Unbeaten St Mirren and Motherwell hoped to continue their fine form when they battled it out at St Mirren Park on Saturday. Danny Lennon’s new look side have surprised many with their start to the season but they were squaring up against an equally impressive Motherwell side who have yet to lose in this campaign.
St Mirren earned themselves a respectable draw against Dundee United last week, which was made all the more creditable after seeing Nigel Hasselbaink sent off for his flailing elbow. Steven Thompson scored against his old club to secure the draw. Motherwell on the other hand shot to the top of the Premier league after a well deserved victory over Hearts. Jamie Murphy was once again the man who made the difference.
St.Mirren went into the game with two key players missing. Darren McGregor has been ruled out for 6 to 9 months with a cruciate ligament injury, while Dutchman Hasselbaink was suspended after failing to overturn his ban. Stevie Thomson was a last-minute withdrawal, so in came Kenny McLean, Mark McAusland and Graham Carey for the Buddies.
The Steelmen meanwhile went into the game without Steven Saunders. The defender looks set to miss the rest of the season after rupturing his achilles tendon. Shaun Hutchison came in and Ross Forbes replaced the suspended Keith Lasley.
All was set for a pulsating game, but instead we had a slow gentle start to this encounter. Each team prodding at each others defence without really threatening.
It was a quarter of an hour in, before we saw the first real chance of the game. Michael Higdon tee’d it off for Jamie Murphy but keeper Craig Samson was equal to the task. Five minutes later and Motherwell had a great chance to break the deadlock. After great pressure from Law and Higdon, the ball broke to Nicky Law who only had Samson to beat but the big keeper produced heroics to keep out his shot.
On the half hour mark Samson was again in magical form, the Buddies keeper somehow tipped a Michael Higdon snapshot wide. Both sides were attempting to play good football, and it was a neat interchange between Graham Carey and Paul McGowan that nearly produced the first goal but Darren Randolph was on hand to block Careys drilled effort.
Just on the stroke of half time, Higdon again came close when his header trickled past the post.
The healthy attendance inside St.Mirren Park may not have enjoyed a goal feast, but they were treated to some delightful football. Van Zanten whipped in a great ball for Gary Teale who nodded back for Stevie Thompson but the striker could only head the ball high and wide.
St Mirren again came close when a lovely one-two between Tesselar and Thompson set up the chance for Teale but the former Scotland international found Hutchison in his way.
On the hour mark, a Paul McGowan mistake was very nearly capitalised on by Higdon, but the centre foward could only sting the palms of Craig Samson. Higdon was again involved when he flicked the ball through for Jamie Murphy who tried to poke the ball past the onrushing Samson who did well to block the Motherwell man.
Stevie Thompson then came close when he pounced on a mix up between Jennings and Randolph, however he could only volley over the bar.
With ten or so minutes to go Ross Forbes came up with a rocket from fully 30 yards out, but his strike was thwarted by the brilliant Samson.
Just when it looked as if there would be a share of the points, Tom Hateley came up with a phenomenal freekick to win the game. His wonderful shot was curled into the bottom right hand corner with Samson stranded. It was a sore one for the Buddies to take, but the Steel men will be delighted to come through this encounter with the three points.
Manager Stuart McCall was understandably delighted: “I’m very happy to come away with the win. We know we can play better but on the balance of play, I think we just did enough. To be honest I thought Ton (Hateley) would hit the ball into row Z! But im delighted he didnt and got us three precious points.”
Danny Lennon was a little dejected after the game but felt his team did enough to earn a draw: “We had alot of first half possession, perhaps without creating many chances. I thought both teams tried to play football in a very good manner and there are certainly enough pluses for me to take out this game.”
Goalscoring hero Tom Hateley added: “Its always nice to score the winning goal but it wasn’t about me. It was a great team performance and im even more delighted to pick up the 3 points. It’s been an ideal start from us, so long may it continue.”
And so the Buddies will go on licking their wounds, while the Steelmen celebrate their time at the top of the table.
St Mirren: Samson, van Zanten, Mair, Goodwin, McLean, Thompson, McGowan, McAusland, Teale, Tesselaar, Carey (McShane 71).
Subs Not Used: Lamont, Reilly, Kennedy, McQuade, Barron, Smith (GK).
Motherwell: Randolph, Hammell, Law, Craigan, Hateley, Humphrey, Jennings (Carswell 84), Higdon, Murphy, Hutchinson, Forbes.
Subs Not Used: McHugh, Smith, Page, Halsman, Lawless, Hollis (GK).
Referee: Iain Brines.
Man of the match: Craig Samson
Report by David Doherty @ St.Mirren Park | Match Photos by James Turnbull