THERE were echoes of Motherwell’s Lanarkshire derby nightmare at Fir Park again yesterday afternoon as Graham Alexander’s side found themselves shipping three goals against a St Johnstone side who lent this game an impression of being able to score as many as they wanted.
A double from Israeli striker Guy Melamed sandwiched in between a Jason Kerr strike set Callum Davidson’s side up perfectly for next weekend’s Betfred League Cup final against Livingston at Hampden with the manner of the performance ensuring they go into that meeting brimming with belief and confidence.
“I think that was our most complete performance of the season,” observed Davidson. “I thought first half we played some real good football in difficult conditions. We cut them open and had some great chances to score.
“I said I wanted to limit Motherwell’s chances second half and turn the screw on them. We did exactly that. I couldn’t ask for any more. The attitude of the players was brilliant. I said to them before the start that it’s the league that gets you to cup finals. The league is so important. Staying in the league first and foremost, it helps us get to more cup finals.”
Motherwell could point to a glut of missing players – an astonishing 13 absentees in all – but this was a woefully insipid display. One sole Liam Polworth effort was their only flirtation with goal in a game where they failed to spend any significant time out of their own half.
The Fir Park side were limp and ineffective throughout and on the back of the heavy defeat last weekend will surely have cause for concern. Certainly, the defensive frailties, lack of cohesion and absence of any attacking verve was not lost on Motherwell manager Graham Alexander who offered a sobering assessment of the Fir Park’s predicament.
They face a resurgent St Mirren side on Wednesday night in Paisley with Jim Goodwin’s outfit pushing for a top six place.
“Everyone has to have a reality check about this season as a whole and where we are,” he said. “All talk of top six should be put to one side. “We are in a fight to make sure we are a Premiership club and we have to show that type of fight, that it means as much to us as anybody else.
“There’s lots of things when you get beat 3-0 at home on the back of a 4-1 defeat that you have got to be concerned about. This has not been a seven-day crisis, it’s been for a long time at the club, the issues [we are seeing]. But we have to deal with that and it’s going to be a fight between now and the end of the season.”
By the time the whistle sounded for the break this game already felt well beyond Motherwell’s reach. Melamed had opened the scoring when he curled an exquisite effort from the edge of the box past Fir Park keeper Liam Kelly after Sean Rooney had teed him up.
The second came immediately before the break. Motherwell were furious – they had a case in point as Rooney looked to be offside in the build-up – but truth be told it was a fair reflection of St Johnstone’s dominance and summed up Motherwell’s defensive performance. Liam Craig’s initial effort had come off bar, Chris Kane headed the face of goal for Rooney to smack a header off the woodwork before the ball broke to Kerr who netted from the edge of the box.
St Johnstone picked up where they left off after the break with Wotherspoon brushing off Max Johnston before unleashing a shot that whizzed just past the post. Within minutes, however, the visitors had added a third.
Polworth’s clumsy trip on Kane gave referee John Beaton no option but to point to the spot. Melamed duly converted as he hit his effort low to Kelly’s right and although the stopper guessed the right way he could not keep the Israeli’s effort out of the net.
Craig then had curling effort from the edge of the bar that clipped the bar for the third time in the game as a dominant St Johnstone side threatened to run riot.
The Perthshire side will look to take that form into Hampden next Sunday while Motherwell quickly need to get their house in order.