Phil McGhee Fir Park
Motherwell showed great determination and team spirit to grab a point and halt their losing run against St Johnstone today.
However, John Sutton’s sensational second half equaliser to cancel out Murray Davidson’s early opener for Saints, only tells half the story.
The arrival at the club of a new owner Les Hutchison and two new players had intended to change Motherwell’s fortunes after a losing run of five games.
But crippled by an incredible injury list, including at least six first eleven choices, ‘Well’s bad luck and woes continued when Louis Laing’s debut was curtailed to 25 minutes when the Nottingham Forrest defender was shown a red card.
After a poor first half, though, and against the odds a tremendous second half from a gutsy 10 men ‘Well earned them a deserved point.
With an ever growing injury list Anthony Straker and Laing, who both signed on-loan in midweek, were pitched into a vastly changed home side.While Mark O’Brien returned from suspension, Stephen Pearson and Stephen McManus, who missed his first game of the season, joined Keith Lasley on the side lines. Without the departed Henrik Ojamaa, Lee Erwin partnered John Sutton up front.
The feel good factor of the new regime lasted only eight minutes when the young and inexperienced ‘Well defence was breached. Steven McLean slipped the ball to the unmarked Murray Davidson and from 12 yards the Saints midfielder calmly guided the ball beyond Dan Twardzik and inside the ‘keeper’s post.
With St Johnstone on an impressive run of form the Fir Park men faced a difficult task.
And their job was made almost impossible after 24 minutes when Laing was rather harshly shown a red card. Referee Willie Collum, who marked his last appearance at Fir Park by controversially sending off Stephen McManus, had no hesitation in doing like wise when Laing stumbled into the back of Chris Kane as the Saints striker headed for the box.
That riled the home fans and although ten man ‘Well stuck to their task for the remainder of the first half they never threatened Alan Mannus in the visitors’ goal.
Four minutes from the break Davidson almost made it 2-0 but Twardzik’s strong right hand pushed the ball round the post.
There was yet another change to the back four at half-time with Fraser Kerr replacing O’Brien alongside Craig Reid in the centre of defence.
It was at the other end, though, that Kerr almost made an impact when his measured header from Josh Law’s corner was nodded off the line by Gary Miller.
The home spirits and confidence increased and two crosses intended for Sutton caused some anxiety in the Saints’ defence.
After 58 minutes Ian Baraclough made his second and positive substitution bring on Dom Thomas for Luke Watt.
And ten minutes later Thomas tested Mannus with a low drive from 25 yards after being set up by Straker, who showed some good touches from left back in the second half.
Twenty minutes from time ‘Well went for broke bringing on Craig Moore for Stuart Carswell. At the same time Saints brought on James McFadden who received a warm welcome from the home fans.
It was Thomas, though, who showed the old McFadden magic after 75 minutes when he wriggled through three Saints players. He then played the ball in front of Sutton who wheeled and unleashed a terrific drive high past Mannus from the corner of the box for a deserved equaliser and set up a dramatic last 15 minutes.
Despite the encouragement of the renewed home support ‘Well couldn’t find a winner but their second half performance and a two week break to get first team regulars fit augers well for the all important trip to Ross County.
[tab:As it happened]
Ally Reilly at Fir Park
10 man Motherwell battle back to draw 1-1. Deserved in the end #MFCvSJFC
FT: Motherwell 1 – 1 St Johnstone #MFCvSJFC
2 minutes added on #MFCvSJFC
86mins: McFaddens shot from 20 yards trickles harmlesssly past the post #MFCvSJFC
82mins: Scobbie slips as he tries to clear and that leaves Erwin inches away from beating Mannus to the ball #MFCvSJFC
79mins: Double St J sub, MacLean and Croft off for Graham and O’Halloran #MFCvSJFC
75mins: WHAT A GOAL!!! Thomas skips past 3, plays in SUTTON who hammers into the top corner from 16 yards
70mins: Motherwell sub, Carswell off for Moore #MFCvSJFC
70mins: St Johnstone sub, Kane off for McFadden #MFCvSJFC
69mins: Straker brings the ball down and plays in Thomas who drills a low shot from range which Mannus gets down to #MFCvSJFC
59mins: Erwin swings in a great cross from the left which Scobbis just manages to get to first ahead of Sutton #MFCvSJFC
58mins: Erwin does well to turn Easton and swing in a cross but its just a bit too long for Sutton #MFCvSJFC
58mins: Motherwell sub, Watt is off for Thomas #MFCvSJFC
53mins: Anderson concedes a corner, Kerr’s header is cleared off the line by Miller! Great chance! #MFCvSJFC
50mins: Miller gets to the byline and hooks a ball across goal which MacLean gets his head to. Flies inches wide #MFCvSJFC
Second half is underway. 10 man ‘Well with it all to do #MFCvSJFC
Half time sub for ‘Well, Kerr on for O’Brien #MFCvSJFC
HT: Motherwell 0 – 1 St Johnstone #MFCvSJFC
41mins: Kane capitilises on sloppy ‘Well defending and Twardzik is forced to beat his shot wide for a corner #MFCvSJFC
25mins: Red Card! Laing is sent off on his debut. Took down MacLean, denying a goalscoring opportunity #MFCvSJFC
22mins: MacLean is played through about 20 yards out and takes on the shot. Doesn’t trouble Twardzik, who gathers with ease #MFCvSJFC
16mins: St Johnstone win a corner, and it’s a let off as Scobbie sneaks in at back post and pokes it just past #MFCvSJFC
12mins: Free-kick to ‘Well wide on the left. Law takes….Anderson heads clear from 4 yards #MFCvSJFC
8mins: Goal – Davidson puts St J 1-0 up, slotting past Twardzik from 12 yards. They got through all too easily #MFCvSJFC
7mins: MacLean is slid in against Twardzik but linesman has his flag up. Twardzik saves, anyway #MFCvSJFC
5mins: A quiet opening 5 minutes here at Fir Park…no chances so far. #MFCvSJFC
Pre-match formalities over, Carswell and Law get the game underway. COYW! #MFCvSJFC
Motherwell manager Ian Baraclough:
“Any point is pleasing after the run of results we have had but the way we earned it and the way we went about it second half was good for me to see and good for the supporters and hopefully good for the group to realise they can play, they can be effective when they are positive and get on the ball and when they want to make things happen.
“The first half was a stark contrast to that. There was a fear and reluctance to get on the ball and make something happen. And that can’t happen in this situation.
“At half-time it could have gone one of two ways and they came through it.
“They have shown to me there is a desire there, when the chips are down.
“They could have felt sorry for themselves, 10 men, goal down, nothing going for us. But we didn’t and that’s full credit to the players that they picked themselves off the floor, because we all know first half wasn’t good enough at all.”
St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright:
“We have dropped two points because we totally controlled the game from first whistle to last. We probably wasted too many opportunities in the first half.
“We didn’t start the second half particularly well, didn’t move the ball as well. When it went to 1-1 we looked more likely to score again.
“But we are disappointed with the goal. We missed two or even three chances to tackle and gifted them the goal by doing that.”