Another solid workman-like performance from Motherwell gave a comfortable win over St Mirren and close the gap on third-placed Aberdeen to a single point.
Desperate to turn their decent away form into points, Motherwell were favourites to return from Paisley with all three.
But it took a quick double from James Scott midway through an untidy first half to put the Fir Park men in control. Allan Campbell’s goal midway through the second sealed the points to strengthen their hold on third place.
With three games this week, Stephen Robinson made a couple of changes to the side which defeated St Johnstone. After coming on as a sub James Scott retained the striker’s jersey at the expense of Christopher Long. At the other end Bevis Mugabi stepped in for Peter Hartley for his second start of the season.
The early exchanges were very scrappy with neither side able to hold onto the ball. Joint bottom of the league, the Buddies had a bit more urgency to their play but it took 17 minutes before a ‘keeper was tested.
James Scott playing wide on the right touch line cut across the box but his low left foot shot was straight at Vaclav Hladky.
Two minutes later Saints, desperately searching for a win, passed up a chance to threaten Mark Gillespie’s goal when Calum Waters’ free kick was easily defended.
Even at this stage the ‘Well defence, with Mugabi solid alongside Gallagher, provided a terrific platform to build from the back – but the distribution further up the park was not ideal.
The game badly needed a spark and it arrived from the visitors after 27 minutes.
An exchange of passes in the middle of the park allowed Liam Grimshaw to find Scott wide on the left.
There looked little threat to the home goal until the teenage striker dribbled the ball past a couple of defenders before smashing a low drive across the ‘keeper and inside the far past for a stunning opener.
That dented home confidence and five minutes later Scott and ‘Well made it two.
Liam Polworth’s pass split the Saints central defenders inviting Scott to advance towards goal, which he did before confidently clipping the ball past Hladky.
From that point the Steelmen threatened every time they broke upfield and it might have been an eight minute hat-trick for Scott. However, after again dragging the ball into the box from the left, his powerful drive took a deflection to carry the ball off target.
Despite the failure to add a third goal Robinson’s men and the travelling support appeared more than content at half-time after a slow start to the 45.
Jim Goodwin’s men, the poorest scorers in the league, had the monumental task of breaking down Motherwell’s firm defensive unit from the start of the second half – but it never looked likely as Gillespie waited until the final minute of the game to make his first save.
Goalmouth action at either end, though, was a rarity. As such the ‘Well fans behind Hladky’s goal were off their seats as Gallagher, although offside, headed Polworth’s free kick just outside the post.
However, the Fir Park faithful were on their feet with justification after 67 minutes to celebrate a third goal.
Jermaine Hylton’s speed carried him between a couple of defenders and his cross found Campbell, who squeezed the ball over the line to kill off any thoughts of a Saints revival.
Motherwell, on the other hand were not content with their comfortable lead.
From a succession of Polworth corners, Devante Cole’s lofted shot was headed off the line by Ryan Flynn, before Mugabi’s drive was deflected over the bar and Gallagher’s header was a fraction too high.
Mark O’Hara and Sherwin Seedorf were given some game time. With eight minutes remaining Christy Manzinga also came off the bench but he was unable to repeat his goal scoring debut from Saturday.
Junior Morias looked to have netted a consolation goal for the Buddies but the ball bounced off the post and beyond the ‘Well keeper. From eight yards Tony Andreu seemed certain to slam the rebound home but Gillespie recovered and at full stretch somehow kept the ball out to claim another clean sheet.