Having taken only two points from a possible 24 on the road prior to this encounter, St Mirren finally recorded their first away win in the Premiership to move three points clear of Dundee at the bottom.
While their players and fans celebrated together at the end, the mood of the Fir Park faithful was far from festive. They jeered Stephen Robinson’s team at the final whistle and their judgment could not be faulted.
For Saints manager Oran Kearney, however, it was a result to savour, even though he attempted to claim that it wasn’t all that significant.
“Not really; we don’t really look at milestones like that,” he said. “The mentality all week was: ‘Let’s get our first away win and get the monkey off our backs.’ Our big psyche coming into the game was that we’ve under-performed against the teams around us.
“We’ve been disappointed with those performances and the most pleasing aspect today was that we put that right.
“Our substitutions happened at a point where the game was probably going to open up and it proved to be that way for us.
“Dean Lyness has waited patiently to get his opportunity and that’s exactly what you want to see. He and Cammy Smith have grasped their chances and that’s exactly what you want.
“The plan was to drag Motherwell back down towards us. It’s important that we keep as many teams in the mix as possible, for as long as possible. When things become nervy and edgy, it’s important we have company there.”
That it took 33 minutes to record the first attempt on target should give you an idea of how barren this contest was in terms of quality. Even then, Curtis Main’s looping header from a Richard Tait cross was directed straight at Dean Lyness in the
St Mirren goal.
It was competitive enough but both sides were guilty of carelessness in the final third of the pitch.
Saints’ only first-half attempt was a shot from distance which drifted over the crossbar. The interval offered an opportunity for sober reflection in both dressing rooms but, sad to say, the fare on offer did not significantly improve thereafter.
Tait picked out Danny Johnson with a low cross but the striker snatched at the chance and his shot was too high. Tait also found Tom Aldred with another delivery but Lyness had no difficulty in collecting the central defender’s tame header.
The visitors had been completely lacking when it came to an offensive threat but a costly moment of indecision from the hosts gifted them the lead midway through the second half.
A long punt upfield was probably designed to give the Saints defence the chance of a breather but that route-one approach paid off. Gael Bigirimana had been sent on in place of Christian Mbulu in an attempt to drive Motherwell forward but he was the last man standing as the ball dropped. It required a meat-and-potatoes clearance but the Burundian’s prevarication was punished when Cammy Smith nipped in to toe the ball away and fire in the first shot that Mark Gillespie had needed to contend with.
The goalkeeper managed to beat it away but, unfortunately for him, Simeon Jackson followed up to gather the loose ball and lash it into the net from point-blank range.
Motherwell threw on Conor Sammon and Ryan Bowman alongside Main and Johnson and launched an aerial bombardment but Lyness managed to block headers from Main and David Turnbull as Saints held on for a rare and vital victory.
Motherwell assistant-manager Keith Lasley was in no mood to gloss over his side’s deficiencies.
“It’s not what we were looking for, both in terms of the result and the performance,” he said. “The big thing for us was the manner of both.
“That’s not the way we like to play football, it’s not how we have been successful.
“We were too slow, the tempo was too slow and we just never got going.
“We are in a battle now, absolutely. Any talk of looking above us is based on us finding some consistency. Until we do that then we’re firmly in a battle.”