Motherwell 1 Saints 3 - League Table Here
Team : Smith, Irvine, Grainger, Morris, Garters, Mackay, Millar,
Mooner, Davidson, Deuchar, Peaso
Subs: Main, Anderson, Liam, Savo, Morais, May, Durnan
Having eaten through a Mark Yardley-sized pile of turkey and stuffing yesterday and indulged in enough drink to make a Dundonian female look attractive (okay maybe a slight exaggeration there) it was time to head west for Del and the Saintee Horde today as we looked to continue our festive winning streak (well at least extend it to a second game). The win over the Paisley junkies last weekend had given us a nice boost going into Christmas but now the 125th anniversary DVDs had been watched it was time to make another journey west. Not quite the troll hordes of Mordor at the Govan Death Star but Fir Park has its own delightful atmosphere to welcome the away fans.
Despite some bad memories of being relegated in its surroundings our last trip here a few years ago had seen Saints rise up and deliver a nice tanning to the home side as we progressed in the Scottish Cup. There have been plenty of changes in recent years though for the Lanarkshire side with Butcher and McGhee being punted and jumping ship and the referee's favourite pin-up Jim Gannon now in charge. He's done well this season given the lack of finances and a young squad but while he's been concentrating on whinging at Shuggy Dallas about the state of officiating in the SPL (an admirable quest), his team have been ballsing things up in spectacular style topped out last week by a six-one humping at the Death Star - a result that put our defensive errors of a fortnight ago into some sort of perspective. With both defences looking, how shall I put it, crap, it looked like we were in for plenty of goals.
So it was that despite a mess of a first-half and conceding a soft goal, an inspired change at half-time and a demonstration of how to take your chances in the second-half sent a big Saints support back out into the cold with a big jolly Santa-esque smile on their faces. Back-to-back wins, a hat-trick for Peaso and a Saints team that left the park to cheers with confidence flowing through the side. The difference in the form as we kept the ball on the deck and showed at times what we are capable of. McInnes deserves all the praise tonight and hopefully that's the trigger for the rest of the season.
The win last weekend had also seen the return of both Peaso and Savo to the Saints side as a nice boost for Christmas and given their hunger during the Midden game, it seemed that our striking problems were easing a bit. There was added news this week with the announcement that Chris Millar had put pen to paper on a new 2-year deal and while there would be no escape from Del being linked with a possible move to Tannadump to take over from Craig Levein all that was put to one side for today's game. Dave Mackay had been the real injury worry as our new makeshift centre-half had limped through the game last weekend after picking up an early knock although both he and Ando had managed to train. Caff was out but Peaso was a doubt after his hip knock last weekend.
But the starting lineup saw just one change with Murray Davidson replacing Fil who dropped to the bench. That meant Mooner switched to the left side of midfield while Peaso was up front with Deuchar. For Well there were several changes after their humping at the Death Star with the wonderkids in Hately and O'Brien starting for them.
There was a decent crowd for the game despite the Baltic weather, blizzard conditions and the fact that Saints fans had to endure their festive hangovers in the slum conditions of Lanarkshire. Still they saw Saints start well enough although a loose pass from Davidson almost let the home side on the attack but with their passes more often than not heading out of the ground there was little to worry us. Mooner linked up with the Doc in the second minute who set up Peaso but his effort went wide then Millar pounced on a loose ball from the home defence and set up Deuchar who laid the ball back for Jody but his cross went out.
Morris made a cock-up of his own next allowing Well through but a quick offside decision saved his blushes. Peaso saw a cross held after he latched onto a throw-in and then he was awarded a freekick after Saunders tugged him back (one of the few decisions Mr Conroy got right) - the set-piece was wasted. Our first real shot though came in the 9th minute as Grainger set up Peaso and Davidson who shot across the goal. Deuchar hit the ball back in and Davidson saw another shot was blocked. Davidson set up Mooner next but his cross was cleared and a Grainger follow-up cross from the left was held by Ruddy.
The next chance came from a ball forward in the 12th minute which Peaso headed on for Millar in the box but he was well tackled. It gave us our first corner but that was cleared far too easily as unfortunately the Saints threat from corner kicks continued to be about as effective as a Jimmy Calderwood campaign to be Scotland manager. Smiffy was called into action in the 14th minute as another Well break down the right ended with a cutback and shot from Sutton that Smith held.
Millar and Deuchar had efforts at the other end of the park and then a break out of defence from Saints with Deuchar and Davidson linking to release Irvine on the right and his cross found Davidson but his shot went wide of goal. But for all that we were making some basic mistakes - Grainger was caught napping a minute later, losing the ball and Garters had to get back to clear the danger although another cross came in that Smith and Millar had to clear. A minute after that and Millar was caught on the ball on the their side. We conceded a throw-in but that was played forward for O'Brien who tried a low shot which Smith got down to hold.
Up the other end of the park Peaso turned his defender and played a cross in for the Doc but his header was cleared although the striker also claimed for a penalty. Peaso had a shot across the goal next before Well's next attack saw them beat Mooner on our left (the Saints midfielder having a rotten game) before the cross was headed behind by Irvine. The resulting corner was only half- punched clear by Smiffy but thankfully when it came back in the referee managed to spot a foul on Deuchar. O'Brien had a dive on the touchline next after being fairly tackled by Mackay but again the freekick came to nothing .It seemed that the Well players were getting back into the game while the Saints midfield was being stifled with only Millar really contributing to the attack.
Deuchar headed a Grainger cross well wide in the 29th minute and another Danny cross a minute afterwards saw some good play with the Doc, Peaso, Mooner and the Doc again all involved before the latter laid the ball off to Millar coming in from the right but his shot was well saved by Ruddy tipping the ball round the post. The corner went the way of most Saints corners into the category known as "wasted". Motherwell threatened next with another cross that Irvine headed behind. Their corner was more effective ending in a near post flick from Sutton that went just over Smiffy's bar.
The Saints keeper was called into action again in the 34th minute after Garters was penalised for climbing (he should have just targeted Peaso since it seems if you climb on him it's not a freekick these days). The freekick was neatly chipped over the wall catching us out and a Well header was tipped across the goal by Smith before a follow-up shot was blocked on the line and cleared by Mackay. Another Well attack a minute later ended in a poor shot over the bar as the Saints defence struggled. Smith made another great double save in the 36th minute after O'Brien made a good run with the Saints keeper making a couple of great blocks from close range.
But we were riding our luck and with seven minutes to go Mooner lost the ball on the left and failed to cover the Well defender making a break down the touchline. One cross over and an easy header for Jennings into the net had us one behind. Suddenly we were looking really shaky and despite Jody trying to get us back into the game the best chance we had was a throw-in that fell for Millar who shot well over the bar. We lost our shape with Mooner looking like his confidence was shot. The half finished with another Saints chance going begging as the ball forward for Peaso saw him overrun the ball at the byeline.
Del had obviously seen enough and made a couple of changes at the break with Liam and Savo brought on for Mooner and Deuchar. That added a bit more pace for us up front and gave us more penetration down the wing. Within a minute a ball forward from Mackay found Savo who flicked the ball wide for Liam who tried an angled shot that Ruddy took two attempts to gather. For all that it was a slow start for both teams as Motherwell seemed happier to sit back, timewaste and defend their one goal lead. They had a good run in the 48th minute with Irvine making a great tackle. Unfortunately the diving home player won the freekick for them instead but the freekick went across the Saints area and out. Peaso was fouled in the 52nd minute and we almost drew level from the freekick. The ball was played into the box and a bit of head tennis saw the ball out for Millar. He played it back in for Garters who headed out for Mackay but his shot went wide.
Two minutes later though it was all smiles as another good break saw a forward ball for Savo flicked left for Liam whose cross into the box broke for Millar who chested the ball down. His shot was blocked but there on the edge of the 6-yard box was Peaso who blasted it home. Well tried to counter with a low shot that Smith held but in the 58th minute a throw-in from the left for Saints was only half-cleared to Millar on the edge of the box and his ball in found Peaso who headed the ball before pulling off a great turn and volley to make it two-one. Suddenly the home fans were more than a tad wheeshed.
Meanwhile the Saints players were brimming with confidence. A Liam break a minute later saw Jody and Peaso link up to try and find Savo but he was too slow off the mark. Millar was full of life as well backtracking on the hour mark running most of the pitch to make a brilliant tackle. There was more controversy next with Savo and Craigen clashing on the wing and despite the Well defender kicking the ball out the referee awarded a goal kick. Craigen was in on Peaso next and no freekick was given, but that wasn't stopping Saints. Danny tried a long-range drive that went just wide and Davidson, Liam and Danny tried to set up Savo but he was just too late to connect before the keeper gathered.
Motherwell had a rare attack and a dodgy claim for handball before the 72nd minute saw us notch up a third. Another counterattack saw the ball forward and sent down the right where Millar outpaced the Well defender and got to the byeline. A perfect cross sent the ball past Ruddy to the back post and Peaso sprung up like he was the Goatman with a header to stick the ball in the net. A brilliant celebration followed as he notched up the first Saints hat-trick in donkeys.
After that there was little fight in the home side and although they threatened it seemed more likely that we would notch a fourth as the home fans deserted their side like snow off the proverbial dyke.
Another good attack in the 76th minute saw some great Saints showboating as we kept the ball with Jody eventually losing it after he failed to react to a Millar pass. A throw-in a minute later saw Peaso cross for Savo who just failed to connect while at the other end a Motherwell header came off the post and then Smithy as the Saints keeper gathered. Smith made a couple of other saves while Davidson picked up a soft booking as the game entered its closing stages. Irvine almost cost us a goal with a loose passback but Smith came out to block the shot.
Morais replace Peaso six minutes from time and a minute later saw a shot blocked as both he and Jody latched onto a Savo cutback as again we tore up their defence down the wing. The ball ended up breaking to Liam but his cross went over. Craig saw a decent snapshot held a minute later while Motherwell's only reply was to hit a corner miles over the bar. Savo almost chased down a Ruddy clearance while we ran down the clock in injury time winning some soft corners. But by that time the Saints support were in full voice and we were well and truly on easy street.
Despite some poor defending for their goal there were more pluses than anything else especially from the second-half performance. A Savo / Peaso partnership with two pacy midfielders on the wing in Millar and Craig saw probably the most effective attack we've seen all season. Peaso thoroughly deserves his MoM award and all the plaudits he'll get this week while amongst the rest of the side, Millar, Irvine, Smith and Grainger all played well.
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