The attacking deficiencies of Partick Thistle were laid bare as they succumbed to a defeat that means they will go into the final game of the season with relegation still hanging over them.
With Ross County also losing, Thistle remain two points head of the Highland side. In their final game at Dundee on Saturday, the Firhill side must at least match the result achieved by County away to St Johnstone to ensure they do not drop out of the top tier for the first time in five seasons.
Their vastly inferior goal difference set against Hamilton Accies - also beaten last night - means an 11th place finish that would put them into the relegation play-off final is their best possible outcome from their final Premiership encounter.
It didn’t have to be this way. Against a Motherwell side for spells lacking intensity, they had the lion’s share of the chances. But the Fir Park men only needed one clear-cut opportunity to do what Thistle could not - Ryan Bowman thundering a header past Tomas Cerny on the hour mark after a disputed free-kick on the right flank was whipped into the box with pinpoint accuracy by David Turnbull.
This turn of events could not have been anticipated after an opening 45 minutes in which the difference in the importance of the contest to the teams appeared obvious. Thistle were at it, constantly probing and looking to impose themselves on visitors who sat deep and allowed them to do so. The desperation of Archibald’s men to claim the win that could free them from automatic relegation contrasted with an apparent desperation of Motherwell to put their post-split commitments behind them and build towards the Scottish Cup final a week on Saturday.
Their run in setting up that decider against Celtic has covered up a multitude of mediocrity in the Premiership. Robinson’s men headed to Maryhill last night with only one league win since February - and on the back of a 5-1 trouncing by St Johnstone. Thistle should have put their prospects of a second such victory out of sight in the opening period. That they did not tells the story of precisely why their top flight status has been under grave threat all season.
After only 10 minutes, Ryan Edwards had the goal at his mercy from a whipped-in ball from the right. The Australian, though, thumped a header straight at Trevor Carson to see a glorious chance go begging.
As Archibald’s men dominated they continued to lack the incisive touch, with Chris Erskine allowing Carson to blog after he had cleverly sneaked between his markers late in the half. That inability to seize the moment had earlier shown itself when the Motherwell keeper was not punished after spilling an Erskine effort.
The Fir Park men shook themselves at the interval, no doubt emboldened by a belief that their hosts lacked the wherewithal to breach their goals. Their engagement coincided with a growing nervousness in the home ranks. That proved a recipe for disaster to Thistle’s survival kick hotly disputed in the home ranks.
The Premiership’s lowest scorers had efforts from Sammon and Miles Storey that narrowly failed to hit the target in a second period. They served to further highlight why Thistle have been unable to hit their targets in a campaign that, at best, they will have three more games to retrieve.
PARTICK THISTLE: Cerny; McGinn, Devine, Cargill, Elliott; Woods; Barton (Spittal 81), Erskine, Edwards; Doolan (Storey 68), Sammon, Subs: Scully, Dumbuya, Osman,Lawless, Penrice.
MOTHERWELL: Carson; Cipre, Aldred, Dunne; Cadden, Turnbull (Ciftci 82), Campbell, McHugh, Hendrie (Bigirimana 46); Main (Frear 63), Bowman. Subs: Griffiths, Petravicius, Maclean, Maguire.