Ten-man Motherwell got their Premiership campaign off to a bang with a slender opening day win at St Mirren.
Kevin van Veen bagged his first goal of the season from the spot with a controversial penalty award in 42 minutes, and although St Mirren will feel aggrieved not to have taken a point from this, they only have themselves the blame after passing up several gilt-edged chances.
Ryan Strain caused the Well rear-guard all sorts of problems, but if he had his shooting boots on the Saints star could have scored a double.
Motherwell even had the luxury of a red card with Ricki Lamie sent off for a rash challenge on Keanu Baccus, despite Saints’ efforts to draw level.
St Mirren had been the better side up until that point, but Jonah Ayungah (twice) and Ryan Strain passed up decent chances from good positions.
Motherwell had battled well, but offered little up front until their goal, with the ball all too often by-passing the midfield.
Both clubs have had summers to forget for very different reasons, though it does remain to be seen if Saints will be looking for a new boss next week.
Motherwell are currently managerless, following their parting of the ways with Graham Alexander by ‘mutual consent’ on Friday evening, 24 hours after their dismal exit from the Europa Conference League qualifiers with a 3-0 aggregate defeat to Sligo Rovers.
Stevie Hammell and Brian Kerr took over dug-out duties this afternoon, and it remains to be seen if they propose to bid for the job full-time.
Stephen Robinson, in charge of a Paisley club with several of his former players from Fir Park, has been linked with a move back to Motherwell immediately after today’s game.
Hammell made three changes to the side that lost in Sligo on Thursday evening, with Sondre Solholm, Sean Goss and Connor Shields in for Bevis Mugabi, Ross Tierney and Callum Slattery. There were places on the bench for young midfielder Kian Speirs (18) and 16-year-old striker Mark Ferrie.
Robinson made three changes to the St Mirren side that beat FC Edinburgh last time out. Goalkeeper Trevor Carson took his place in goal in place of benched Peter Urminsky, while Scott Tanser and Alex Grieve replaced Richard Tait and Kieran Offord.
St Mirren dominated the early possession but didn’t really do anything with it, while at the other end Motherwell’s first serious attempt on goal was a long-range effort from Sean Goss in 11 minutes, which flew wide of the right post corner.
There was a moment of concern for both sides in 18 minutes when Saints’ Mark O’Hara and Motherwell’s Paul McGinn went up for a challenge and both landed on the deck, following a collision. Stephen O’Donnell replaced McGinn.
St Mirren should have taken the lead in 27 minutes when Jonah Ayungah raced onto Ethan Erhahon’s through ball but blazed over with just Liam Kelly to beat.
Ryan Strain’s cross from the right then caused havoc in the Motherwell box and when the danger wasn’t cleared he latched onto it, but blasted well over from about eight yards out.
Ayungah must have thought he had scored in 34 minutes when he met Strain’s cross with a powerful header, but Kelly brilliantly blocked before the danger was scrambled clear.
Motherwell were presented with a controversial penalty when Blair Spittal’s shot was handled by Scott Tanser in the box, with referee John Beaton pointing to the spot.
Kevin van Veen stepped up and confidently rolled the ball into the bottom right corner.
St Mirren dominated the start of the second half as well, but Goss tried an ambitious long-range effort in 56 minutes, which Carson mopped up.
Strain was at it again in 58 minutes, blasting over from the right side of the box when keeping it low might have yielded an equaliser.
Motherwell created a decent move in 61 minutes, with Goss curling an effort over the bar.
Sub Curtis Main crossed for Ayungah in 66 minutes, but his close-range header was no trouble for Liam Kelly in the Motherwell goal.
Kelly produced another outstanding save to deny Main at point-blank range from a Richard Tait set-up in 74 minutes.
Ricki Lamie was shown a straight red card for Motherwell in 81 minutes for a foul on Keanu Baccus.
From the free-kick, Main’s howitzer was somehow punched clear by Kelly.
Young Kian Speirs nearly made it a debut to remember in stoppage time, but angled a shot just over the top left corner.
ST MIRREN: Carson, Gallagher, Shaughnessy, Dunne, Strain (Henderson, 73), Baccus, Erhahon, O’Hara (Flynn, 46), Tanser (Tait, 52), Grieve (Main, 62), Ayunga.
Subs (not used): Urminsky (GK), Brophy, Reid, Fraser, Offord.
Booked: Strain (6), Tanser (42), Baccus (47), Ayungah (84)
MOTHERWELL: Kelly, McGinn (O’Donnell, 19), Solholm, Lamie, Carroll, Maguire, Goss (Speirs, 67), Spittal (Cornelius, 63) Morris (Efford, 67) Shields, van Veen. (Mugabi, 84)
Subs (not used): Fox (GK), Tierney, Mahon, Ferrie.
Booked: O’Donnell (45+1), Goss (64), Speirs (73), Maguire (84)
Referee: John Beaton.
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