Steven MacLean scored twice on his return from knee surgery as St Johnstone beat Motherwell in the Scottish Premiership.

The experienced striker tapped home early on after Gunnar Nielsen had fumbled Stevie May's shot.

And MacLean netted his second from a Brian Easton cross before the half-time interval.

Gary Miller meandered forward to fire Saints' third from a difficult angle late on.

The win gives Tommy Wright's side a three-point advantage over seventh-place Hibernian, while Motherwell are now four behind Aberdeen, who are second.

John Sutton and Steven Anderson

Saints ran out convincing winners in Perth

It was the visitors who threatened first, Henri Anier spinning away from Steven Anderson and sending a shot just wide.

MacLean was making his first appearance since October and his comeback was given an instant boost when he netted the opening goal.

Nielsen should have dealt with May's 30-yard free-kick but his attempts to gather the ball ran straight into MacLean's path, leaving him a simple finish.

St Johnstone were in the ascendancy but a rare foray forward from Motherwell led to a finger-tip save as goalkeeper Alan Mannus denied Iain Vigurs.

Easton's deep delivery caused problems for the 'Well defence and MacLean got to it before Shaun Hutchinson to force the second goal.

Stuart McCall's men had the chance to pull one back before half-time when a Vigurs free-kick picked out Stephen McManus unmarked but the defender skewed wide from close range.

And McCall took action at the break, sending on James McFadden and Lionel Ainsworth in place of Stevie Hammell and Vigurs.

However, it was Saints who were the more eager at the start of the second period with May and David Wotherspoon drawing saves from Nielsen.

MacLean was applauded off the park by the home fans as he made way for Chris Iwelumo and the substitute shot straight at Nielsen from Wotherspoon's pass moments after coming on.

It looked as though there would be no further scoring until Miller burst forward to net his first goal of the season and round off a fine evening's work for the Perth side.

Lineup, Bookings (2) & Substitutions (6)

St Johnstone

  • 01 Mannus
  • 19 Miller
  • 24 Easton
  • 08 McDonald
  • 02 Mackay
  • 06 Anderson
  • 22 Croft Booked (Millar - 81' )
  • 12 Dunne
  • 09 MacLean (Iwelumo - 72' )
  • 17 May Booked
  • 11 Hasselbaink (Wotherspoon - 64' )

Substitutes

  • 04 Cregg
  • 07 Millar
  • 10 Wotherspoon
  • 15 Banks
  • 25 Iwelumo
  • 29 O'Halloran
  • 38 Gilchrist

Motherwell

  • 12 Nielsen
  • 02 Reid
  • 03 Hammell (McFadden - 45' )
  • 14 Lasley
  • 05 Hutchinson
  • 06 McManus
  • 24 Anier (Shirkie - 80' )
  • 11 Vigurs (Ainsworth - 45' )
  • 09 Sutton
  • 18 Carswell
  • 17 Francis-Angol

Substitutes

  • 01 Hollis
  • 07 McFadden
  • 23 Murray
  • 25 Ainsworth
  • 26 Leitch
  • 29 Shirkie
  • 34 Cadden
Ref: Kevin Clancy
Att: 1,892

Match Stats

Shots

9 4

On target

7 1

Corners

10 2

Fouls

17 14

Live Text Commentary

Full time

Full Time Match ends, St Johnstone 3, Motherwell 0.

90:00 +2:38 Full time

Full Time Second Half ends, St Johnstone 3, Motherwell 0.

89:52

Corner, St Johnstone. Conceded by Stephen McManus.

86:23 Goal scored

Goal! Goal! St Johnstone 3, Motherwell 0. Gary Miller (St Johnstone) right footed shot from the right side of the box to the top left corner.

84:41

Steven Anderson (St Johnstone) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

84:41

Foul by John Sutton (Motherwell).

82:28

Attempt missed. Shaun Hutchinson (Motherwell) right footed shot from the centre of the box is just a bit too high.

82:00

Keith Lasley (Motherwell) wins a free kick on the left wing.

81:49

Foul by Gary Miller (St Johnstone).

80:53 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, St Johnstone. Chris Millar replaces Lee Croft.

79:51 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Motherwell. Dale Shirkie replaces Henri Anier.

79:27

Corner, St Johnstone. Conceded by Shaun Hutchinson.

75:49

Corner, St Johnstone. Conceded by Craig Reid.

73:23

Attempt saved. Gary McDonald (St Johnstone) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal.

72:24

Attempt saved. Chris Iwelumo (St Johnstone) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal.

71:36 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, St Johnstone. Chris Iwelumo replaces Steven MacLean.

71:01

Gary Miller (St Johnstone) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

71:01

Foul by John Sutton (Motherwell).

69:17

Attempt missed. David Wotherspoon (St Johnstone) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the right.

66:54 Booking

Booking Lee Croft (St Johnstone) is shown the yellow card.

66:50

Foul by Lee Croft (St Johnstone).

66:50

Zaine Francis-Angol (Motherwell) wins a free kick on the left wing.

66:00

Stephen McManus (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

65:59

Foul by Steven MacLean (St Johnstone).

64:37

Foul by Gary McDonald (St Johnstone).

64:37

Zaine Francis-Angol (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

63:57 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, St Johnstone. David Wotherspoon replaces Nigel Hasselbaink.

62:45

Lee Croft (St Johnstone) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

62:45

Foul by James McFadden (Motherwell).

60:49

Gary Miller (St Johnstone) wins a free kick on the left wing.

60:49

Foul by James McFadden (Motherwell).

58:55

Corner, Motherwell. Conceded by Brian Easton.

57:26

Attempt saved. Steve May (St Johnstone) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom left corner.

55:17

Foul by Steven MacLean (St Johnstone).

55:17

Zaine Francis-Angol (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

52:23

Foul by David Mackay (St Johnstone).

52:23

John Sutton (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

51:40

Lee Croft (St Johnstone) wins a free kick on the left wing.

51:40

Foul by Henri Anier (Motherwell).

51:12

Attempt saved. Lee Croft (St Johnstone) right footed shot from a difficult angle and long range on the left is saved in the centre of the goal.

50:28

Corner, St Johnstone. Conceded by Craig Reid.

49:29

Steven MacLean (St Johnstone) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

49:29

Foul by Stephen McManus (Motherwell).

45:00

Second Half begins St Johnstone 2, Motherwell 0.

45:00 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Motherwell. Lionel Ainsworth replaces Iain Vigurs.

45:00 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Motherwell. James McFadden replaces Steven Hammell.

45:00 +1:17 Half time

Half Time First Half ends, St Johnstone 2, Motherwell 0.

45:00 +1:08

Steve May (St Johnstone) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

45:00 +1:08

Foul by Shaun Hutchinson (Motherwell).

45:00 +0:15

Attempt missed. Stephen McManus (Motherwell) right footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left.

44:38

Foul by Gary Miller (St Johnstone).

44:38

Zaine Francis-Angol (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

43:25

Foul by Gary McDonald (St Johnstone).

43:25

Craig Reid (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

40:57 Booking

Booking Steve May (St Johnstone) is shown the yellow card.

40:53

Foul by Steve May (St Johnstone).

40:53

Craig Reid (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

40:09

Foul by James Dunne (St Johnstone).

40:09

Iain Vigurs (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

38:15

James Dunne (St Johnstone) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

38:15

Foul by John Sutton (Motherwell).

36:00

Henri Anier (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

35:56

Foul by David Mackay (St Johnstone).

34:09 Goal scored

Goal! Goal! St Johnstone 2, Motherwell 0. Steven MacLean (St Johnstone) header from the centre of the box to the centre of the goal. Assisted by Brian Easton.

32:56

Foul by Steven MacLean (St Johnstone).

32:56

Keith Lasley (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

27:25

Steven Anderson (St Johnstone) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

27:25

Foul by Henri Anier (Motherwell).

26:51

Foul by Steve May (St Johnstone).

26:51

Craig Reid (Motherwell) wins a free kick on the left wing.

24:45

Attempt missed. Steven MacLean (St Johnstone) header from the right side of the six yard box is close, but misses to the right.

23:45

Corner, Motherwell. Conceded by Alan Mannus.

23:35

Attempt saved. Iain Vigurs (Motherwell) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom right corner.

23:04

Foul by Lee Croft (St Johnstone).

23:04

Henri Anier (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

22:27

Foul by Nigel Hasselbaink (St Johnstone).

22:27

Craig Reid (Motherwell) wins a free kick on the left wing.

17:27

Corner, St Johnstone. Conceded by Iain Vigurs.

17:05

Corner, St Johnstone. Conceded by Zaine Francis-Angol.

16:17

Corner, St Johnstone. Conceded by Stephen McManus.

15:48

Steve May (St Johnstone) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

15:48

Foul by Keith Lasley (Motherwell).

11:38

Foul by James Dunne (St Johnstone).

11:38

Keith Lasley (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

10:24

Steve May (St Johnstone) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

10:24

Foul by Stephen McManus (Motherwell).

8:37

Foul by Steven MacLean (St Johnstone).

8:37

Zaine Francis-Angol (Motherwell) wins a free kick on the right wing.

7:21

Corner, St Johnstone. Conceded by Craig Reid.

5:58 Goal scored

Goal! Goal! St Johnstone 1, Motherwell 0. Steven MacLean (St Johnstone) right footed shot from very close range to the centre of the goal. Assisted by Steve May.

5:07

Steven MacLean (St Johnstone) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

5:07

Foul by Shaun Hutchinson (Motherwell).

4:43

Attempt missed. Henri Anier (Motherwell) left footed shot from outside the box misses to the right.

3:37

David Mackay (St Johnstone) wins a free kick on the left wing.

3:37

Foul by John Sutton (Motherwell).

2:15

Corner, St Johnstone. Conceded by Gunnar Nielsen.

1:46

Corner, St Johnstone. Conceded by Keith Lasley.

0:47

Steven MacLean (St Johnstone) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

0:47

Foul by Keith Lasley (Motherwell).

0:00

First Half begins.

0:00

Live data and text provided by our data suppliers