Motherwell ended an 11-game wait for a league win in 2022 and gave their top six hopes a huge boost after winning a Fir Park thriller against Stephen Robinson’s St Mirren.
The former ‘Well gaffer returned to his old stomping ground for the first time since his departure in December 2020, but it was his successor Graham Alexander who came out on top in a pulsating Premiership clash that delivered six goals.
Robinson, who was a popular figure around ML1 having taken the club to two cup finals and into Europe during his three years in charge at Fir Park, certainly gave his former employers a run for their money and his side served up plenty of entertainment value in a clash well worth the admission fee.
The sides shared an incredible five goals in the first half as the Steelmen recovered from 1-0 down to earn a first league win since Boxing Day and score four goals in a game for the first time this season.
Connor Shields netted in either half for the Steelmen with Sean Goss and youngsters Dean Cornelius also on target, while Eamonn Brophy’s early opener and Conor McCarthy’s effort proved in vain for the Buddies.
It leaves Motherwell fifth in the table and one point off fourth-place Dundee United going into next week’s final pre-split fixture with Livingston. The Buddies slip to 10th but are just two points off the top six where just four points separate fourth from 10th in the table.
‘Well made three changes from their defeat to St Johnstone last time out. Bevis Mugabi, Sean Goss, and Callum Slattery all came into the side as Juhani Ojala, Jake Carroll and Liam Donnelly dropped out. Covid hit the squad during the international break but those affected all returned to the squad.
Ex-Steelman Richard Tait featured for Saints, who made four alterations from the side which lost 2-1 at home to Dundee United in their last outing with many of them enforced.
Goalkeeper Jak Alnwick missed out through suspension following his red card against the Terrors, so Dean Lyness took the gloves, while injury doubts Greg Kiltie and Scott Tanser didn’t make the squad. Another former Motherwell man, Charles Dunne, dropped to the bench alongside Alex Gogic as one of only five named substitutes for the Buddies.
All of that meant Conor McCarthy, Jordan Jones and Ethan Erhahon came in from the start.
Saints had an early scare after six minutes when Lyness’ poor clearance – after an initial effort had been blocked by Kevin van Veen – landed straight at the feet of Goss. The midfielder tried to curl a left-footed strike over the Buddies defense with Lyness caught out wide, but McCarthy got his head in the way to make a vital interception.
The visitors got their first sight of goal when Marcus Fraser’s diving header looped over the bar from a Jay Henderson corner after 13 minutes.
And seconds later they were in front after calamity in the Motherwell defence. Skipper Stephen O’Donnell and Sondre Solholm Johansen bumped into each other trying to clear a cross from the left and the ball fell to the feet of Brophy to slot into the bottom corner from 10 yards.
It was harsh on the Steelmen after a decent start – but their response was emphatic with two goals in a minute to turn the game on its head after 20 minutes.
First, Shields made his way down the right to cut the ball back for Goss and his strike inside the box found a way past Lyness, who didn’t cover himself in glory at his near post.
Sixty seconds later it was 2-0 when van Veen flicked the ball through for Shields to race onto. He showed the Buddies defense a clean pair of heels and kept his composure to dink the ball into the net over the on-rushing Lyness.
The pulsating contest continued with Saints bidding to get level. And they should have done so in 28 minutes when Brophy honed in on goal before striking the post with an effort that had Liam Kelly well beaten.
Up the other end, Lyness came to the rescue when he saved well from an O’Donnell volley at close range, after Erahon’s attempted clearance fell straight to the Scotland international.
It was end-to-end action and seven minutes before half-time St Mirren found their equaliser.
Jordan Jones swung in a corner towards the back post and with Kelly coming to clear, the ball sailed over the keeper for McCarthy to stab the ball home at the back post. The Steelmen were furious and claiming for a foul on their goalkeeper by referee Craig Napier allowed the goal to stand.
Incredibly, there was still another goal to come before the end of a breathless first half.
In the 45th minute, Motherwell regained the lead when a low ball across the box from Jo Efford picked out Cornelius and he stroked a composed finish into the bottom corner to send the Steelmen in at the interval with a slender advantage.
The pace and intensity of the first half showed no sign of abaiting after the re-start.
And ten minutes in Callum Slattery forced a wonder-save from Lyness as he tipped his thumping 25-yard drive onto the crossbar. The rebound fell at the feet of Efford but he couldn’t get the ball out from under his feet quick enough to get his shot away and Saints cleared the danger.
The game eventually died down after the hour mark and both sides tried to change things up with Ross Tierney and Liam Donnelly coming on for Goss and Efford, while Saints introduced Alex Grieve for Erhahon as the game entered the final 15 minutes.
Jay Henderson’s weak effort in 77 minutes called Kelly into action as the visitors desperately looked for a leveller.
But just a minute later Motherwell sealed victory. A fantastic run down the left by van Veen was rewarded when his cut-back was flicked into the net by Shields for his second of the day and just his fourth goal of the season.
In the 90th minute van Veen should have added a fifth but he blazed over the bar.
The Steelmen face Livingston at the Tony Macaroni Arena next Saturday in their final game before the Premiership split.
MOTHERWELL: Kelly, Mugabi, O’Donnell, Lamie, Johansen, Cornelius, Goss (Donnelly 75), Slattery, van Veen (Shaw 90), Efford (Tierney 74), Shields.
Scorers: Goss 20, Shields 21, 78, Cornelius 45
Subs not used: Fox, Carroll, Woolery, O’Hara, Ojala, Grimshaw.
ST MIRREN: Lyness, McCarthy, Shaughnessy, Tait (Main 79), Fraser, Erhahon (Grieve 72), Power, Ronan, Jones, Brophy, Henderson.
Scorers: Brophy 14, McCarthy 38
Subs not used: Urminsky, Grieve, Gogic, Dunne.
Ref: Craig Napier
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