HE MAY not be Stevie May, but in the 86th minute new St Johnstone signing Brian Graham replicated the former hero’s match-winning touch to give St Johnstone all three points from an otherwise dull match at Fir Park.
Scorers: St Johnstone - Graham 86
Loaned from Dundee United on Wednesday evening, the striker actually started the match on the bench, lending credence to the theory that he’s at McDiarmid Park to back-up Steven MacLean in the lone striker’s role rather than partner him in a 4-4-2.
That observation seemed to be reinforced by manager Tommy Wright’s decision to swap the pair in the 75th minute before Graham headed in the winner 11 minutes later with his first chance in a light blue shirt.
However, Wright was insistent that he still plans to use the two strikers together. “We’ll need to see how things go,” said the manager after the match. “We like to play with two up top and I think he would do very well with Macca [MacLean]. He can play up top on his own. He can play as part of a two. It gives us options.”
The extra man in midfield allowed St Johnstone to control possession in the first half, but without long-term injury victim Murray Davidson they lacked a goal threat from further back. The attacking midfield trident of David Wotherspoon, Lee Croft and Gary McDonald never looked like troubling Dan Twardzik in the Motherwell goal.
While MacLean is the undoubted No.1 striker at McDiarmid Park, by his own admission he’s not a ruthless goalscorer. Graham’s introduction gave the visitors a penalty-box player and the switch paid off when he turned in McDonald’s cross at the back post.
“I’m delighted. I read the flight of the ball, managed to get away from my marker and luckily it’s gone in,” said Graham. “Steven’s obviously a great player and I’ll just have to bide my time. But whether it’s in a two or up front by myself, I just want to play.
“That’s the reason I’m here. If you look at my stats I think I’ve done well in the time I’ve played. I’m not a player who lacks in confidence.”
The same cannot be said for Motherwell. The Fir Park club are currently a shadow of the side that snatched second place at the conclusion of last season. In Lionel Ainsworth, Henrik Ojamaa and John Sutton they had three match winners on the park, but with several first-team regulars still missing through injury – Stevie Hammell, Iain Vigurs and Stuart Carswell to name a few – there wasn’t the same assurance in their own ability or that of their teammates.
Motherwell started the second half a lot stronger and looked like their old selves for the first 15 minutes following the interval. During the period John Sutton was unlucky not to give them the lead with a close range header that Alan
Mannus blocked with his foot. However, it wasn’t long before they went back into their shell and suffered a fatal blow with Graham’s winner.
“We’re missing a lot. That’s not an excuse, it’s just a fact,” said manager Stuart McCall. “But when you’re missing all these players you have to dig it out. I thought our second-half performance probably merited a 0-0.”