Motherwell 3 St Johnstone 2

Sunday 20th January 2013
Motherwell 3 St Johnstone 2
Clydesdale Bank Scottish Premier League
At: Fir Park
Kick-off: 2-15 pm
Admission: £22; Programme: £3 (68 pages)
Weather: cold, dry
Attendance: 3649 (including 125 away fans)
Duration (45): first-half: 45:07; second-half: 48:25

The second football leg of my two-night trip was a short half-hour train journey south from Glasgow to Fir Park, home of Motherwell who survived a late scare to defeat St Johnstone by the odd goal in five with striker Michael Higdon netting an impressive hat-trick.

I suppose of all of the teams in the Scottish Premier League, the one I wanted to watch was Motherwell because of several current connections with my old club Stafford Rangers. Both Chris Humphrey and Henrik Ojamaa had spells on loan at Marston Road earlier in their careers, while midfielder Nicky Law is the son of former Stafford captain Nicky Law and current Alfreton Town boss.

Fir Park also had an attraction as well. Apart from changes to meet on-going safety requirements, the fabric of the ground has been largely unchanged for almost twenty years as the most recently-constructed new stand was opened around 1995.

With time to spare this morning, I enjoyed a vege breakfast at the Sir John Moore near Central Station before taking a short walk down Oswald Street to the River Clyde and particularly the Tradeston Bridge with an unusual ‘S’-shaped span.

The nearest station to Fir Park is Airbles, the stop before Motherwell station on train from Glasgow Low Level via Rutherglen and Hamilton, journey time 30 minutes. Pre-match Saturday departures from Glasgow are at 37 and 57 minutes past the hour and on a Sunday at 34 and 54 minutes past the hour. It is around a 1/2 mile walk to the ground; turn right out of the station and along the Airbles Road dual carriageway and turn right at the roundabout by the Elin Christian Centre, then first left.

Approaching Fir Park along Edward Street, I passed one of many programme sellers dotted around the surrounding streets. The thing which stood out when I first got close to Fir Park were the names of the sides of the two closest stands (see top photo) – the main Phil O’Donnell Stand and Davie Cooper Stand behind the goal at the north end. Both are sadly no longer with us but always fondly remembered by Motherwell fans. The well-stocked club shop is situated behind the Davie Cooper Stand.

Wandering around the perimeter of Fir Park, a structure which turned out to be the Dalzell Steel Works Water Tower caught my attention in the distance and warranted closer inspection. Nearer the ground, the old parish church and memorial, now the South Dalziel Studios, is worth a quick look as well.

Yesterday’s four SPL fixtures included a 1-0 win for second-placed Inverness Caley Thistle who moved three points clear of third-placed Motherwell (34 points from 22 games). Like the Well (or should I say Steelmen), St Johnstone (30 points from 22 games) are very much in contention for runner-up spot as well and with it a place in next season’s Champions League.

Unlike yesterday’s game at Greenock Morton, fair-play rituals were observed before kick-off.

St Johnstone (in blue and white) got the game underway attacking the Davie Cooper Stand in the first half and created some decent chances.

The home fans, however, didn’t have to wait long for the opening goal, scored in the 8th minute. Chris Humphrey was released down the right and crossed low into the area for Michael Higdon to fire home first time and low into the bottom right corner.

One thing I didn't expect and wasn't previously aware of was the slope on the pitch from touchline to touchline down towards the Phil O'Donnell Stand

Saints continued to threaten but Higdon was on target again in the 20th minute to double Motherwell’s lead. Like the first goal, it was a former Stafford Rangers player, Henrik Ojamaa, who set up the chance which Higdon planted into the bottom left corner at the second attempt.

As someone said close by me in the stand, “St Johnstone have the second best defence in the SPL but they gifted us two goals”.

Looking to move back into joint-second place and level on points with Caley Thistle, Motherwell opened up a seemingly unassailable three-goal lead in the 69th minute. Again Ojamaa was involved in the build-up as the Estonian blocked a header from teammate Shaun Hutchinson. The ball rebounded perfected for Higdon to fire home his 16th goal of the season which completed a hat-trick at the same time.

Before that decisive third goal, St Johnstone brought on Nigel Hasselbaink, cousin of former Leeds and Chelsea striker Jimmy Floyd, which led to someone commenting: “Hasselbaink, he’s dangerous”. That fan was right as Hasselbaink reduced the deficit in the 77th with a super right-foot shot from the edge of the area.

The lady sat a row or two behind moaned “oh no” within two minutes when Liam Craig hit an unstoppable low 22-yard left-foot shot into the bottom left corner. The 125 away fans in the huge Maxim South Stand couldn’t believe what they’d just seen – could Saints grab an equaliser which had seemed unlikely after Higdon netted the third?

As full-time approached, the husband/partner/friend of said lady just wanted Motherwell to “get the ball up here” – we were sat nearest to goal Well were attacking – while she continued with “oh no” when the ball was up the far end!

Substitute goalkeeper Lee Hollis, who could do nothing to prevent Saints’ two goals, produced a brave save to deny Hasselbaink an equaliser in the closing stages.

Back at Airbles station, there were a couple of Dutch groundhoppers and a small group of German-speaking fans who has also been to Fir Park.

In the past I’d always looked towards Europe for my long distance football trips. The enjoyment and success of this weekend’s Greenock Morton and Motherwell ‘double’ may well tempt be north of the border far more frequently in future. I’ve now got my eye on completing the ‘42’!

BBC report and statistics ( and highlights (

1-0 Michael Higdon (8)
2-0 Michael Higdon (20)
3-0 Michael Higdon (69)
3-1 Nigel Hasselbaink (77)
3-2 Liam Craig (79)

Motherwell: none
St Johnstone: Dave Mackay (YC, 72)