Another poor performance brought defeat for Motherwell, 2-1 at St Johnstone as the grip on third place was lost.
A late goal from Chris Kane condemned Motherwell to a third successive league defeat in Perth on Wednesday as St Johnstone deservedly triumphed 2-1 in front of a sparse crowd.
The winner came in the last of three added minutes shortly after Motherwell substitute Christy Manzinga picked up his second yellow card for an appalling dive. Given the comedic attempt at a tackle which earned his first caution, he is unlikely to be seen again soon.
But that naivety is likely to be less concerning to manager Stephen Robinson than the nature of the second half performance which saw St Johnstone dominate almost completely. Defender Jason Kerr headed onto the post and we survived various scrambles before conceding.
Kerr was again decisive, crossing from the right and substitute Kane prodded home at the near post. Mark Gillespie, thinking he could gather the cross, was nowhere.
The first half was at least an even, though limited game, as both teams felt each other out. The hosts took the lead when Callum Hendry – who led the line superbly throughout – took advantage of a Liam Donnelly giveaway from Gillespie's throw and the break of the ball in the 28th minute.
Just five minutes later we levelled when a pass destined for Alan Campbell, recalled for Liam Polworth, was cleared into the path of Chris Long and his shot from 30 yards caught keeper Zander Clark napping.
We emerged from the break positively with Long's effort deflected wide but offered nothing after. Long was yanked for the equally ineffective Watt in the 64th minute but in reality our front three underperformed throughout.
The flaws of the midfield were exposed as Long, Rolando Aarons and Jermaine Hylton could neither hold the ball up or track back effectively. The defence performed credibly to hold out as long they did but it wasn't enough and we slip to fourth.
Serious questions will be asked not so much of the loss but the nature of it. Robinson – not for the first time in his reign – will be looking for answers.
St Johnstone 2 Motherwell 1
Team: Gillespie, Grimshaw, Gallagher, Hartley, Carroll, Campbell, Donnelly, O'Hara, Aarons (Polworth 84), Long (Watt 64), Hylton (Manzinga 69)
Wednesday 12 February 2020