Motherwell goalkeeper Liam Kelly saved a penalty to help his side play out a hard-fought goalless draw in difficult conditions at St Mirren.
The Scotland international parried away Mark O’Hara’s spot-kick four minutes after half-time, and despite the visitors having four one-on-one opportunities after surviving a close escape, they failed to find the net.
Motherwell’s winless run in the Premiership extended to 14 games and they now occupy the relegation play-off position, while St Mirren dropped to fourth in the table below Hearts on goal difference.
How the game played out
Both teams made one change from their last outing. For the hosts, Keanu Baccus replaced Caolan Boyd-Munce, who failed to make the squad, while Harry Paton returned to the Well starting line-up with Jon Obika dropping to the bench.
Blustery conditions looked set to play a major factor in proceedings and they were evident as Georgie Gent’s cross in the early exchanges swung across the St Mirren penalty box and out for a throw-in.
Saints passed up a glorious opportunity to break the deadlock after 12 minutes when Thierry Small’s low cross broke for Greg Kiltie who sliced an effort that sailed inches too high.
Just minutes later, Kelly, who took the blame for St Johnstone’s goal at Fir Park last weekend, looked uncertain when tipping Jonah Ayunga’s innocuous looking header over the crossbar.
The wind was drastically impacting the quality on show, with neither side quite able to get to grips with the difficult conditions in the opening 45 minutes.
St Mirren were awarded a penalty four minutes after half-time when Stephen O’Donnell was adjudged to have handled Ayunga’s cross.
O’Hara stepped up to take the resulting spot-kick but he was denied as Kelly parried his poor effort away before the Steelmen defence scrambled the ball clear.
Motherwell had yet to work the Saints keeper, though they did have a rare glimpse of goal as Paton’s strike from outside the box flashed wide of the target.
Zach Hemming was finally called into action after 58 minutes as Blair Spittal’s free-kick found Gent unmarked inside the box but he could only head the ball into the grateful arms of the home keeper.
The game was beginning to open up and it took a good save from Kelly to turn Small’s curling shot round the post, before the visitors somehow failed to take advantage of two glorious chances to break the deadlock.
Mika Biereth skipped through the Buddies midfield and released Spittal, who twisted past Alex Gogic before somehow firing wide.
The Arsenal loanee was involved again a minute later after slipping the ball through to Callum Slattery, but the midfielder hit the deck under pressure from Gogic and saw his claims for a penalty dismissed following a VAR check.
Chasing an elusive victory, Motherwell began to look the much more likely to find an opener and it took some smart goalkeeping from Hemming to deny the onrushing Biereth, who had sprung the home offside trap.
Motherwell manager Stuart Kettlewell introduced Theo Bair and Oli Shaw in search of a winner and Bair almost made an instant impact when he found himself bearing down on goal, only for his powerful shot to be kept out.
It was the fourth one-on-one opportunity for the away side and yet again they were unable to find the net as they had to settle for their fifth draw in seven league matches.
What the managers said…
Motherwell manager Stuart Kettlewell: “Ultimately we can all debate and argue about what happens over the course of 90 minutes but we by far had the best chances in the game.
“I understand that Liam Kelly makes a save from a penalty and one down to his right-hand side from Thierry Small, outwith that the clear-cut chances in the game were ours.
“I expect when certain guys are landing in those positions, like Blair Spittal, Callum Slattery, Mika Biereth, Theo Bair towards the end, I’m thinking we’re getting the right guys in position to convert them.
“There’s a little bit of frustration of course that we’ve not come away with three points because I thought we were well organised, well drilled in tough conditions – it was always going to be hard coming here without the wind, the rain and everything else that came with it.
“We want to win a game, we want to try break this duck and move in the right direction, but performance-level wise and what we put out on the pitch today, I’m relatively happy with overall.”
St Mirren manager Stephen Robinson: “There’s no criticism of Mark, people miss penalties – he’s brave enough to step up every week and take them.
“Even the rebound is affected by the wind, it puts it back to him so quickly he can’t react.
“Credit to Liam, he makes a good save and Mark misses it – it happens in football and you dust yourself down, we had chances to win the game without that.”
St Mirren’s next Scottish Premiership match is away to Hearts on December 23. Kick-off 3pm.
Motherwell host Rangers on December 24, live on Sky Sports. Kick-off 12pm.
Source : Sky Sports