Motherwell 1 - 1 St Johnstone: Exhausted Well grab a point
BOTH teams ended up with one goal, both finished with ten men and they each had to settle for a point but where things did differ was in their response to the final outcome.
Scorers: Motherwell - Bob McHugh 78; St Johnstone - M Davidson 58
After an arduous European tie, Motherwell manager Stuart McCall was happy to accept his lot. He knew his men had struggled for large chunks of the contest but was thrilled with the spirit showed to come back rather than cave.
His counterpart, Steve Lomas, was more disappointed. His was the team with the greater number of chances and it was his men who had failed to capitalise from the penalty spot. His side were also the ones who seemed to have control of proceedings before they let all three points slip away.
The assumption was that Motherwell may show signs of weary legs and minds after their European exertions in Athens and a journey that didn’t see them back in Motherwell until 5.30 on Thursday morning. But if it was a possibility pre-match, it was looking an inevitability as the second half wore on and St Johnstone got the lead their play had merited.
Throughout the first half, Motherwell had probed but faltered when it came to testing Alan Mannus, while the Perth side had teased the home rearguard with the movement of Nigel Hasselbaink and, in particular, Rowan Vine but were again finding it difficult to convert possession and attacks into concrete scoring. But, when the second half got under way, only one team really got going.
A bit of fatigue, a dip in the
concentration levels, and McCall’s men were on the back foot. They allowed St Johnstone to take control of proceedings and when they went a man behind and a goal behind, it looked like the home side had run out of ideas and puff.
Even McCall admitted he was concerned. He had seen how the midweek trip had sapped his players and confessed to a pre-match belief that they would need to get into a first-half lead to be able to take anything from the game. They had failed to execute that plan and with Keith Lasley struggling with illness, the thought of seeing out the last half hour with just ten men had him fretting.
“That was one of my most pleasing results in management, he said afterwards. “You could see them wilting and then to go down to ten men. They got the boost of Daz saving the penalty but then to lose the goal straight after, it would have been easy for them to just roll over and be beat by three or four. But I was pleased they stuck in there when we were tired mentally and physically. It’s all right for teams who can make changes but we can’t do that so while I don’t usually celebrate goals, I
certainly celebrated that one.”
The sending off came after Steven Hammell was punished for a shove on Chris Millar as the St Johnstone midfielder burst into the box. It saw the experienced full-back presented with a red card and the guests with an opportunity to take the lead. It was the captain Dave Mackay who stepped up to take the spot kick but Darren Randolph had done his homework and knew which way to go and diving low to his right he got down quickly to save. That was in the 57th minute and left the small band of travelling supporters – all 292 of them according to the stadium announcer – worrying if they were going to have to wait for Craig Beattie to pass his medical to get their first league goal of the season.
As it was, they only had to wait another minute, as Liam Craig whipped in a corner and Murray Davidson put it away at the near post. Given the way Motherwell had allowed their opponents to dominate the early part of that second 45 minutes, there was a restlessness in the ranks. McCall opted to switch things around and having already sent on Bob McHugh for Omar Daley at the start of the second half, he swapped Lasley and Henrik Ojamaa for the fresh legs of Zaine Francis-Angol and Steve Hetherington.
That was with 30 minutes remaining and it gave the home side a slight injection of energy to supplement the strong will and having pinpointed St Johnstone discomfort under the long ball, they started to conserve some stamina and ping passes deep.
They found the ultimate boost when Nicky Law picked out Bob McHugh and he found the net. By then there had been a couple of close calls and a bit of scrambling but the real break came a minute later when the parity in personnel was restored. The culprit this time was Vine, who was shown his second yellow card for a second infringement on Shaun Hutchison.
It gave the Fir Park side a lift and they finished strongly, leaving Lomas with the strange sense that they should have won all three points but acknowledging that they could have left with none.
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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