St Johnstone 3-0 Motherwell

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.

As It Stood

4Inverness CT2513571244
5Dundee Utd2611871541
6St Johnstone2610511435
9Partick Thistle2751012-1625
10Ross County277416-1725
11St Mirren276615-1924
View full Scottish Premiership table

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