Motherwell 3-2 St Johnstone

By Kenny CrawfordBBC Sport Scotland
Highlights - Motherwell 3-2 St Johnstone

Michael Higdon's hat-trick gave Motherwell victory against St Johnstone at Fir Park despite a late come-back from the Perth side.

He netted his first from Chris Humphrey's centre before rifling a second before half-time.

Higdon was in the right place to slot home again after Shaun Hutchinson's blocked header in the second half.

Nigel Hasselbaink scored for Saints before Liam Craig's 20-yard drive made it a nervous finish for Motherwell.

The last time St Johnstone beat Motherwell was in September 2011, so the home side had high hopes of going level on points with second-placed Inverness CT.

A clever exchange of passes by Saints captain Dave MacKay and Rowan Vine created the game's first chance for Chris Millar, whose left-foot shot from the edge of the box drifted wide.

Motherwell winger Humphrey showed his threat shortly after, breaking down the right and almost finding Bob McHugh on the penalty spot with a low cross.

No joy that time, but the same move would bring Motherwell the lead on eight minutes.

This time the Englishman found Well's top scorer Higdon, who from 12 yards swept the ball back across Saints keeper Alan Mannus for his 14th goal of the season.

Keith Lasley had to be on his toes minutes later, clearing team-mate Hutchinson's net-bound header from Craig's corner off the line to prevent a certain own goal.

Then, on the 20-minute mark, Higdon struck again.

Henrik Ojamaa surged in-field and played a forward pass into the feet of Higdon on the edge of the box. The big striker was initially crowded out by Saints defender Frazer Wright, but the ball broke back to him and he rifled it into Mannus' bottom-right corner.

Liam Craig
Liam Craig gave St Johnstone hope with his left-footed drive which made it 3-2 with 10 minutes left.

The visitors rallied and had two good chances to reduce the goal deficit before half-time.

Firstly, Gregory Tade hit the inside of the post with a close-range header, only to realise the linesman had flagged to say the cross had gone out of play.

Craig then had a decent right-footed effort from 10 yards blocked by the sprawling Nicky Law after being set-up by Millar.

And it was St Johnstone who went closest, in bizarre fashion, at the beginning of the second half.

Vine's cross was deflected by Motherwell right-back Tom Hateley, the ball looping onto Darren Randolph's crossbar and out of play.

Shortly after, Steven MacLean had a good sight of goal in the box but chose to cut inside, only managing a tame shot which Randolph gathered with ease.

With things just not happening for the Perth side, Motherwell capitalised in the 69th minute.

And yet again, it was Higdon.

This time, the tall Englishman was on hand to calmly slot home after Hutchinson's blocked header fell to him following Hateley's corner - making it 16 goals for Higdon this season.

But just when it all seemed done and dusted, St Johnstone sprang back into life.

On 77 minutes Hasselbaink worked one-twos with Vine and MacLean before thumping an 18-yard shot past Lee Hollis, who had replaced the injured Randolph seconds before.

Just two minutes later, Saints were well and truly back in it.

Craig, who recently signed a pre-contract deal with Hibs, reacted quickest to a Motherwell half-clearance and drove the ball into the net from the edge of the box.

Hollis had not even touched the ball with his hands yet, but made a crucial save from Hasselbaink in the last minute of normal time, smothering the Dutchman's effort.

Motherwell's Zaine Francis-Angol blundered in injury time, gifting possession to MacKay, but Vine could not connect properly with the cross and the home team hung on.