Phil McGhee at St Mirren Park
Ian Baraclough’s first game in charge of the Fir Park side ended with a crucial victory over near rivals St Mirren in Paisley.
And for the second time this season a solitary goal, this time from John Sutton 18 minutes from time, was enough to give ‘Well all three points.
It wasn’t a memorable display from Motherwell, especially as Saints were down to ten men for over 70 minutes, but the new ‘Well gaffer won’t mind as his tenure kicked off with a massively important win.
‘Well made two changes from the side which had to settle for a point against Ross County last week.
Lionel Ainsworth started having replaced Iain Vigurs at half time last week, while Craig Reid, back from injury, filled in at left back.
And both of them were involved in the first ‘Well threat after five minutes, Keith Lasley firing wide after shots from Ainsworth and Craig were blocked.
Three minutes later Josh Law had a chance inside the Saints box but he headed the ball wide of goal.
The game changed dramatically after 18 minutes when Saints` captain Steven Thompson was shown a straight red for a high challenge on Mark O’Brien.
For the remainder of the first half the ‘Well centre back was booed by the home fans. And after he was booked three minutes before the break Baraclough felt it wiser to leave O’Brien, with a head injury, in the dressing room at half-time.
Ten man Saints had the better chances in the first half and from two corners, Jim Goodwin forced the first save from Dan Twardzik before Law helped out his ‘keeper by clearing a Kenny McLean effort off the line.
With Fraser Kerr replacing O’Brien and Lee Erwin on for David Ferguson, the Motherwell goal had an amazing escape in the 47th minute. From yet another corner McLean’s header sent the ball crashing down off the crossbar but as the Buddies celebrated the opener, Law booted the ball off the line as referee Alan Muir waved play on.
Six minutes later the Fir Park side came within inches of taking the lead. Erwin swept a cross low into the six yard box only to elude John Sutton’s outstretched boot.
There was little else of note until the 72nd minute when ‘Well grabbed the winner with a quite superb team goal. From the left Henrik Ojamaa set off on a strong cross-field run before releasing a wonderful pass in behind the Saints defence. Law, who had a good second half pushing forward from full back, whipped a terrific ball into the six yard box leaving Sutton to guide it over the line.
Dom Thomas was rewarded for his under 20 performances, coming on for Ainsworth with five minutes remaining.
The Fir park defence, with Stephen McManus commanding comfortably held out. The only threat came four minutes into injury time when Twadzik made his first real save palming down McLean’s free kick before diving to smother the ball, securing a precious three points and give the ‘Well fans for a very merry Christmas and hope for the upcoming games.
It certainly wasn’t vintage Motherwell, but Baraclough will be satisfied some of his ideas look to be taking root.
[tab:As it happened]
Ally Reilly at St Mirren Park
A vital three points for The Steelmen!
FT: St Mirren 0 – 1 Motherwell! #SMFCvMFC
..Twardzik gathers at the second attempt! Phew! #SMFCvMFC
93mins: Free-kick to Saints in a dangerous position….
91mins: Saints win a corner, which is headed wide by Goodwin #SMFCvMFC
Into added on time. 4 minutes left. #SMFCvMFC
89mins: Reid is booked for high feet. Ball was there to be won, though #SMFCvMFC
84mins: St Mirren sub, Osbourne off for Reilly and for Motherwell, Thomas on for Ainsworth #SMFCvMFC
83mins: St Mirren sub, McGinn off for Ball #SMFCvMFC
79mins: Ainsworth’s shot is deflected for a corner. From his delivery, Ridgers gathers easily. #SMFCvMFC
78mins: St Mirren sub, McLear off for Wylde. #SMFCvMFC
72mins: Lovely passing move from Ojamaa and Law sets up Sutton who slides it home from 6 yards. 1-0 to ‘Well! #SMFCvMFC
68mins: Great first touch from McLean from Ridgers punt gives him a bit of space. Opts to shoot from distance but never troubles Twardzik
55mins: Great ball in from Erwin from the right wing which eludes Sutton by inches. #SMFCvMFC
51mins: Bizarre penalty shouts there from the St Mirren fans. As fair a tackle as you’ll see, surely!? #SMFCvMFC
47mins: Drama! Saints convinced they had scored after McAusland’s header bounced of the bar and line twice. Ref/linesman say no! #SMFCvMFC
Teams are back out for the second half. 2 ‘Well subs, Erwin and Kerr on for Ferguson and O’Brien #SMFCvMFC
HT: St Mirren 0 – 0 Motherwell #SMFCvMFC
42mins: O’Brien is booked, presumably for climbing on McLean #SMFCvMFC
40mins: Naismith is booked for dissent. Needless, really, as it was clearly a Motherwell ball. #SMFCvMFC
39mins: Deep cross from Reid finds Law unmarked. He controls it on his chest and volleys it but it is straight at Ridgers. Still 0-0.
30mins: Naismith forces another Saints corner, McAusland’s header is well saved by Twardzik! #SMFCvMFC
27mins: St Mirren corner falls to Goodwin at the back post. He gets his shot on target but it’s comfortable for Twardzik to gather #SMFCvMFC
25mins: McLear dribbles forward and with no options ahead of him, opts too shoot but it’s well over from the St Mirren debutant #SMFCvMFC
18mins: O’Brien is down injured. On first look, hard to tell how bad the tackle really was. Saints down to 10 men.
18mins: RED CARD! Thompson is given his marching orders for a tackle on O’Brien…
10mins: The ‘Well defence switch off completely allowing Naismith in behind. Thankfully the angle is too narrow for him to trouble Twardzik.
8mins: Sutton chases what looked like a lost cause and crosses to the edge of the box. Law can only head it and it goes well wide #SMFCvMFC
6mins: First corner of the game for St Mirren. Mallan delivers, Ferguson hooks well clear #SMFCvMFC
6mins: Decent chance there as the ball broke to Lasley 20 yards out. Doesn’t connect cleanly enough and it goes harmlessly wide. #SMFCvMFC
St Mirren kick the game off. COYW! #SMFCvMFC
Here come the teams, usual colours for both sides. Almost ready to start the Baraclough era. #SMFCvMFC
Motherwell manager Ian Baraclough:
It’s credit to the concentration and the work-rate of the players that they have gone and got themselves the three points.
“It’s never easy against 10 men, and speaking to a few people from St Mirren, they probably raised their game and it shows you that when the odds are against you just what a team can do. But we had to move the ball quickly, smartly and be patient as well until we found a chink in their armour with a fantastic goal.
“I don’t think there will be too many better goals scored this weekend. It was a great team goal and I’m delighted for the players.
“I thought we were a little timid – and that’s why we made a couple of changes at half-time to try and put them on the back foot a little more, and we managed to get the crucial goal.”
St Mirren caretaker manager Gary Teale:
“I’m extremely proud. The boys gave me everything but unfortunately it wasn’t to be. It was just one wee lapse of concentration. We’d been so resolute and dogged in keeping to the shape we obviously had to go to after the sending off but that one wee lapse has cost us.
“For desire, effort and everything I asked of them before the game I can’t ask for any more.
“We made it very difficult for them to break through us. They’ve got players that can go and hurt us, like Lionel Ainsworth and Ojamaa, and if you give them the space, especially when you go down to 10 men, they’ll find areas where they can really get at us.”