Stephen Robinson carried no luck for his debut appearance as Motherwell manager.
Despite twice falling behind to a Liam Craig double, his players should have had more than a Scott McDonald goal for their tireless energy and efforts as they laid siege on Saints’ goal for large periods of the game.
Injury and suspension meant that Carl McHugh partnered Zak Jules at the centre of the home defence, with David Ferguson holding on to the right back slot.
Louis Moult was back after suspension and within 60 seconds he worked a one –two which sent Chris Cadden in behind the visitor’s defence only for his firm cross to be held by Zander Clark at the second attempt.
After a positive start though it was ‘Well’s reformed defence which was caught flat footed after eight minutes when Graham Cummins’ cross picked out the unmarked Liam Craig and from six-yards he bulleted his header past the helpless Craig Samson.
In the 16th minute Elliot Frear curled his cross into the box to find Scott McDonald being grappled to the ground by Joe Shaughnessy but referee Greg Aitken ignored appeals for a penalty.
A minute later Cummins’ rising shot forced a good save by Samson to turn the ball over his cross bar.
‘Well’s best chance arrived on the half hour mark when Moult chested down Stevie Hammell’s cross for Craig Clay, whose low drive was on target until it deflected off Cadden.
A rare slip from the impressive Carl McHugh sent Saints racing towards the home goal but Samson saved his blushes comfortably blocking Steve McLean’s angled drive.
The remainder of the half was largely spent around the Saints’ box as the Steelmen pressed for an equaliser.
Frear, growing in confidence on the left wing, whipped in a cross which McDonald teed up for Cadden who should have done better from 10 yards than drive the ball over the bar.
However, that miss was overshadowed four minutes from half-time. McDonald played in Moult and after his run was blocked by Clark, McDonald latched on to the loose ball, rounded the ‘keeper only to slice his finish wide of a begging goal.
Two minutes later the Aussie striker made amends as ‘Well grabbed a deserved equaliser.
Another great cross from Frear found its way to Clay and, although his shot was blocked, McDonald reacted to turn and squeeze the ball over a packed goal line.
Saints swapped ‘keeper’s at half-time and the experienced Alan Mannus was lucky not to concede a goal ten minutes into the half.
Frear’s corner was glanced towards goal by McHugh and Jules touch from a couple of yards seemed certain to give ‘Well the lead until Tam Scobbie blocked on the line.
Louis Moult then had a couple of efforts at goal – steering a shot just over and then just wide of Saints’ goal.
Just when it looked like the Fir Parkers had a goal in their sights, the Perth side hit them on the break, with what turned out to be the winning goal.
McLean’s cross from the right was back headed by Ferguson but only to the waiting Craig who slammed his shot back across Samson and into the corner of the net to put the Saints back in front.
The ‘Well boss immediately sent on Ryan Bowman for Hammell and as Saints defended their lead Frear, after an impressive home debut, made way for Lionel Ainsworth.
In a storming finish, Moult rose to meet Cadden’s cross only to power his header wide of the post.
Then, in injury time with Jacob Blyth on for the injured Jules and ‘Well camped in the visitor’s box, Bowman’s header drifted beyond the diving Mannus, rebounded from the inside of the ‘keeper’s post along the goal line and beyond the other post, to deprive the home side of a thoroughly deserved point.
[tab:As it happened]
Alastair Reilly at Fir Park
FT’ | Motherwell 1 – 2 St Johnstone #MFCvSJFC
90+2′ | 1-2
Off the post! Bowman’s flicked on header comes back off the woodwork at rolls across the face of goal.
90+1′ | 1-2
Motherwell sub, Blyth on for Jules.
Three minutes added on…
87′ | 1-2
Close! Cadden clips a ball in from the right but Moult can’t quite rise high enough to head on target.
82′ | 1-2
Motherwell sub, Frear off for Ainsworth
MATCH ATTAX | Young ‘Well fans can vote for your Man of the Match. Tweet your name, age, choice and #MatchAttaxMOTM now!
77′ | 1-2
Davidson booked for time wasting.
69′ | 1-2
McDonald tries his luck witha free-kick from 30 yards but it’s relatively comfortable for Mannus.
68′ | 1-2
Motherwell sub, Bowman on for Hammell.
66′ | 1-2
Goal – Saints first venture forward in this half produces a goal. Fires beyond Samson with plenty of time.
64′ | 1-1
St Johnstone sub, Davidson on for Alston
63′ | 1-1
Great ball in from Frear which finds Moult 12 yards out but he drags his shot just wide of the post. Positive start to the half
61′ | 1-1
The Steelmen have a free-kick wide on the right, Frear clips it in but Mannus is off his line and punches clear.
59′ | 1-1
Decent effort from Moult there. Chest then volley but it’s over the bar from just inside the box.
55′ | 1-1
Corner for Motherwell……saved on the line by Mannus! Jules denied from close range, great chance!
53′ | 1-1
Moult has to improvise slightly but manages to get a volley on target from Frear’s awkward cross.
Clay gets the second 45 underway. COYW!!!
St Johnstone make a sub at half-time, Mannus on for Clark
HT: Motherwell 1 – 1 St Johnstone #MFCvSJFC
44′ | 1-1
Moult skins his man down the left and fires in a great ball which eventually falls to McDONALD who fires home! Come on!
42′ | 0-1
What a chance! Moult’s shot is saved and it falls to McDonald with the goal gaping but slices his shot wide of the post!
39′ | 0-1
Swanson cuts inside but Clay gets enough on the shot to take the sting out of it. Samson gathers.
35′ | 0-1
Chance! McDonald sets up Cadden but he is leaning back and blasts over the bar from 10 yards!
32′ | 0-1
Saints counter in a 2v1 situation but Jules does well to guide MacLean away from goal and from narrow angle shoots at Samson.
30′ | 0-1
Moult chests the ball down to Clay whose shot cannons off Cadden but deflects away from goal
18′ | 0-1
Samson called into action, parrying Cummins’ powerful drive over the bar.
15′ | 0-1
Strong penalty claim there! Frear will the ball in, McDonald wrestled to the ground but nothing given!
11′ | 0-1
McDonald tees up Pearson on the edge of the box but he is a bit off balance and slices his shot wide
8′ | 0-1
Goal – Saints take the lead, Craig heading home from a Cummins cross.
7′ | 0-0
Cadden blocks Craig’s cross which results in a corner which Hammell heads away at the front post.
4′ | 0-0
St Johnsone win a free-kick about 35 yards from goal. Alston tries his luck but it’s well over the bar.
1′ | 0-0
Chance already for the Steelmen. Cadden bursts down the right but sees his cross gathered by Clark
St Johnstone get the game underway.
Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson:
St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright: