Motherwell 1-1 St Johnstone: Steelmen show mettle

St Johnstone's David Wotherspoon is put under pressure from Simon Ramsden. Picture: SNS

St Johnstone's David Wotherspoon is put under pressure from Simon Ramsden. Picture: SNS

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TYPE the words “negative momentum” into your search engine and the chances are you will find a photograph of Motherwell’s first-team squad.

Scorers: Motherwell - Sutton 75; St Johnstone - Davidson 8

A sixth consecutive defeat would have dispelled much of the feelgood factor generated by Les Hutchinson’s takeover of the club on Friday.

Yet, even coming back from being a goal and a man down to earn a point with a makeshift side here did not do enough to remove the suspicion that the Steelmen could go down this season.

Having made the play-off position their own, this collection of free transfers, loan signings and inexperienced youngsters might not possess the quality or the gumption to survive.

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Yes, they were without a host of senior professionals – men such as Stephen McManus, Stephen Pearson, Iain Vigurs, Steven Hammell, Paul Lawson and Keith Lasley – but the strength of a squad will always be tested during the course of a campaign and it was found to be wanting here.

Manager Ian Baraclough, understandably, preferred to accentuate the positive. “We picked ourselves up off the floor,” he said. “It could have gone one of two ways at half-time. Any point is pleasing after the run of results that we’ve had but the way went about it in the second half was good for me and the supporters to see.

“There was a fear and a reluctance to get on the ball and make things happen in the first half and that can’t happen in this situation.”

They fell behind after only eight minutes. The home defence was guilty of ball-watching as their opponents moved it around them and, when Chris Kane teed up Murray Davidson, the midfielder passed the ball into the net from 12 yards.

Motherwell’s plight deepened when Louis Laing, the central defender signed on loan from Nottingham Forest in midweek, slipped and pulled down Kane as he burst past him. He protested his innocence but referee Willie Collum immediately produced a red card. “It was a coming together and there was nothing pre-meditated about it,” said his manager. “Louis feels as though he’s at fault but he shouldn’t. Will we appeal it? I don’t know.”

The remainder of the first half saw the visitors create and then squander a series of half-chances.

That continued after the interval, with Steven McLean glancing a header wide from inside the six-yard box

Yet that miss proved to be a pivotal moment. Emboldened by their reprieve, Baraclough went for broke with positive substitutions and reaped the reward 15 minutes from time.

Dominic Thomas, on for full-back Luke Watt, survived three challenges before setting up John Sutton with an inch-perfect pass and ‘Well’s top scorer notched his seventh of the campaign with a ferocious drive.

Neither side could muster a winner but the response of the home fans suggested that this was a point won rather than two lost.

“We’re disappointed not to have won it because we controlled the game from the first whistle to the last,” said Saints manager Tommy Wright, who had a point but should have had three. However, complacency cost his side victory here. Too many players took their feet off the gas, believing the job had been done by the interval.

Motherwell: Twardzik, Reid, Laing, O’Brien (Kerr 46), Watt (Thomas 58), Law, Ramsden, Carswell (Moore 71), Straker, Sutton, Erwin. Subs not used: Nielsen, Ainsworth, Cadden, McLean.

St Johnstone: Mannus, Scobbie, Anderson, Miller Easton. Croft (O’Halloran 80), Davidson, Wotherspoon, Lappin, Kane (McFadden 69), McLean (Graham 80). Subs not used: Banks, Mackay, Wright, Graham, Caddis.

Referee: W Collum. Attendance: 3,449

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