Both sides survived the early elements of Storm Ciara to emerge from a keenly-contested William Hill Scottish Cup tie with honours shared.
Mark O’Hara’s goal midway through the first half allowed Motherwell to hold an advantage, which they looked like extending in a second half they largely dictated, until Alex Jakubiak fired home Saints’ equaliser 17 minutes from time.
On the basis that they produced a decent game and a number of goal scoring chances in testing weather conditions, both teams probably deserved a second chance to finish the tie at Fir Park on the 18 February
With the exception of Allan Campbell, who was only fit enough for a place on the bench, Stephen Robinson stood by the starting side which played so well in the first half against Celtic. Mark O’Hara came into the midfield, with ‘Well again starting with a front three of Rolando Aarons, Christopher Long and Jermaine Hylton. Tony Watt’s short term signing was given international clearing to afford the former Celtic striker a seat beside Campbell.
It was almost a disastrous start for ‘Well. Inside the first five minutes Liam Donnelly lost possession on the right touchline and when the ball came into the visitor’s box Ilkay Durmas slammed his shot against the foot of the post.
‘Well’s response was a tempting cross from Liam Grimshaw but the wind carried the ball beyond the waiting Jermaine Hylton.
The next attack after 11 minutes was more productive. Aarons’ quick feet carried him inside Calum Waters and his rising shot from 18 yards forced Vaclav Hladky into a fine save to push the ball away from his goal.
It was an entertaining, end-to-end cup tie and Mark Gillespie had to make a smart stop after punching a corner only as far as the edge of his box and Jamie McGrath attempted to lob the ball over the ‘keeper.
The first goal arrived after 21 minutes. Long raced onto a through ball but one to one with the ‘keeper Hladky blocked the striker’s effort. The ball rebounded into the path of Mark O’Hara who confidently slammed the ball past a couple of defenders from 12 yards and put the Steelmen in front.
The lead could have been doubled a few minutes later. Liam Polworth released Long down the right channel and after cutting the ball back onto his left foot, his curling shot, slightly assisted by the wind, gave the Saints ‘keeper a nervous moment before he held the ball high to his right.
Afetr 34 minutes the Fir Park side had to thank Gillespie for a terrific save to maintain their lead. Durmas’ cross from the left found Alex Jakubiak unmarked on the penalty spot but his drive down the middle of the goal was brilliantly blocked by Gillespie’s feet.
As Saints attempted to return the ball into the packed box there were loud appeals for handball, but referee Andrew Dallas ignored the penalty claims.
Three minutes from the break Long tested the home ‘keeper with a quick turn and powerful drive from 25 yards which Hladky managed to squeeze round his right hand post – as the 1,600 ‘Well fans packed behind his goal were about to celebrate a second goal.
Facing a rising wind and deteriorating conditions the Steelmen were prepared to be patient in possession from the start of the second half.
A couple of corners early in the half put the home goal under some pressure and in a quick break O’Hara’s final pass across goal was just too far in front of Aarons.
As the weather started to have an impact on the game, ‘Well goal had a narrow escape. Grimshaw ending a goalmouth scramble by hammering the ball off a grounded Saints’ player and behind his own goal.
Motherwell, though, looked the more likely to score and in a decent period of possession and press on the Buddies box, Long had a couple of efforts, firing one wide before forcing a great block from Hladky.
With 72 minutes played Campbell replaced Aarons but before the ‘Well sub could get a touch Saints stunned the visiting fans with an equaliser.
Their substitute Kyle McAllister made his way into a packed box before playing the ball to Jakubiak who drilled the ball low through a forest of legs and inside Gillespie’s right-hand post.
Five minutes later ‘Well thought they had regained the leadbut O’Hara’s angled drive sped across Hladky and just beyond his right hand post.
That was O’Hara’s final involvement as he made way for Tony Watt in the hope that the striker would find a winner on his debut.
Liam Donnelly then powered a trademark 20 yard drive inches away from the net as the Fir Park men looked to finish the tie.
However, the winner almost came the Buddies’ way and only Gillespie, at full stretch to push a thundering Durmas’ drive beyond his left-hand post – allowed both teams to settle for a replay.