St Mirren looked more aggressive from the beginning and were soon pushing us back. Clear chances were hard to come by but what was immediately apparent was St Mirren pushing us high up the field and preventing us playing the ball from defence. We couldn’t get our ball players in the game and two goal line clearances were needed to prevent the home side from grabbing a deserved opener.
We did have occasional threats as Humphrey blazed over and Higdon had a header tipped onto the post in what was stunning save from Samson. St Mirren would effectively win the game in the minutes before the interval as our left hand side collapsed on two occasions to allow Thompson to bag a brace. A neat finish at the near post and a superb leap at the back post allowed him to find the net though a clutch of Motherwell players – Hammell, Murphy, Humphrey and Hateley on first viewing – will not relish seeing the highlights of the goals.
Motherwell looked just as listless after the break and marvellous save from Randolph kept us in it early in the second half. McCall’s refusal to make a change until well into the period seemed utterly bizarre and once more it was the introduction of McHugh which lifted us. He immediately had a goal bound shot blocked and fired over when he really should have scored but eventually smashed one in off the bar to give us hope.
We did fight on in the last minutes and had a couple of scrambles when we could have found the net. At one point were denied by two desperate blocks just seconds apart but even when dominating there was no real belief a goal would come. At Hibs last Saturday we salvaged something from 2-0 down, this time we failed to do so and missed a glorious chance to solidify second place.
The match does throw up some interesting questions which Stuart McCall, not to mention the 970 fans who travelled. We continually struggle against St Mirren despite the relatively large gap between the sides in league places – why did we persist with just the usual formation? Why did we take so long to make a change? And, perhaps most curiously of all, why doesn’t every team in the SPL copy St Mirren’s evidently successful tactics against us? Answers on a postcard, but a short-term solution which lifts us against Aberdeen on Boxing Day is the more immediate concern.