ST MIRREN’S nine-year stint in Scotland’s top flight is nearing its end after the beleaguered Paisley outfit succumbed meekly to a resurgent Motherwell and slipped ten points adrift at the foot of the Premiership with just six games to play.
Scorers: Erwin 7, 25; McDonald 45; Sutton 74, 79
Saints manager Gary Teale had said beforehand that his side could ill afford to lose last night’s bottom-of-the-table showdown if they were to have a realistic chance of survival, but they never looked like taking anything from the moment Lee Erwin edged the hosts ahead in the seventh minute. They were three behind at the break after another from Erwin and one from Scott McDonald. Substitute John Sutton completed the scoring with a late double.
Ominously for St Mirren, this was their fourth defeat on the spin without scoring a goal, while Motherwell, the team directly above them, have found some much-needed vibrancy under Ian Baraclough. Three victories in succession, with 11 goals scored, suggest they are in good enough fettle to haul themselves out of the relegation play-off spot now that they appear to have eased any lingering fears of finishing bottom.
The hosts went ahead with the first real chance of the match when Lionel Ainsworth got to the byeline and cut the ball back for Erwin, who had time to swivel on the edge of the six-yard box before planting a low shot beyond St Mirren goalkeeper Mark Ridgers. St Mirren almost responded two minutes later when Kieran Sadlier got in behind the home defence, but the former West Ham winger dragged his low angled shot beyond the far post.
Marvin Johnson forced Ridgers into an instinctive save with a volley from eight yards out which had to be pushed behind by the goalkeeper in the 14th minute. From the resultant corner, taken by McDonald, Stephen McManus sent a free header wide from six yards out.
The Fir Park side doubled their advantage in the 25th minute. A corner, needlessly conceded by Jim Goodwin and taken by Ainsworth, found its way to Johnson on the edge of the box and the winger thrashed the ball back into the area, where Erwin seized on it and was once again allowed to turn all too easily before sending a low shot from eight yards out in at Ridgers’ right-hand post.
Things almost got worse for the Buddies in the 31st minute when Johnson burst into the box and was fouled by Viktor Genev. Referee Craig Thomson pointed to the penalty spot, but the standside linesman’s flag, raised correctly for offside, halted the home celebrations.
This reprieve for the visitors was only temporary, however, as they conceded a third on the stroke of half-time. Johnson collected a cross from Ainsworth on the left, skipped past Jason Naismith and cut the ball back for McDonald to blast beyond Ridgers from seven yards out.
St Mirren pair Steven Thompson, on as a half-time substitute, and Marc McAusland both tested Motherwell keeper George Long with headers midway through the second half. But any fight in the bedraggled visitors was extinguished when Sutton nodded home a Johnson free-kick in the 74th minute with his first touch after coming on. Sutton sealed a resounding win when he tapped in from close range after McAusland had scrambled a McDonald shot off the line with his arm.
Motherwell: Long, McManus, Ainsworth (D Thomas 75), Lasley, Law, Erwin (Sutton 71), Johnson, Straker, Laing, Pearson (Grant 64), McDonald. Subs not used: Twardzik, Ramsden, O’Brien, Moore.
St Mirren: Ridgers, Naismith, McAusland, Goodwin (Brown 85), McGinn, Sadlier (Thompson 46), Arquin, Dayton (Wylde 46), Kelly, Mallan, Genev. Subs not used: Wilks, Reilly, Gow, Sonupe.
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