Stephen Robinson jumped to the defence of Mark O’Hara after the St Mirren skipper missed a second-half penalty in the goalless draw with Motherwell.

O’Hara had his spot-kick parried away by Liam Kelly shortly after half-time, and the Buddies then survived a number of close-calls as the visitors failed to take advantage of four one-on-one opportunities.

St Mirren slipped to fourth in the cinch Premiership table, dropping behind Hearts on goal difference.

“There’s no criticism of Mark, people miss penalties – he’s brave enough to step up every week and take them,” said St Mirren boss Robinson.

“Even the rebound is affected by the wind, it puts it back to him so quickly he can’t react.

“Credit to Liam, he makes a good save and Mark misses it – it happens in football and you dust yourself down, we had chances to win the game outwith that.”

Despite his side losing their grip on third place in the Premiership table, Robinson insists that every point picked up is a positive for Saints.

The windy conditions caused havoc for both teams during a fiercely-contested encounter in which neither side was able to find a cutting edge.

“The wind plays a huge part in the game of course, it’s very difficult to be able to play but credit to both teams – for a neutral I’d imagine it was quite an exciting game,” added Robinson.

“Every point when you are St Mirren is a point gained, trust me.

“This group have raised expectations way above where they probably should be which is great and that’s credit to them.

“We’re a similar sized club as Motherwell and you could see how delighted they were to get a point at the end – it maybe shows how far we have come and it’s up to us to keep meeting those expectations.

“I believe we are, we’re sitting fourth in the league in the middle of December. I’m sure at the start of the season we would have been happy with that.”

Manager Stuart Kettlewell was frustrated as the Steelmen failed to take their chances and end their search for an elusive victory.

Motherwell have not managed to register a win in their last 14 league fixtures and have slipped into the relegation play-off spot.

“Ultimately we can all debate and argue about what happens over the course of 90 minutes but we by far had the best chances in the game,” Kettlewell said.

“I understand that Liam Kelly makes a save from a penalty and one down to his right-hand side from Thierry Small, outwith that the clear-cut chances in the game were ours.

“I expect when certain guys are landing in those positions, like Blair Spittal, Callum Slattery, Mika Biereth, Theo Bair towards the end, I’m thinking we’re getting the right guys in position to convert them.

“There’s a little bit of frustration of course that we’ve not come away with three points because I thought we were well organised, well drilled in tough conditions – it was always going to be hard coming here without the wind, the rain and everything else that came with it.

“We want to win a game, we want to try break this duck and move in the right direction, but performance-level wise and what we put out on the pitch today, I’m relatively happy with overall.”

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.

Motherwell manager Stuart Kettlewell expressed his “shame” after a 3-0 defeat against former club Ross County.

Kettlewell held his hands up in apology to the 94 travelling fans who braved the wintry conditions to witness their side go 12 cinch Premiership games without a victory.

Simon Murray headed County in front from a corner inside two minutes as Well lost the first goal for the 11th time in their barren run.

Yan Dhanda curled home from 22 yards inside 18 minutes and Ben Purrington knocked home a rebound in the second half as a static Motherwell defence was beaten again.

Kettlewell, who saw Calum Butcher and Dan Casey pick up injuries, the latter a serious one, said: “Everyone knows how difficult that road can be in winter and how far away it is and we had a group of fans who came up here to support the team in the hope we’d put on a performance, and it was miles away from what it has to be when people spend that cash and time to come up here.

“And there’s a bit of shame in that when you see people travelling up here and that’s the level they get.

“I feel very, very sorry for the supporters that came here because, having seen it, the better decision would be to stay in the house.

“The level of performance was so far removed from where it needs to be to be competitive in this league.

“Then add in the injuries to Butcher and Casey, when you piece all that together along with the troubles and difficult run we’re on, that makes it the toughest ever game for me to watch.”

Motherwell have only collected four points out of a possible 36.

Kettlewell said: “You have to scrap and fight your way out of it and I didn’t see an awful lot of that in the first 45 minutes in particular. You can see the dent it has conceding that early goal.

“So much of it becomes that mentality, a little bit of fear coming in and people maybe not looking for the ball.

“You have to have belief in yourself, envisage there’s a way out of it and trust in the guys around about you to make sure that happens.

“My greatest frustration is I’m dealing with a group of players who have shown that in spade loads during my time at the club and for whatever reason at this minute in time it’s coming up seriously short.”

Casey was carried off on a stretcher after the final whistle.

“It looks a real bad one,” Kettlewell said.

“He has a brace in his leg and it looks like he is heading to hospital. I think he said he felt some sort of crack in his leg.”

County made it seven points and three clean sheets from three matches since Derek Adams returned as manager.

Adams, who saw Will Nightingale sent off in stoppage time, said: “The confidence is there – we played on the front foot – and I thought defensively we were good.

“We stepped forward with the ball and created some really good movements in the game. We were unfortunate not to score more.”

Derek Adams continued an impressive start to his third Ross County reign as a 3-0 victory over Motherwell left his former player Stuart Kettlewell under increasing pressure.

County have now taken seven points from three games without conceding a goal since Adams returned from Morecambe to replace Malky Mackay.

Former County player and manager Kettlewell has seen his extended honeymoon period in charge at Fir Park thoroughly collapse. Well have now gone 12 cinch Premiership games without a win and taken just four points in that run, which hit a new low in Dingwall.

The Steelmen conceded the opening goal for the 11th time in those 12 games when Simon Murray headed home from a second-minute corner.

They had an even bigger task facing them inside 18 minutes when Yan Dhanda curled home an excellent finish from 22 yards.

Ben Purrington netted from the rebound in the second half to round off County’s first win over their visitors in seven attempts.

County were unchanged from last Tuesday’s win over St Mirren while Kettlewell had Callum Slattery back from suspension and also brought in Theo Bair and Conor Wilkinson, the latter starting in an advanced midfield role.

The Staggies took the lead when Murray met James Brown’s inswinging delivery at the near post and glanced home his 11th goal of the season. Blair Spittal claimed he had been pushed from behind by Murray, but there was a relatively short delay before the game restarted.

It was the seventh time in as many games that a corner had directly or indirectly led to a goal against Motherwell.

Well initially threatened a comeback. Bair came close from 20 yards and Ross Laidlaw made a good double stop from Slattery and Stephen O’Donnell.

But County doubled their lead when Dhanda collected the ball, drifted inside of Wilkinson and had time to whip the ball inside far post.

It could have got worse for the visitors before half-time. Murray saw a shot deflected off the post from 20 yards and headed just over from another corner. A slick passing move then cut Mothewell open but Connor Randall shot straight at Liam Kelly.

Kettlewell made three substitutions at the break as Georgie Gent, Davor Zdravkovski and Calum Butcher came on.

But it was too easy for the hosts as they went further ahead in the 56th minute. Dhanda crossed after a good passing interchange, Jordan White’s free header was only parried by Kelly and Purrington was free to knock home the rebound.

The flag went up for offside, but it looked a straightforward decision to overturn in the VAR centre.

Motherwell showed some signs of a response. Gent had a header tipped over and Mika Biereth flicked a good chance wide before seeing an effort cleared off the line by Jack Baldwin.

But the hosts could also have added to their lead with Victor Loturi and Simon Murray coming close.

The only down side for County was a stoppage-time red card for Will Nightingale, who received two quickfire yellow cards.

Motherwell’s misery was compounded by a serious injury in stoppage time for defender Dan Casey, who was carried off the pitch on a stretcher after his team-mates had gone down the tunnel.

Substitute Conor Wilkinson’s stoppage-time strike snatched 10-man Motherwell a 3-3 draw at home to Dundee.

Stuart Kettlewell’s side went in front through Mika Biereth only for the visitors to hit back through first-half goals from Lyall Cameron and Owen Beck.

Bevis Mugabi drew Motherwell level midway through the second half before Harry Paton was shown a straight red card for serious foul play.

Dundee took advantage of the extra man when Zach Robinson scored with two minutes remaining, only for Well to hit back in time added on to claim a point.

The result stretches Motherwell’s winless sequence to 11 matches, while Dundee still move back into the top half of the table despite the concession of that late equaliser.

The home side went in front with the first real chance of the game after seven minutes. Blair Spittal’s effort was blocked but fell to Biereth and the Arsenal loanee’s driven effort hit both posts before landing in the net. It was the first time Kettlewell’s side had taken the lead for three months.

Motherwell were then suckered when Dundee equalised with their first chance of the match.

The home side had two attempts to clear a corner but could not, with the ball eventually looping through to Cameron who headed past Liam Kelly.

Just four minutes later and Dundee were ahead. It was a moment of magic from Beck, the on-loan Liverpool full-back showing great composure after taking a pass from Zak Rudden then finishing neatly.

Motherwell had the first real chance of the second half. Paton found Jon Obika and his left-foot shot slid beyond the far post when a pass to Biereth might have been the better option.

Mugabi then tried his luck from distance, with the defender’s 30-yard effort touched over by Trevor Carson.

But the same player would not be denied just moments later as Motherwell drew level, getting the final touch on Spittal’s cross to glance a header past Carson.

This was referee Iain Snedden’s first Premiership match and he was called to the screen shortly after that goal by VAR Nick Walsh. The official had a look at the footage and showed a red card to Paton for a high tackle on Luke McCowan.

Wilkinson then had a great chance to put the home side back in front but blazed his shot high over the crossbar.

That looked to be costly when Robinson, just minutes after coming off the bench, finished low into the corner but Wilkinson made amends by firing past Carson.

The cinch Premiership returned after the international break and as usual there was plenty of drama and excitement.

Celtic surprisingly dropped two points at home to Motherwell on Saturday but Rangers failed to capitalise at Aberdeen, depending on a late James Tavernier penalty for a 1-1 draw, leaving the Hoops still eight points clear at the top albeit the Light Blues have a game in hand.

Hearts, St Mirren and Hibernian all won and Livingston remain bottom after another defeat.

Here, the PA news agency looks at five things that caught the eye.

Rangers blow chance to move closer to Celtic

Skipper James Tavernier scored a last-gasp penalty to give Rangers a 1-1 draw with Aberdeen at Pittodrie but it was an afternoon when the chance to boost title hopes was passed up. The visitors fell behind after just 11 minutes to a Bojan Miovski strike and hit the woodwork twice after the break. But just when it looked like Philippe Clement would lose for the first time as Gers boss,  there was a VAR intervention. After checking his pitchside monitor, referee Nick Walsh decided Aberdeen’s Stefan Garternmann had pulled Connor Goldson’s jersey at a corner and pointed to the spot. Tavernier scored for a point which keeps Celtic eight points clear at the top having played a game more.

Hoops pay the penalty

David Turnbull slotted home an 86th-minute spot-kick to open the scoring against Motherwell but Luis Palma had earlier become the third Celtic player to miss a penalty this season, following Reo Hatate and Turnbull after Liam Kelly saved his effort. However, Motherwell quickly levelled through Jon Obika following Turnbull’s goal. Brendan Rodgers admitted he had identified issues with Celtic’s penalties after they missed three last season and the issues from 12 yards could prove costly.

Lawrence Shankland’s purple patch continues

Just over a month ago, Lawrence Shankland was on an eight-game scoring drought. Things have changed significantly for the Hearts striker over the past month or so, however, to the extent where he is capable of scoring even when he does not know much about it – as was the case in Saturday’s 1-0 win over St Johnstone. Liam Boyce’s well-executed shot appeared to be netbound anyway but it deflected off Shankland’s leg on the way in and was subsequently credited to the Scotland forward. Shankland now has 11 goals for the season at club level, with six strikes in his last six outings for Hearts.

Livingston are on the slide

David Martindale’s side are bottom of the table, one point behind St Johnstone and Ross County, following their sixth successive defeat. Sean Kelly’s first-half own goal gave all three points to hosts St Mirren and Livi have now failed to score in five or their last six games. They have three home games coming up, against Ross County, Hibernian and Kilmarnock, to try to get their season back on track.

No win for Derek Adams on Ross County return

Adams this week returned to the Staggies’ hot-seat for the third time, following the departure of Malky Mackay. His first game was against Kilmarnock at home but there was no new manager bounce. Killie had yet to win on the road and once again came up short, having to settle for a point from a goalless draw. The Dingwall outfit have gone 10 games without a win in all competitions and have not scored in the last three. Adams has his work cut out to get County back to form.

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers is still looking for answers to their penalty problem after Luis Palma missed from 12 yards in a 1-1 draw with Motherwell.

The Hoops missed three penalties last season and Palma followed David Turnbull and Reo Hatate in missing from the spot since Rodgers returned.

Turnbull did convert a penalty in the 86th minute after Palma went off, but Jonathan Obika headed a last-minute equaliser.

Palma scored from the spot against Aberdeen last time out, but Liam Kelly dived to his right to parry in the 66th minute and deny Celtic a platform to look for further goals.

Rodgers said: “I was looking before I came in here that there have been a number of penalties missed.

“These are decisive moments in games and you have to be ready to take them. You are never always going to be three, four, five up in games. You get that opportunity, you have to take it.

“It is something that the players who are going to be the penalty takers are working on every day.

“We have to stay focused on that because it is a skill. You can’t replicate the pressure, but penalties are a skill and a skill we have to be better at.

“The keeper’s made a decent save. It’s all about variety with penalty takers. I know he practised (on Friday), he didn’t go that side, he was working on the keeper’s left.

“But that is the choice he made. He is brave enough to take them.”

Rodgers felt the cinch Premiership leaders were missing “that little bit of freshness and zip in the final third” as they moved nine points ahead of Rangers, who have two games in hand.

He added:  “We should win the game. Obviously we had enough of the ball. We got into a lot of good areas and obviously (had) chances to be more comfortable. It is always a danger when you are not.

“But credit to Motherwell, they defended really well and we never had enough to break them down.

“But when we did get the opportunity to go in front then every moment after that is a decisive one. I think it was probably their only effort in the second half and we never defended it, which was a surprise because we have been defending set-pieces well.”

Motherwell manager Stuart Kettlewell did not feel Celtic should have had a second penalty after Calum Butcher was penalised for holding Mikey Johnston.

Kettlewell attended a meeting with the Scottish Football Association’s referees department on Thursday where it was explained that such incidents would only be punished if the attacking player has a chance of getting on the ball.

He said: “If the officials are telling me something when I go and sit for two-and-a-half hours with chief executives and managers when that exact incident came up in one of the clips and there were conversations around whether the player was going to get on the end of it and whether every contact in the box is a penalty.

“From the angle I’ve seen Calum Butcher is adamant he didn’t pull the jersey. His palm is resting on the waist.

“The guys from Celtic will maybe think it’s justified, but I think it’s incredibly soft.”

It was only Motherwell’s third point from 10 games and Kettlewell said: “It indicates to everyone how together we are as a football club and a group of players. They gave us absolutely everything out there.

“A lot of people will say we should be looking to be more progressive and to create more chances in the game. Well, that was everything that I asked of the players.

“Of course we want to try to win games, but to concede that second penalty and go behind we showed brilliant personality and character to get ourselves back into the game.”

Steven Naismith savoured a “big win” for Hearts as two goals from Lawrence Shankland helped see off Motherwell at Fir Park.

The Tynecastle side had been under rising pressure after a mixed start to the season but this victory moved them up into fourth place in the table.

Naismith was pleased with his side’s performance but knew they would need to replicate it after the international break.

He said: “It was a big win because of our previous results.

“It’s important you stop that and get the points you need as quickly as possible. I thought we did that with what was a really good performance overall.

“It should have been a bigger margin because we had a couple more chances and we should have had a penalty or two. But the positive is that when Motherwell scored, we defended really well in the dying moments.

“That had been questioned with us losing some quick goals back to back in games. There’s a demand and an expectation.

“That’s not just one week and then it’s off. It’s there every week. It’s pleasing the way we performed got us that.

“A big question of this squad has been their away form which has been really poor over the years. That’s now four away games this season that we’ve won. It’s something that takes time.

“There are some moments you want to be better but you hope over time they get eradicated and the good stuff shines through. But if we don’t keep winning, the pressure comes.

“In this job you’re always under pressure. Even after this win, you’ll be under pressure from somebody.”

Motherwell, who scored through a late Blair Spittal penalty, have now gone nine games without a win and manager Stuart Kettlewell will try to find solutions on the training ground over the next fortnight.

He said: “What we have to do over the international break is work hard.

“I never shied away from that even when we were winning games. You have to put the hours in and that’s what we’re going to do again.

“That’s the only way we’re going to get out of this poor run and we can’t shirk it or hide from it. That’s the challenge that has been laid down to the players.

“People are asking questions about the run we’ve been on and I get that and accept it. But I believe we have the people and the formula to arrest this form we’re in.”

Lawrence Shankland’s brace helped Hearts to a 2-1 victory away to Motherwell whose winless streak now stands at nine games.

The striker netted in each half to send Steven Naismith’s men up into fourth place in the cinch Premiership, just two points off third.

Blair Spittal converted a 78th-mintue penalty to reduce the deficit but Hearts held on to record a precious away victory.

Motherwell made one change from the midweek draw with St Johnstone, with Theo Bair in for Brodie Spencer.

Hearts, in turn, made three changes after losing the Viaplay Cup semi-final to Rangers. In came Liam Boyce, Alan Forrest and Alex Lowry, with Toby Sibbick, Jorge Grant and Kenneth Vargas making way

It was the visitors who had the first chance with Lowry curling an effort wide, before Bair headed off target from Spittal’s corner at the other end.

Hearts should have moved in front after 16 minutes. Calum Butcher was dispossessed in defence by Shankland, with Lowry then picking out Boyce. The Northern Irishman, though, took too long before eventually sliding his shot wide.

The visitors, however, did take the lead after 27 minutes. Lowry’s corner was headed goalwards by Frankie Kent for Shankland to help over the line from close range.

Hearts appealed for a penalty just minutes later when Boyce’s run into the block was obstructed by Dan Casey. Referee David Munro was asked by VAR to take a look at the screen but felt it did not merit a spot kick, much to Motherwell’s relief.

The visitors began the second half off still on top and Stephen Kingsley saw a near-post effort from a corner blocked before Shankland volleyed the next delivery well off target.

The striker then appealed for a penalty after a collision with Callum Slattery but VAR had a look and decided not to call the referee over for a second opinion, with the game resuming with a Motherwell free-kick.

Hearts did finally manage to get their second goal after 72 minutes and again it was Shankland who scored it.

Beni Baningime threaded a terrific pass through that Lowry dummied, allowing it to run through to Shankland, who took the ball around goalkeeper Liam Kelly before finishing well.

Motherwell were handed a lifeline five minutes later when Alex Cochrane was adjudged to have handled in the box and Spittal stroked home the penalty.

The home side rallied after that but despite late pressure never looked like finding an equaliser.

New St Johnstone boss Craig Levein feels there is plenty of room for optimism despite the disappointment of seeing his side squander a two-goal lead against Motherwell.

Goals from Nicky Clark and Andy Considine had Saints in control at McDiarmid Park, though they would have to settle for a share of the spoils after conceding twice in the space of six second-half minutes.

It means Levein’s side remain bottom of the cinch Premiership table, though have moved within two points of Livingston in 11th.

“It’s obvious disappointment to be two-zero in front, have a fairly firm grip on the match – no manager would sit here and say he’s pleased with losing two goals in the second half,” he said.

“There were a lot of good things that I saw, we played some good football, created chances, scored two goals, and it was always the case that Motherwell would come into the game at some point, we just got spooked by it.

“The pleasing thing for me was at two each we started to grow again and we might have won it at the death. I’m disappointed, but not bitterly disappointed.”

Levein returned to the dugout for a Premiership match for the first time since October 2019, having taken up the managerial reins at Saints on Sunday.

It was the second time he has seen his new team in action and although he admitted to not enjoying being back in the dugout, the former Hearts and Dundee United boss believes he can help guide his new club to safety.

“I don’t know if it’s ever enjoyment, it’s just in the blood and a craving for torture,” he added.

“That’s two games I’ve watched, the Kilmarnock game and this game.

“There’s things that we can do better defensively for sure, the midfield looks pretty promising and we’ve got three good strikers as well.

“If I can keep everybody fit and keep working on the way we want to play then things will improve.”

Stuart Kettlewell praised the fighting spirting of his Motherwell side, though he insists it is time they stop giving themselves a mountain to climb.

Shane Blaney headed in with 22 minutes left before Mika Biereth turned home to complete the comeback for the Steelmen, who were booed off by the travelling fans at half-time.

“Disappointment is probably an understatement, it was sheer anger at half-time – it was anger from the players but especially myself and the staff,” Kettlewell said.

“We let ourselves down with two corners into our box, we don’t defend them properly.

“I think the players dragged themselves in by making better decisions and being much better on the front foot.

“I have to commend the players, I could sit here and continually be negative because it’s not what I want – I didn’t want to come here and get a point, I wanted to come and try to get three, as did the players and the supporters.

“I think in terms of the chances we created, I think we certainly at least deserved to get out of here with a point but I hate being in that position where you are fighting against the tide and having to show that much character to try drag ourselves back into the game.”

Motherwell battled back from two goals down to draw 2-2 and deny Craig Levein a winning start with St Johnstone in the cinch Premiership.

First-half goals from Nicky Clark and Andrew Considine at McDiarmid Park had the hosts on course for a second straight league success, but two goals in the space of six minutes levelled matters.

Shane Blaney headed in with 22 minutes left and then Mika Biereth turned home to complete the comeback.

Both teams sides would spurn opportunities in the final minutes, meaning they both remain in a struggle at the foot of the league table.

St Johnstone stay bottom, though have reduced the gap between themselves and Livingston in 11th to two points, while Motherwell have jumped one place to eighth – one point ahead of Hibernian having played a game more.

Levein made one change for his first game in charge, Daniel Phillips replacing the suspended Dara Costelloe.

Well, who had lost six of their last seven Premiership encounters, started Stephen O’Donnell and Callum Slattery with Paul McGinn missing out due to a facial injury and Theo Bair dropping to the bench. Despite both sustaining suspected broken noses at the weekend, both Calum Butcher and Brodie Spencer were deemed fit to start.

Motherwell had the ball in the net with the first opportunity of the match, Conor Wilkinson taking advantage of confusion between Considine and Dimitar Mitov, although the striker’s joy would be short-lived after he was adjudged to have handled before flicking the ball past the home keeper.

Graham Carey had a strike from distance deflected wide before the hosts took the lead from from the resulting corner.

Matt Smith picked out Clark, who made no mistake in heading beyond Liam Kelly from close range with 17 minutes on the clock.

A crucial intervention from Spencer spared the blushes of Blaney, the Irish defender caught in possession and Chris Kane looked likely to take full advantage until denied by a last-ditch tackle.

It would not be long before the second goal arrived as Carey’s 27th-minute corner eventually dropped at the feet of Considine who blasted home.

The visitors were in desperate need of a response and they almost got a goal back when Slattery connected with Blair Spittal’s corner but Luke Robinson cleared off the line.

Bair replaced Spencer at half-time and was involved in a neat passing move that almost led to Biereth turning in Spittal’s cross at the back post shortly after the restart.

The substitute was the architect again with 23 minutes remaining, almost picking out Wilkinson after a bursting run forward.

Motherwell reduced the deficit a minute later after Blaney found the net following a good header across the face of goal by Wilkinson.

The goal appeared to inject renewed life into Kettlewell’s side and Casey’s header from Spittal’s corner drifted agonisingly past the post, just before they grabbed an equaliser on 74 minutes.

A sweeping attack ended with an excellent cross from Georgie Gent that was steered beyond Mitov by Biereth.

Kelly had to be alert to tip over Smith’s acrobatic effort with minutes left on the clock, while at the other end Spittal worked the Saints keeper with a low drive.

Stevie May really should have grabbed a dramatic winner in the first minute of added time, but his front-post header sailed off target.

Aberdeen manager Barry Robson welcomed a return to form ahead of their Viaplay Cup semi-final after watching his side beat Motherwell 4-2 at Fir Park.

Jamie McGrath hit a double and Nicky Devlin and substitute Luis Lopes were also on target as the Dons played the ball around with confidence, especially after the Irish midfielder’s first goal in the 26th minute.

Late goals from Motherwell substitutes Theo Bair and Mika Biereth added a touch of respectability to the score from the home team’s point of view but they failed to take the shine off the night for the Dons, who face Hibernian at Hampden on Saturday evening.

“We were good all over the pitch, passed it really well,” said Robson, whose side had lost 2-0 at Kilmarnock on Sunday.

“Credit to Motherwell, it’s a great pitch, night and day from playing at the weekend. That helped us a bit as well.

“We passed it really well, brought speed to the game, transitioned really well and thoroughly deserved it.”

The Dons had not won in their previous four matches.

Robson said: “They are all big wins. We are sixth, have a game in hand, we are in a semi-final, we are fighting it out in Europe against some huge European teams. We just need to keep going.”

Motherwell have now not won in six games and conceded some soft goals throughout as manager Stuart Kettlewell experienced his side’s worst performance of his reign.

Kettlewell said: “We played poorly and got everything we deserved. In terms of our discipline and decision-making, having a real soft centre, our organisation.

“I know there is always an intent to score, but what we did when I first came in, we started from the back end of the pitch and made sure we had a real stability, not just from the guys in the back line but the midfielders and forwards too.

“That’s not working just now – we have conceded seven goals in two home games. We are not rectifying situations when we lose the ball.

“There’s a chink in the armour at this minute and sometimes it can come from decision-making more than ability. That was a big aspect again – we have put ourselves into poor positions and made bad choices.

“There isn’t a magic wand to fix that side of it but we have to remain together. We are going through a bad spell – it was undoubtedly our worst game since I took charge in February.”

Jamie McGrath hit a double as a 4-2 victory at Motherwell gave Aberdeen a much-needed morale boost ahead of the Viaplay Cup semi-finals.

McGrath scored in each half with Nicky Devlin and substitute Luis Lopes also on target as the Dons claimed their first win in five matches to send them to Hampden on a high when they face Hibernian on Saturday.

Motherwell conceded some sloppy goals and never troubled Aberdeen keeper Kelle Roos until substitute Theo Bair netted his first goal at Fir Park in the 79th minute.

Mika Biereth scored his third goal in three cinch Premiership appearances off the bench in stoppage time but the Steelmen have now taken just one point from six games.

Aberdeen manager Barry Robson had taken responsibility for Sunday’s 2-0 defeat at Kilmarnock, admitting he should have made more than one change to his starting line-up. He made two at Fir Park as Dante Polvara and Leighton Clarkson came in.

Motherwell had Lennon Miller back from suspension while Conor Wilkinson made his first start since August.

Both sides had some decent spells of possession without threatening, until some hesitant defending gifted the visitors the lead in the 26th minute.

Dan Casey failed to get a decent connection on his header following Devlin’s cross and Paul McGinn was slow to react as McGrath got in behind to nod home at the far post.

The goal seemed to have a major and contrasting impact on each team. Aberdeen looked increasingly confident on the ball while Motherwell were struggling to string two passes together and the crowd started to get on their backs.

A slack pass from McGinn set up Polvara to shoot straight at Liam Kelly before the away team doubled their lead in the 44th minute.

McGrath’s pass put Bojan Miovski through and, although McGinn made a last-ditch tackle, Devlin was by far the quickest to follow up and slotted home.

Motherwell manager Stuart Kettlewell made two half-time changes, bringing on Biereth and Calum Butcher, who was making his first appearance since suffering a foot injury in May.

The start of the second half was delayed by about seven minutes by a technical issue with the VAR equipment.

The home fans soon lost their patience with referee Colin Steven as he booked four of their players in the space of eight minutes and waved away several appeals for Motherwell free-kicks – Biereth’s yellow card came for a show of dissent.

McGrath had a header saved before adding to his tally in the 68th minute after another goal-saving challenge fell for the Dons.

Casey this time slid in to nick the ball off Miovski’s feet and McGrath emerged with it as Kelly hesitated to pick up, before the Irishman found the net. The goalkeeper was booked for dissent as he claimed for an infringement.

Kelly was well beaten six minutes later when he came for Ryan Duncan’s corner as Lopes headed into the empty net.

Bair soon curled the ball home from 22 yards with Roos slow to get down at his near post.

The Canadian missed a decent chance from Biereth’s driven cross before the Dane slotted home following a cross.

Stuart Kettlewell admitted to having mixed emotions after his side mounted an incredible late fightback to claim a share of the spoils in a 3-3 cinch Premiership draw against his former club Ross County.

The Steelmen trailed 3-1 with two minutes remaining but fought back thanks to goals from substitutes Conor Wilkinson and Luca Ross.

“It probably descended into utter chaos is my honest answer to it,” Kettlewell said.

“I thought Ross County were the better team in the first 10-15 minutes then I thought we got on top. We had territorial advantage, we had more of the ball and played the game in their half of the pitch.

“We started the second half like that and then began to sort of shoot ourselves in the foot if I’m being honest with you.”

After an uneventful first half, the game would burst into life as goals from Eamonn Brophy and Simon Murray had County in control.

Mike Biereth came off the bench to get a goal back for the home side, though any hopes of an unlikely comeback seemed to have disappeared when Victor Loturi added a third after 82 minutes.

With two minutes left on the clock, Wilkinson restored some hope for Motherwell following a good finish and Ross would scramble home in the fifth minute of added time to send Fir Park wild.

Kettlewell added: “Our organisation again, two goals start from throw-ins, which again we need to be better at.

“I probably take exception to the first goal if I’m being honest with you, just in terms of Victor Loturi takes a touch and it sort of comes off his hand. It then deviates into the path of Kyle Turner.

“My understanding is, if that then leads to a goal, then it quite clearly has had an impact.

“The fourth official’s reasoning was that he didn’t score the goal, so it’s not the case – I was a little bit surprised by that.”

Despite his frustration in the manner of which his team conceded, Kettlewell was thrilled with the resilience shown in them battling back to grab a point.

Motherwell looked set to fall to their fifth-straight Premiership defeat before rescuing the game in the dying stages.

“I think the reaction of the players is pretty stunning again to be honest with you,” he added.

“Being 3-1 down with seven or eight minutes to go, to come back and get that point and to have our substitutes score all three goals.

“I think that puts us in a slightly better place than what we would of been of course, but there’s a lot of frustrations there for me.

“It showed that we have that little bit more strength in depth and more options than I’ve had all season off the bench – fortunately three substitutes come on and have a real good impact for us.”

Malky Mackay was gutted after seeing his side throw away their lead late on at Fir Park but insisted he was still proud of the performance of his players.

“Overall it’s two points dropped, I’m disappointed with the fact we allowed them a sniff of getting back into it again,” he said.

“I suppose reflecting on the whole game, we knew it was going to be a tough game coming down here.

“Motherwell are getting a lot of plaudits, they are sitting well in the league and they’ve done well.

“To come to Motherwell, score three and play the way we did. Murray’s goal is top class – I don’t know how many passes it turned into before the ball went into the net.

“To go and play the way we did against them at times – really dominate the ball – is something I’m proud of.”

Motherwell manager Stuart Kettlewell has urged his players to take inspiration from their captain Liam Kelly and former team-mate Max Johnston’s international breakthroughs.

Goalkeeper Kelly made his Scotland debut in Tuesday’s 4-1 defeat by France, while 19-year-old Johnston was called into the squad for the first time several months after leaving Fir Park for Sturm Graz.

“It’s a serious game against arguably one of the best sides in the world and some of the top players in the world,” said Kettlewell, whose team are looking to end a four-game losing streak when they face St Johnstone on Saturday.

“I’m fairly certain Liam is going to come back a better goalkeeper and a better person for it because when you expose yourself to that, it can only be a good thing.

“I’m delighted for him and I think it gives him a real boost coming back into our group.

“To see Motherwell players involved in the Scotland set-up, for where we are just now as a nation, I also look at Max Johnston, taking that step into the senior squad as well – that’s a lesson learned for a lot of people.

“Where we are operating, you are not five or six steps away from making that jump. Max Johnston was out on loan at Cove Rangers this time last year. That just shows you what’s possible.

“I always talk about pushing boundaries. If you are performing consistently, your numbers are good and you are catching your eye of the general public in Scotland, you see a manager who is prepared to give guys an opportunity.”

With Scotland clinching Euro 2024 qualification, Kelly could hand Motherwell a financial boost if he makes Steve Clarke’s 23-man squad for Germany.

“Most important, if he maintains his levels, Steve Clarke has been pretty loyal in his squad selection,” Kettlewell said.

“But I know the type of guy he is, take away the financial gains and all the rest of it that might come for ourselves, we just look at simply getting him back and switched on for Motherwell.

“Not thinking about Kylian Mbappe, just getting his head back on his job here. But he is a consummate pro and I have no doubts he will be the influence he has been since I came in.”

Motherwell could have Calum Butcher back in their squad in Perth, five months after the defensive player suffered a foot injury that required surgery.

Kettlewell said: “I watched him on the training pitch on Monday and it was an absolute breath of fresh air to see him back and the levels he hit. He was not a million miles away from the levels he left when he dipped out in May.

“He has been through an extensive rehab so if there’s no issues I would envisage he puts himself into contention for the squad. I have been pleasantly surprised by his fitness levels.”

Mika Biereth is due back in training next Thursday following a knee injury, while Jon Obika is slightly further behind in his recovery from a hamstring problem.

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