Motherwell ended their first away game in the 2017/18 campaign with eight men on the park as controversial decisions overshadowed what looked like being another positive performance.
Trevor Carson, Carl McHugh and Charles Dunne were all sent off on an afternoon when the Steelmen were searching for their first win at McDiarmid Park since 2011.
Stephen Robinson named two changes to the side which made the long trip north on Wednesday night, replacing Louis Moult and Craig Tanner with Ryan Bowman and Alex Fisher, with the former two being included on the bench.
But despite a positive start to the game, somehow Robinson’s men found themselves a goal down when Steven MacLean turned the ball over Carson’s head via a slice of good fortune when Stefan Scougall’s shot deflected in to the forward’s path.
Then, with virtually their second attack, the Saints were two up when Michael O’Halloran cut inside far too easily to finish neatly beyond Carson low at the far post.
However, that didn’t dent the Fir Parkers confidence as they continued to enjoy far more possession and looked eager to play good football.
That was rewarded when a well worked free kick was turned home by Andy Rose to score his first goal in Claret and Amber. McHugh’s in-swinging set piece was nodded on to the far post where Rose was on hand to head beyond Mannus.
That lifted the side and the travelling support and, as the second half got underway, it seemed the goal had buoyed the Steelmen as they came back out playing just like they had ended the first half – on top.
And Rose went close, again with his head, but was denied by a superb save from Alan Mannus in the Saints goal.
Everything changed just after the hour mark when Carson rushed out to collect a loose ball but, under pressure from the onrushing MacLean and having looked to have misjudged the situation, the stopper was sent off for a deliberate hand ball despite being on the line of his box when he handled it.
Robinson then brought on Russell Griffiths, sacrificing the energetic Gaël Bigirimana, as he tried to see his side remain in touch in the game.
Despite being a man down, an equaliser nearly arrived when substitute Louis Moult curled a freekick inches over the crossbar.
Just under ten minutes later, O’Halloran grabbed his second of the game when his low effort deflected past Griffiths with just fifteen minutes remaining.
Things got worse when McHugh followed Carson down the tunnel when he picked up his second yellow card of the game for a sliding challenge on Steven Anderson.
But the Steelmen didn’t let that knock them, as Rose again went close to grabbing his second of the game when his low effort fizzed towards goal but was turned wide by Mannus.
Down the other end of the park, somehow, there was another red card.
Substitute Graham Cummins broke in to the box before kicking the ground, yet referee Craig Thomson inexplicably awarded a penalty to the hosts and, on top of that, issued a third red card of the afternoon, this time for Charles Dunne, who just happened to be closest to the forward.
O’Halloran looked set to grab his hattrick but Griffiths produced a fine save to deny the Saints man and keep the score to 3-1.
The game, which had become farcical, wasn’t finished and Murray Davidson finished things off with a neat finish from a cut back in the 94th minute.
[tab:As it happened]
Alastair Reilly at McDiarmid Park
FT: St Johnstone 4 – 1 Motherwell
92′ | 4-1
Goal – Davidson slots home to make it 4 from a cut-back
From the penalty, Griffiths makes the save!
88′ | 3-1
Red card! Cummins appears to trip in the box and the ref sends off Dunne!
81′ | 3-1
St Johnstone sub, MacLean off for Hendry
80′ | 3-1
Rose’s fizzing low shot is pushed wide for a corner.
76′ | 3-1
Red card! McHugh gets his second booking and is sent off!
75′ | 3-1
St Johnstone sub, Alston on for Wotherspoon
74′ | 3-1
Goal – O’Halloran makes it 3-1 with a powerful low shot from just inside the box
69′ | 2-1
Couple of subs, Tanner on for Tait and Scougall off for Cummins
65′ | 2-1
Free-kick to ‘Well about 30 yards out. Moult hits it….inches over the bar!
63′ | 2-1
Motherwell sub, Griffiths on for Bigirimana
62′ | 2-1
Red card! Carson sent off for a deliberate handball outside the area.
57′ | 2-1
Incredibly Moult beats two men and with a good break on the ref pulls it back for a foul and books Scougall.
56′ | 2-1
Motherwell sub, Bowman off for Moult
53′ | 2-1
A header falls into the path of Cadden but he gets it wrong and blasts into row z.
49′ | 2-1
Free-kick to Motherwell on the right-hand side…Rose’s header is palmed wide for a corner by Mannus!!
Both teams are back out and Saints get the second 45 underway. COYW!!
HT: St Johnstone 2 – 1 Motherwell
45′ | 2-1
Bigirimana drags his shot just wide of the post from 20 yards
One minute added on
36′ | 2-1
McHugh booked for a foul on Scougall
34′ | 2-1
Dunne does well to get forward but his drilled cross is plucked out the air by Mannus.
28′ | 2-1
Motherwell’s dominance of the ball finally paid off! McHugh’s free-kick is headed in at the back post by Rose! Come on!!
17′ | 2-0
Goal – Incredibly Saints are 2 up. O’Halloran comes in off the right and places it past Carson.
16′ | 1-0
Half-chane for ‘Well. Bowman turns his man from a throw-in but can’t pick out Fisher and the chance goes.
8′ | 1-0
Goal – Saints open the scoring. MacLean gets the break of the ball and reacts quickly to flick the ball into the net over Carson
7′ | 0-0
No real chances as of yet but a couple of decent balls put into the area with no takers.
Cadden gets the action underway. COYW!!!
Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson:
St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright