An early goal from Jamie McGrath was enough to consign Motherwell to a fourth consecutive home defeat.
Despite having 77 minutes to respond to that setback and a spirited spell in the second half, when Jordan Archer was a spectator, once again the Fir Park men failed to make an impression on the visitors’ goal.
The Paisley Saints, undefeated in eight games, were aiming to right the wrong of their loss to Motherwell awarded on the premise of breaking Covid-19 protocols. And after taking the lead Jim Goodwin’s men, compact and well organised, seldom looked like surrendering their advantage.
Stephen Robinson made a couple of changes with Liam Grimshaw and Barry Maguire starting at the expense of Nathan McGinley and Liam Polworth. Devante Cole was fit again but on the bench as the ‘Well attack remained unchanged, from the side that carried no luck against Hibs last week.
Incredibly, from the ‘Well side that lost to the Buddies when they last visited Fir Park in February, only four ‘Well players remained in the starting line-up.
In a positive and encouraging start from the home side they came close to the opener after only four minutes. Stephen O’Donnell sent Christopher Long down the right channel and his cross to the far post had Callum Lang sliding in but just failing to make contact.
Lang then turned provider and his deep cross into the six-yard box had former Fir Park favourite Richard Tait scooping the ball over his own crossbar.
In their first real attack, though, Saints grabbed the opening goal. Jon Obika raced on to Ethan Erhahon’s through ball but Jordan Archer spread himself well to block the striker’s angled drive. Unfortunately for the ‘Well ‘keeper the ball rebounded to McGrath at the edge of the box and he confidently smashed the ball into the empty goal.
Eight minutes later it might have been 2-0 when Dylan Connolly got in front of Declan Gallagher to head the ball just wide of goal.
A minute later it was the visitor’s goal which was under threat. Maguire’s corner was headed back across goal by Gallagher and when Bevis Mugabi nodded the ball towards goal Jan Alnwick had to stretch above a packed goalmouth to punch the ball off his line.
Gradually the ‘Well players regained their confidence and possession but their steady build-up from the back suited the tightly organised Saints’ defence.
Restricted to play outside the box, Lang found space before driving his low shot straight at the waiting Alnwick.
Just before the interval, the ‘keeper was tested again when Tony Watt worked his way towards the right-hand side of the box before driving the ball hard towards the near post and force Alnwick to beat the ball away.
Undoubtedly more pressure was required on the Saints’ goal in the second half and after nine minutes Watt’s header from O’Donnell’s cut-back could only produce another comfortable save from the ‘keeper.
A minute later Robinson made a double substitution, Devante Cole and Jake Hastie replacing Lang and Long.
With 23 minutes remaining and ‘Well desperately searching to make an impression on the visitor’s defence, Liam Polworth replaced Mugabi, and the midfielder made an immediate impact.
Within a minute his pass set up Cole but his low drive was smothered by Alnwick. A few minutes later Maguire’s long throw bounced its way to the back of the six-yard area where Polworth’s header sent the ball just over the crossbar.
Suddenly there was a lot more activity around Alnwick’s goal and Hastie’s run and drive across goal was diverted past his own goal by Joe Shaughnessy. Cole then dragged the ball beyond the defence
before his strike for goal was blocked in the six-yard box.
Motherwell’s momentum was halted when Mark O’Hara took a heavy tumble and despite treatment had to be replaced by Ricki Lamie.
When play resumed only a fine save from Alnwick, diving low to his left to parry Polworth’s measured drive, denied ‘Well a deserved equaliser.
Two minutes from time Grimshaw, who had a fine game on the left side of the defence, could only drive his shot from 18 yards straight at the Saints’ keeper.
With Saints comfortably playing out the five added minutes, Maguire was denied a stunning equaliser when his speculative 30-yard drive almost caught Alnwick off guard but the ‘keeper reacted in time to palm the ball beyond his post as Saints held out for three points.