Scottish Premiership
Motherwell1St Johnstone2

Motherwell 1-2 St Johnstone

Liam Craig scored a goal in either half as St Johnstone beat Motherwell to climb above Hearts into fourth place in the Scottish Premiership.

Craig took advantage of slack defending to nod home Graham Cummins' cross after eight minutes.

Scott McDonald hauled Well level, but Craig again found himself free in the home box after the break to slam home.

Motherwell peppered the Saints goal but could not level, with Ryan Bowman's late header coming back off a post.

Craig doubles up

St Johnstone were immediately assertive, relying on their defensive organisation to lay a platform from which to spring their counter-attacks. Motherwell would have expected that approach, but they still needed the means to stifle it.

That was lacking early on, and the opening goal came from a simple chip over the top of the Well defence that allowed Cummins to race free down the right.

His cross was met at the back post by a leaping Craig, who headed firmly past Motherwell goalkeeper Craig Samson.

The defending was lax, and Samson had to be alert to danger throughout the opening half - saving from Cummins and Steven MacLean before the interval. He was left exposed again after the break, though, when Chris Cadden failed to clear a cross, his header instead falling at the feet of Craig.

The midfielder still faced a tight angle, but he rifled the ball past Samson and into the far corner of the net.

McDonald hit and miss

Motherwell made few inroads into the St Johnstone goalmouth in the opening half, with their play too laboured to open up spaces to penetrate. The home side felt they should have been awarded a first-half penalty, when Brian Easton appeared to pull down McDonald inside the six-yard box, but referee Greg Aitken was unconvinced.

The Motherwell forward was involved twice again before half-time. He would rather forget the first moment, when he stabbed the ball wide from close range with the goal at his mercy.

The miss did not play on his mind, though, because when the ball landed at his feet at the back post moments later, his shot bobbled through the legs of St Johnstone goalkeeper Zander Clark.

Motherwell find attacking zeal

The home side were much more aggressive and assertive after the interval. That approach brought Louis Moult to greater prominence, and the striker saw a tame volley saved, a shot on the turn drift wide, and a header wide at the back post.

Defender Zak Jules also struck an effort on target from Elliott Frear's corner, but St Johnstone substitute goalkeeper Alan Mannus was in a position to save at close range.

The home side also felt aggrieved with the referee again, when he opted not to punish Tam Scobbie for climbing on Moult's back as he cleared inside the area. There was also frustration, after Bowman's late header was tipped onto the post by Mannus, and rolled agonisingly clear along the goalline.

Louis Moult wins a header
Louis Moult headed wide as Motherwell laid siege to the St Johnstone goal in the closing stages

Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson: "In terms of the effort and commitment, we can't really ask for any more. We created numerous opportunities, and one penalty that was incredible it wasn't given, on Chris Cadden.

"There was another debatable one on Scott McDonald, which could have gone either way, but it just didn't go for us.

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'Massive' win for Wright's Saints

"On another day they should have scored five or six goals, they were chasing lost causes at times, but we have to deal with crosses, because if you don't you're going to lose football matches.

"We were the better team against a team that is pushing into the top four and have continually done that. We'll win more games than we lose if we show that commitment."

St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright: "It's a massive three points for us because it almost guarantees a top-six finish. The performance at times could have been better, but defensively we were strong.

"They had chances, but it was long balls into the box, height and physical presence, so we weren't cut open but we had to defend well as a team. A lot of the players stood up to a very spirited Motherwell team.

"Barring a total disaster, our first aim is the top six; we'd like the extra point to guarantee that, but we'll look to hold onto fourth place. We're two points ahead, but I'd be a lot of happier if that was after 38 games."

Line-ups

Motherwell

  • 1Samson
  • 25Ferguson
  • 21JulesSubstituted forBlythat 90+2'minutes
  • 8McHugh
  • 3HammellSubstituted forBowmanat 68'minutes
  • 12Cadden
  • 20Clay
  • 88Pearson
  • 17FrearSubstituted forAinsworthat 82'minutes
  • 77McDonald
  • 9Moult

Substitutes

  • 7Ainsworth
  • 11Bowman
  • 13Griffiths
  • 14Lasley
  • 19Blyth
  • 26Campbell
  • 30McMillan

St Johnstone

  • 12ClarkSubstituted forMannusat 45'minutes
  • 19Foster
  • 14Shaughnessy
  • 3Scobbie
  • 24Easton
  • 4AlstonSubstituted forDavidsonat 64'minutesBooked at 78mins
  • 18Paton
  • 26Craig
  • 11Swanson
  • 9MacLean
  • 29Cummins

Substitutes

  • 1Mannus
  • 7Millar
  • 8Davidson
  • 15Smith
  • 17Coulson
  • 27Thomson
  • 33Hunter
Referee:
Greg Aitken
Attendance:
3,588

Match Stats

Home TeamMotherwellAway TeamSt Johnstone
Possession
Home53%
Away47%
Shots
Home16
Away15
Shots on Target
Home5
Away6
Corners
Home2
Away9
Fouls
Home6
Away12

Live Text

Match ends, Motherwell 1, St. Johnstone 2.

Full Time

Second Half ends, Motherwell 1, St. Johnstone 2.

Attempt missed. Louis Moult (Motherwell) right footed shot from the centre of the box is too high.

Foul by Scott McDonald (Motherwell).

Joe Shaughnessy (St. Johnstone) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Attempt saved. Ryan Bowman (Motherwell) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom right corner.

Substitution

Substitution, Motherwell. Jacob Blyth replaces Zak Jules because of an injury.

Foul by Steven MacLean (St. Johnstone).

Zak Jules (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Steven MacLean (St. Johnstone).

Craig Clay (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Attempt missed. Louis Moult (Motherwell) header from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left.

Attempt missed. Steven MacLean (St. Johnstone) header from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left following a corner.

Corner, St. Johnstone. Conceded by Lionel Ainsworth.

Attempt blocked. Danny Swanson (St. Johnstone) right footed shot from long range on the right is blocked.

Corner, St. Johnstone. Conceded by Stephen Pearson.

Hand ball by Steven MacLean (St. Johnstone).

Substitution

Substitution, Motherwell. Lionel Ainsworth replaces Elliott Frear.

Attempt missed. Danny Swanson (St. Johnstone) right footed shot from outside the box is just a bit too high following a corner.

Corner, St. Johnstone. Conceded by Carl McHugh.

Booking

Murray Davidson (St. Johnstone) is shown the yellow card.

Foul by Tam Scobbie (St. Johnstone).

Louis Moult (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Attempt missed. Liam Craig (St. Johnstone) right footed shot from the centre of the box is just a bit too high.

Foul by Joe Shaughnessy (St. Johnstone).

Ryan Bowman (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Louis Moult (Motherwell).

Alan Mannus (St. Johnstone) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Corner, St. Johnstone. Conceded by Scott McDonald.

Attempt blocked. Joe Shaughnessy (St. Johnstone) header from the centre of the box is blocked.

Corner, St. Johnstone. Conceded by Elliott Frear.

Attempt blocked. Danny Swanson (St. Johnstone) right footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked.

Attempt saved. Scott McDonald (Motherwell) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the top left corner.

Foul by Steven MacLean (St. Johnstone).

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

Substitution

Substitution, Motherwell. Ryan Bowman replaces Steven Hammell.

Goal!

Goal! Motherwell 1, St. Johnstone 2. Liam Craig (St. Johnstone) right footed shot from the left side of the box to the top right corner.

Substitution

Substitution, St. Johnstone. Murray Davidson replaces Blair Alston.

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

Corner, Motherwell. Conceded by Brian Easton.

goal

As It Stood

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Celtic28262074175780
2Aberdeen29184753242958
3Rangers2914874233950
4St Johnstone29127103937243
5Hearts291181050371341
6Partick Thistle29810113134-334
7Kilmarnock29711112845-1732
8Dundee2886143139-830
9Ross County29610133148-1728
10Motherwell2976163357-2427
11Inverness CT29412133353-2024
12Hamilton29412132647-2124
View full Scottish Premiership table

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