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Penalty pain for St Mirren in Motherwell stalemate

By December 16, 2023No Comments

Motherwell goalkeeper Liam Kelly saved a penalty to help his side play out a hard-fought goalless draw in difficult conditions at St Mirren.

The Scotland international parried away Mark O’Hara’s spot-kick four minutes after half-time, and despite the visitors having four one-on-one opportunities after surviving a close escape, they failed to find the net.

Motherwell’s winless run in the cinch Premiership extended to 14 games and they now occupy the relegation play-off position, while St Mirren dropped to fourth in the table below Hearts on goal difference.

Both teams made one change from their last outing. For the hosts, Keanu Baccus replaced Caolan Boyd-Munce, who failed to make the squad, while Harry Paton returned to the Well starting line-up with Jon Obika dropping to the bench.

Blustery conditions looked set to play a major factor in proceedings and they were evident as Georgie Gent’s cross in the early exchanges swung across the St Mirren penalty box and out for a throw-in.

Saints passed up a glorious opportunity to break the deadlock after 12 minutes when Thierry Small’s low cross broke for Greg Kiltie who sliced an effort that sailed inches too high.

Just minutes later, Kelly, who took the blame for St Johnstone’s goal at Fir Park last weekend, looked uncertain when tipping Jonah Ayunga’s innocuous looking header over the crossbar.

The wind was drastically impacting the quality on show, with neither side quite able to get to grips with the difficult conditions in the opening 45 minutes.

St Mirren were awarded a penalty four minutes after half-time when Stephen O’Donnell was adjudged to have handled Ayunga’s cross.

O’Hara stepped up to take the resulting spot-kick but he was denied as Kelly parried his poor effort away before the Steelmen defence scrambled the ball clear.

Motherwell had yet to work the Saints keeper, though they did have a rare glimpse of goal as Paton’s strike from outside the box flashed wide of the target.

Zach Hemming was finally called into action after 58 minutes as Blair Spittal’s free-kick found Gent unmarked inside the box but he could only head the ball into the grateful arms of the home keeper.

The game was beginning to open up and it took a good save from Kelly to turn Small’s curling shot round the post, before the visitors somehow failed to take advantage of two glorious chances to break the deadlock.

Mika Biereth skipped through the Buddies midfield and released Spittal, who twisted past Alex Gogic before somehow firing wide.

The Arsenal loanee was involved again a minute later after slipping the ball through to Callum Slattery, but the midfielder hit the deck under pressure from Gogic and saw his claims for a penalty dismissed following a VAR check.

Chasing an elusive victory, Motherwell began to look the much more likely to find an opener and it took some smart goalkeeping from Hemming to deny the onrushing Biereth, who had sprung the home offside trap.

Motherwell manager Stuart Kettlewell introduced Theo Bair and Oli Shaw in search of a winner and Bair almost made an instant impact when he found himself bearing down on goal, only for his powerful shot to be kept out.

It was the fourth one-on-one opportunity for the away side and yet again they were unable to find the net as they had to settle for their fifth draw in seven league matches.