Liam Craig’s double for St Johnstone was enough to condemn Motherwell to a 2-1 defeat in Stephen Robinson’s first home game since he was appointed manager.
Stephen Robinson rued the failure to be awarded what he described as a “stonewall” penalty during the 2-1 defeat by St Johnstone in his first home game as Motherwell manager.
With the home side trailing 1-0, Chris Cadden appeared to be body-checked by the visitors’ Paul Paton as he made his way into the penalty box.
Referee Greg Aitken waved away protests, much to the dismay of the home bench, and Robinson felt it was the wrong decision.
He said: “It was an incredible decision on Chris Cadden [for the penalty]. When you see the penalty decision again, I know it is a tough one for the referee but it is a stonewall penalty.”
A Liam Craig double either side of a Scott McDonald equaliser consigned the Steelmen to their fifth consecutive defeat at Fir Park in a dismal home winless streak which stretches back to their 2-0 triumph over Partick on 19 November.
Despite their home struggles, Robinson praised the players’ commitment, and believes more of the same will ensure they retain their Ladbrokes Premiership status.
“I don’t think you can ask a lot more in terms of desire and commitment from the players,” said Robinson who was made permanent manager on Wednesday after a period as interim boss.
“We dominated large parts of the game against a very good side. We took the game to them and we were positive. But that is a template we are working on for the rest of the season. We show that intensity in our play and the quality in the final third then I am confident we will be okay.”
St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright praised his goalkeeper Alan Mannus for his spectacular last-gasp save which secured all three points and raised the Perth side up to fourth in the table.
Mannus, a half-time substitute for the injured Zander Clark, tipped sub Ryan Bowman’s header on to the inside of the post before the ball was cleared to safety.
Wright said: “They were throwing the kitchen sink at us for the last few minutes and we have had to hang on. It is an incredible save from Alan and ultimately that gets us the three points.
“If you defend well and take your chances you can win games and that is what we did and it is another great away win that all but guarantees us a top-six finish.”
St Johnstone took the lead with the first real attack of the game. The ball found its way to Graham Cummins on the wing and he delivered an inch-perfect cross for Craig, leaving the former Hibernian man with the easiest of finishes to head the visitors in front.
Motherwell came back into the game and veteran McDonald scored the first home goal of Robinson’s tenure as the sides went in level at the break.
Motherwell started the second half well but failed to make their dominance count and Craig doubled his goal tally for the afternoon to put St Johnstone back in front. The attacker found himself in acres of space as he collected the ball from a cross and fired past Samson.