvMFC
38mins: Yet another header off target for Saints. This time it’s McGregor who heads over McLean’s deep FK #SMFCvMFC
From the delivery, Thompson heads just past. Again it’s a chance from a corner which is slightly concerning #SMFCvMFC
35mins: St Mirren corner, after Hammell covers at the back post and manages to knock the cross over his bar #SMFCvMFC
30mins: Anier wins ‘Well a corner after running the channel and getting the break of the ball…Newton heads clear #SMFCvMFC
28mins: Could have been 3! Great work from Reid to get down the wing and deliver for Sutton who is just beaten to it by McGregor. Corner.
27mins: SUTTON makes it 2-0 heading home from close range after Ainsworth knocked back Hammell’s ball in!! #SMFCvMFC
25mins: Another corner to Saints…headed inches wide by Goodwin who should have burst the net! #SMFCvMFC
21mins: St Mirren sub, McGowan off for Wylde #SMFCvMFC
squares it to the Estonian who taps home to make it 1-0!!! #SMFCvMFC
16mins: Well, a strange moment as Ainsworth and Anier spring the offside trap and with the defence waiting on the whistle, Ainsworth…
14mins: Up the other end, it’s a corner to St Mirren headed clear by McManus. #SMFCvMFC
13mins: Great header from Sutton loops just wide of the post from 12 yards. It’s a superb effort to be fair #SMFCvMFC
12mins: Corner to ‘Well, headed clear by McGregor #SMFCvMFC
10mins: The home side have started the brighter of the two. Bulk of the possession and forced a great save from Nielsen #SMFCvMFC
4mins: First corner of the game for Saints….great save from Nielsen to deny Thompson’s header!!! #SMFCvMFC
Early pressure from St Mirren. Ball is hoofed into the box and Thomson outjumps McManus but heads wide #SMFCvMFC
Thompson and McGowan kick-off #SMFCvMFC #COYW
Here come the teams, led by Lasley and Goodwin #SMFCvMFC
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“A long ball came at the back post and the ball hits Stephen in the eye socket and the bridge of the nose and flies out to the edge of the box, and the crowd shout.
“The linesman, who is looking right at it 12-15 yards away, nothing. The referee, from I think 30 yards away at the other side of the box, gives a penalty.
“Stephen doesn’t rant and rave about things. He is an honest guy. Obviously his arms are up when he has jumped but it has hit him flush in the face.
“That decision alone has cost us three points because I felt, as the game was petering out, we were not only quite comfortable defensively, but I felt we were going to hit them on the break. We had seen the danger out.”
St Mirren manager Danny Lennon:
“I haven’t had the chance to see it but if we have got that bit of fortune, then the only thing I can say is that it’s overdue.
“I did think we could get back into things because, bizarrely enough, I thought it was against the run of play that we conceded two goals.
“I’m very disappointed in the manner we conceded the two goals and that’s why we have been flirting at the bottom of the table because we leave the back door open.
“But at set plays we always looked a threat, McLean’s deliveries were superb. We managed to get the goal at the right time and that lifted us.
“I thought we kept the ascendancy going without getting the rewards.”