History has a funny way of repeating itself. Last year just before Christmas we scored a couple of goals just before half-time and then clung on in the second half for a 2-1 win. Fast forward a year and we do the same, although this time against 11 man Motherwell rather than nine man Rangers. Both results provided much needed wins, this one seeing us move up to 10th and edging us a bit further away from Dundee, who play later in the weekend.
The first half was fairly even but Steven Thompson bagged himself a brace and we could have gone out of sight at the start of the second half. Then we had to deal with wave after wave of Motherwell attack. Somehow we only conceded one - and somehow we managed to get the win.
David Barron was a surprise starter as he took David van Zanten's slot, Danny Lennon perhaps worried about predictions that a Vanzy goal would be the start of the end of the world. It was a rather odd looking defence as Lee Mair was left out of the team despite being available, Jim Goodwin starting alongside Marc McAusland once again. We did have two strikers as Lewis Guy partnering Steven Thompson up front. We also had Paul McGowan on the bench, a boost to the player and the fans. Motherwell weren't exactly short of attacking option with ex Saint Michael Higdon the spearhead and Jamie Murphy, Henrik Ojaama and Chris Humphrey also a threat.
Jon Robertson had the first half chance when he pounced on a slack pass and opted to move forward and shoot rather than pass, the ball never really setting down and he shot over from distance. Motherwell also had a few long rangers, Nicky Law having one blocked from a clever corner routine and Murphy seeing his deflected behind. From the corner we quickly broke and looked to have worked a decent opening before Guy failed in his attempt to pick out Thompson. Tom Hateley was next to join the long range club, his effort going well off target. Jim Goodwin did hit the target with a shot from a John McGinn corner and it looked to have brought the opener, but Keith Lasley had other ideas and knocked it to safety.
We might not have had a goal but it was exciting stuff as Craig Samson reacted brilliantly to keep out a header from Ojamaa with more than a little help from the post. Not to be outdone Saints went on the attack as Barron strode forward, realised he was getting near the box and tried his luck with a shot that a Motherwell player flung himself at to deflected behind. After we messed up the corner Kenny McLean had a chance from almost the same spot and again a lunging Motherwell player helped it on its way behind. Thompson passed up a glorious chance to put us in front when McGinn picked out Guy, who lost control, regained it and pulled the ball back with Randolph stranded, only for the striker to not give the shot the full force it required and allow Simon Ramsden to clear it away.
It was a bad miss, but you can count on the Thommohawk not to let his head drop and keep looking for the next chance. Sure enough a few minutes later Robertson and Marc McAusland exchanged chances, with the defender avoiding a crunching challenge to send Robertson away into lots of space. He looked up, played the ball in and Thompson steered it past Darren Randolph. If that was good, what followed just before the break was better as Gary Teale stole down the right, saw Humphrey slip in his wake and then looped over a cross to the back post where Thompson got above Hateley to head home with a little help from the post. A fantastic goal and we were two goals to the good at the break.
It should have been three at the start of the second half. Guy beat the offside trap to make his way to the edge of the box, where he was bundled over by Shaun Hutchison. No foul was given and the forward got back up and promptly found McGinn just inside the box in acres of space. It looked as if he'd finally get his first goal but he took a little too long and Randolph was able to turn the shot away for a corner. We had been looking shaky at the back all evening and that was continuing, but we were also looking dangerous in attack ourselves, the build up play good but the final ball lacking. Teale got clipped just outside the box and McLean tried his luck with the free-kick, sending it just the wrong side of the bar.
We seemed to be getting lucky with Motherwell penalty appeals, handball claims against Barron and Robertson failing to lead to a spot-kick. In between times Robertson had a shot but it was straight at Randolph. After the second penalty shout it looked as if Ojamaa would pull one back when he won possession from McLean but he got his angles wrong and dragged his shot wide. Immediately Higdon, who had done nothing all night, was replaced by Bob McHugh. It almost paid instant dividends when McHugh got onto the end of Humphrey's pass but his attempt to slot it home was blocked by McHugh.
Zaine Francis-Angol replaced Steven Hammell while Teale was hooked and replaced by Mair. It was a switch to back three and nearly backfired as Mair was effectively left standing against McHugh but thankfully the forward shot over. McAusland quickly made his feelings known on the matter, telling the management we had to return to a back four. The message went unheeded and we were suddenly in real danger of throwing things away, McHugh reducing the deficit with a quarter of an hour to go when he got onto the end of Ojamaa's pass and fired home via the bar. Surely that would be enough to force a change of system? Nope - and Motherwell should have equalised in a stramash that saw too shots blocked before Ojamaa shot at Samson.
Finally a change - van Zanten replacing Paul Dummett. Don't ask, although it almost got us a goal as Vanzy had a shot that was nodded behind for a corner, which McAusland almost managed to head home. McGinn looked to be struggling with a knock and assumed he was coming off for the final few minutes as Graham Carey got ready to come on, so he looked as shocked as anyone when Barron's number went up - and it wasn't a mistake. Carey was now up against Humphrey but the danger came down the left and Lasley shot over when he should have done better. A stoppage time free-kick was a worry but thankfully Samson cleared the danger and that was that.
Were we lucky? Absolutely - had Motherwell equalised they'd probably have won. But we're due a bit of luck and tonight we got it. Hopefully this is a turning point and we can build on this result.
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