High-flying Motherwell moved to within two points of second-placed Rangers with victory over St Mirren in the Scottish Premiership.
James Scott’s 20-yard strike and Christopher Long’s cute finish clinched a win that also opens up a four-point gap over Aberdeen after a fifth win in six games.
The hosts were denied several times by St Mirren goalkeeper Vaclav Hladky as Kyle Magennis went close for Saints.
Jim Goodwin’s men remain 11th.
Relentless Motherwell produce magic
Going into this one, Motherwell captain Peter Hartley had straight-batted suggestions that this could be the year Motherwell return to European football after a five-year absence. With the Edinburgh clubs, Aberdeen and last year’s third-place finishers Kilmarnock failing to replicate the form of the Fir Park side, Hartley insisted all he and his team-mates were focusing on was consistency.
If that is the indicator, then Motherwell fans may be checking the expiration dates on their passports already. Victory over St Mirren was the fifth in six games, with the only blip coming after letting a comfortable 1-0 lead over Ross County slip through their grasp.
At Fir Park, Sam Foley leathered just over for St Mirren, Motherwell keeper Mark Gillespie’s gloves were stung with a series of saves, Magennis’ goal-bound shot was headed clear by Hartley and Ryan Flynn lashed wildly at the ball from just inside the box.
However, under Stephen Robinson this Motherwell team seem to find a way of not just digging in – this was their fourth Premiership clean sheet in eight – but producing moments of magic at the right times.
Here, two were found. In what was a relatively dull first half, Scott produced a moment of brilliance to set the hosts on their way. A neat interchange on the edge of the box left the teenager room to work, his eventual shot arcing high into the far corner beyond Hladky.
The second arrived late on in the match from substitute Long. Robinson’s team had survived several scares before the ball fell to the Well striker out on the right. His neat stepover bamboozled the St Mirren defence, allowing him the opportunity to rifle the ball into the net from a tight angle.
Over the balance of play, it was a deserved victory. Liam Polworth had several chances, Sherwin Seedorf’s tight effort was blocked by Hladky while Devante Cole fired straight at the keeper after being played through by Polworth.
The international break potentially arrives at the wrong time for Robinson and his team, but you feel it will take more than a two-week rest to knock them off their current swagger. For St Mirren, the optimism of two recent draws and the fact they are keeping games tight may well start eroding as the reality of their league position sets in. A lack of a clinical striker will surely be Goodwin’s biggest concern.
Man of the Match – Liam Polworth
BBC Scotland’s John Barnes at Fir Park
James Scott became an immediate contender for the award after his wonder strike. Prior to that, though, he was positive cutting in from the right wing to cause a threat. However, he was replaced early in the second half by Jermaine Hylton.
The man of the match for me was Motherwell’s Liam Polworth, for his tidy and industrious play in the heart of midfield. The only thing missing from his performance was a goal and that was due mainly to the competent display from the St Mirren goalkeeper, who denied him on at least three occasions
Vaclav Hladky was the main contender from the St Mirren ranks. He produced a number of top saves, but could do nothing to prevent Scott’s stunning strike hitting the net or Long rounding things off.
‘I’m confident it will turn’ – Reaction
Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson: “[Liam Polworth’s display] is one of the best performances I’ve seen at Fir Park for a long time – technically on the ball, but what people miss is his work rate as well. Perhaps when I speak to Steve Clarke again, I’ll start pushing him as well! He’s been excellent.
“I was really happy with the first half. That was as good as we’ve played this season. We should have been out of sight. Second-half, it was just scrappy. There was a 20-minute spell where we needed a wee bit more game management.”
St Mirren manager Jim Goodwin: “Things are still very tight in the table. We’re three points off seventh. We’re not detached or anything, the fact of the matter is we need to find a goal from somewhere.
“There’s no point in talking about bad luck, we’ve got to do something ourselves. Somebody has got to come up with something special for us to get a goal, but I’m confident it will turn.”
- 44ColeSubstituted forIlicat 79′minutes
- 17ScottSubstituted forHyltonat 57′minutes
- 11SeedorfSubstituted forLongat 69′minutes
- 8FlynnSubstituted forDjorkaeffat 85′minutes
- 16FoleyBooked at 64mins
- 11DurmusSubstituted forAndreuat 62′minutes
- 18MullenBooked at 57minsSubstituted forMoriasat 73′minutes
- John Beaton
- Shots on Target
Match ends, Motherwell 2, St. Mirren 0.
Second Half ends, Motherwell 2, St. Mirren 0.
Attempt saved. Christian Ilic (Motherwell) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the top centre of the goal.
Attempt missed. Sean McLoughlin (St. Mirren) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the right.
Kyle Magennis (St. Mirren) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Allan Campbell (Motherwell).
Attempt missed. Jonathan Obika (St. Mirren) left footed shot from outside the box misses to the left.
Goal! Motherwell 2, St. Mirren 0. Chris Long (Motherwell) left footed shot from the right side of the box to the top left corner.
Substitution, St. Mirren. Oan Djorkaeff replaces Ryan Flynn.
Attempt missed. Liam Polworth (Motherwell) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the right.
Foul by Junior Morias (St. Mirren).
Richard Tait (Motherwell) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Attempt blocked. Christian Ilic (Motherwell) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.
Attempt missed. Ryan Flynn (St. Mirren) right footed shot from outside the box is too high.
Attempt saved. Junior Morias (St. Mirren) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the centre of the goal.
Attempt blocked. Junior Morias (St. Mirren) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Foul by Junior Morias (St. Mirren).
Richard Tait (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Motherwell. Christian Ilic replaces Devante Cole.
Calum Waters (St. Mirren) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Devante Cole (Motherwell).
Attempt blocked. Chris Long (Motherwell) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.
Foul by Jonathan Obika (St. Mirren).
Barry Maguire (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Substitution, St. Mirren. Junior Morias replaces Daniel Mullen.
Corner, St. Mirren. Conceded by Declan Gallagher.
Attempt blocked. Jonathan Obika (St. Mirren) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.
Corner, St. Mirren. Conceded by Peter Hartley.
Attempt blocked. Kyle Magennis (St. Mirren) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.
Corner, Motherwell. Conceded by Václav Hladky.
Attempt saved. Liam Polworth (Motherwell) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the top right corner.
Substitution, Motherwell. Chris Long replaces Sherwin Seedorf.
Attempt missed. Sherwin Seedorf (Motherwell) right footed shot from the right side of the box misses to the left.
Foul by Kyle Magennis (St. Mirren).
Liam Polworth (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Daniel Mullen (St. Mirren) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Peter Hartley (Motherwell).
Corner, St. Mirren. Conceded by Richard Tait.
Sam Foley (St. Mirren) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Sam Foley (St. Mirren).