ST MIRREN manager Tommy Craig is confident new strikers James Marwood and Callum Ball will deliver goals despite passing up a number of chances in a 1-0 defeat by Motherwell.
Scorers: Motherwell - Erwin (64)
The pair found home goalkeeper Dan Twardzik in top form with the former Dundee reserve also pulling off a wonderful stop from Gregg Wylde after the winger had sprinted clear.
Marwood and Ball both started in the absence of Saints skipper Steven Thompson, who is nursing a groin injury, and they were both provided with plenty of service as the visitors dominated for large spells of their Scottish Premiership opener at Fir Park.
Marwood, a 24-year-old signing from Gateshead, caused problems with his pace and movement and forced several decent saves from Twardzik.
But 21-year-old former Derby target man Ball, who was also foiled by the goalkeeper, should have done better when he blazed over a good late chance from 12 yards.
Saints pushed to the end in a bid to cancel out Lee Erwin’s 64th-minute opener, even after Jim Goodwin received a strange second yellow card after referee Callum Murray took the advice of assistant Frank Connor in punishing his aerial challenge on John Sutton, despite giving no free kick for the incident himself.
Craig said: “The guys who were closest to scoring, Marwood and Ball, that’s why they were brought here. And they will deliver.
“You have seen what they are capable of and they will deliver. Maybe with a wee bit of luck and a wee bit more quick-thinking – it’s the first game of the season.
“We had enough chances in the first half hour to win the game and I thought both players up front gave us another dimension.
“Stevie Thompson has needed help for quite some time and I have purposely brought in guys who have a reputation of scoring goals.
“Callum Ball from the age of ten at his school was always top goalscorer. He was only a kid but he was a goalscorer. At 16 he was a goalscorer, at 18 he was a goalscorer. That’s why he has been brought here.
“James Marwood was pushed up front by his last club, just on a whim, and he ended up scoring 15 goals last season.”
Erwin needed just one chance to hit his first Motherwell goal in his first start, steering home from ten yards after Lionel Ainsworth’s powerful long-range strike had been parried by Marian Kello.
The 20-year-old was Motherwell’s brightest outfield player with a mobile, inventive and willing display up front.
Erwin might have made an impact at Motherwell earlier only for a knee injury to end his campaign after he scored eight goals in 11 games on loan at Arbroath in the first half of last season.
And manager Stuart McCall is sure he can make a good contribution.
McCall said: “I’ve said to Lee, that’s not him made it now because he started and scored, he can’t rest on his laurels.
“He has had a lot of tough luck the last two years, he has had two serious injuries. We gave him his opportunity and he took it with both hands. He has certainly got talent. If we can keep him injury-free, which I’m sure we will as he has just been unfortunate, then he has the potential to go on and be a good player for us, without a doubt.”
McCall remains keen to sign a striker though following the departure of Henri Anier and James McFadden and the loss of Craig Moore to injury until later in the year.
McCall, who praised his injury-hit team for their resilience, said: “Unfortunately one striker we were hoping to get has decided that he would like to stay south of the Border for his first loan move.
“So that was a bit of a blow but we’ve got other targets.
“But it is getting more difficult to bring players up from south of the border.
“Some don’t want to go window to window because if they don’t settle they can find themselves in the wilderness for three or four months.
“So that’s difficult, especially for the types of players we are looking at. If we are looking at 21 to 22-year-olds, they are going on loan from Premiership to Championship clubs. We are probably looking at 19 to 20s.”