St Mirren 1 – 0 Motherwell
Curtis Main grabbed the only goal in Paisley to send St Mirren into the cinch Premiership top six and leave former club Motherwell locked on 20 points with three other teams at the bottom.
Main struck from close range in the 16th minute to earn Stephen Robinson’s side only their second win in 10 league games, although it stretched their unbeaten home run to 12 matches since losing to Motherwell on the opening day of the season.
Motherwell dominated possession but often lacked a cutting edge as their run without a league win extended to nine games.
The Lanarkshire side confirmed the signing of Riku Danzaki before the game but the Japanese attacker was not in the squad, and nor was striker Mikael Mandron, who netted two goals on his first start in the previous weekend’s Scottish Cup win against Arbroath.
Well boss Steven Hammell lined up with Kevin van Veen and Connor Shields up front with Stuart McKinstry playing at the head of a midfield diamond, and he will hope his recent signings can deliver quickly after Ross County’s win closed the gap at the bottom.
Scot Tanser came close for the hosts but Motherwell had more of the ball in the opening stages without testing Trevor Carson. Blair Spittal and McKinstry had shots blocked following good moves.
Saints took the lead in the 16th minute after Alex Greive’s flick sent Ryan Strain heading towards the byline. The Australian delivered a low cross and Main got in front of Shane Blaney to divert the ball past Liam Kelly from close range.
Motherwell had a penalty claim four minutes later when Ricki Lamie claimed he had been hauled to the ground by Charles Dunne, but referee John Beaton was not called to the monitor. A nudge from Lamie before the alleged foul may have put doubt in video assistant Grant Irvine’s mind.
Strain hit a free-kick straight at Kelly and there was little other action for the remainder of the first half.
Motherwell came close just after the interval when Lamie headed Spittal’s corner just wide of the far post.
The visitors’ first shot on target came in the 72nd minute when substitute Olly Crankshaw set up right-back Max Johnston, whose powerful left-foot drive was held at the second attempt by Carson.
Saints substitute Jonah Ayunga had threatened after turning Blaney but he was soon going back off after picking up an injury.
Main fired wide from a half chance before St Mirren survived a stoppage-time scare when Alex Gogic cleared off the line from McKinstry after Crankshaw’s cross had caused panic.
What the managers said…
Motherwell boss Steven Hammell:
“We knew we’d be in for a physical battle and that if they got their noses in front they’d time-waste and put the ball into the corners but the goal we conceded just wasn’t good enough,” he said.
“There weren’t many chances but we created enough of them to take something from it but didn’t score, which is the story of our season.
“We should also have had a penalty – that’s quite clear. However, for them to not even ask the referee to have a look at it is really frustrating.
“You’re asking the question and getting no feedback at all. Our analysts told me it was a strong penalty claim and I’ve now seen it and I agree, especially when you’ve seen what’s already been given this season.
“We were pretty much told at meetings that the referee would be the man who would have the final say in these decisions and that anything that was close to contentious would be looked at.
“I haven’t once questioned a referee’s decision since I’ve been here but I was looking for an explanation today and I got no information at all.”
St Mirren boss Stephen Robinson:
“We can only pray those boys are okay, otherwise I will be asking the board for help,” he said.
“We run with a really small squad and if we are going to push on, we can only hope they aren’t out for a long time.
“But at the moment it’s a real worry. They are two influential players for me.
“I’ve said already that letting Brophy go wasn’t my choice. We just couldn’t afford to have boys not playing on that level of finance.
“There is no doubt Eamonn is a very good player but that is now the fourth we have let go – and not brought anyone in.
“You need a little bit of luck if you have a small squad as injuries and suspensions can catch up with you, so let’s hope we get good news.”
St Mirren are away to Aberdeen in their next Scottish Premiership match on February 1, while Motherwell host St Johnstone on the same night.
Both games kick-off at 7.45pm.