Theo Bair was on target again as Motherwell recovered from a goal down to claim a 1-1 draw against St Mirren at Fir Park.

The Canadian international bundled the ball over the line with 16 minutes left to draw the Steelmen level in an entertaining encounter that could have gone either way.

The visitors struck the bar twice before breaking the deadlock when Marcus Fraser took advantage of some poor defending to head home Greg Kiltie’s corner after 18 minutes.

Motherwell’s chances of claiming a place in the top-six have all but gone after failing to win for the second successive home fixture, while Saints remain in fifth, two points behind fourth-placed Kilmarnock

The hosts were quick out of the traps and almost went ahead on four minutes when a wonderful pass from Andy Halliday released Georgie Gent who had his effort turned on to the post.

Bair was quickest to the rebound but he would see his shot blocked and despite pleas from the home players, a short VAR check would deem that the ball had not struck the hand of James Bolton.

Surviving a close scare seemed to jolt the visitors into life and a minute later, Olutoyosi Olusanya outmuscled Gent before being denied by a good stop from Liam Kelly.

The home side had the crossbar to thank twice in the space of 30 seconds as Ryan Strain struck the frame of the goal and Mikael Mandron followed up by heading the rebound inches too high.

St Mirren had a grip on proceedings and would deservedly open the scoring after 18 minutes following poor communication between Paul McGinn and Stephen O’Donnell that led to a softly conceded corner.

Kiltie floated across the resulting set-piece and despite Halliday getting a slight touch on the ball, Fraser was on hand to nod it home at the back-post.

There was an early change for the visitors when Bolton hobbled off to be replaced by Richard Taylor.

Scott Tanser blazed over from a promising position after indecision in the home defence, before Motherwell had a chance of their own as Halliday forced an excellent save from Zach Hemming.

Both Olusanya and Halliday had opportunities in the closing stages of an entertaining first half – and there were chances at both ends following the restart.

Bair was unable to make proper contact with Gent’s tantalising delivery which allowed Hemming to gather, while at the other end, Dan Casey was able to divert Olusanya’s angled drive away for a corner.

Both sides looked to their bench in order to freshen things up and it almost paid dividends for Stephen Robinson when Keanu Baccus sent a curling effort just wide of the target.

Motherwell would level with 16 minutes remaining as Jack Vale’s cross was nodded back across goal by O’Donnell and Bair was in the right place to bundle the ball over the line.

It was all set up for a dramatic conclusion and Mandron dragged a shot inches wide as the visitors almost came up with the perfect response.

Gent had proven to be a constant threat for the Steelmen throughout the afternoon and he almost turned provider again with a dangerous cross that somehow evaded everyone inside the box.

Chances came and went for Blair Spittal and then Mark O’Hara in the final minutes but neither side would be able to come up with a vital winner.

Motherwell manager Stuart Kettlewell described Theo Bair’s international call-up as just reward for his hard work and ambition along with the efforts of many others at the club.

Bair has been included in the Canada squad ahead of their CONCACAF Nations League play-off against Trinidad and Tobago on March 23.

The former St Johnstone striker, 24, won his second and most recent cap in 2020 after scoring on his international debut and has been recalled after producing nine goals and three assists in his past 10 cinch Premiership games for Motherwell.

“I know when Theo came here he had a real ambition to back get in that Canadian squad. It’s his just reward, he has been working tirelessly,” said Kettlewell, who has also seen the likes of Liam Kelly, Adam Devine, Lennon Miller, Bevis Mugabi and Davor Zdravkovski get international recognition.

“We are delighted for him and all the lads who have had international call-ups.

“I think he is the most humble person I have ever met. He thinks he has loads to go, as do we.

“When you look into how he is performing, I thought there were so many good qualities early in the season, but you can see how much it evolves when there’s a bit of confidence in there, once he starts hitting the back of the net.

“It’s just fine margins, different types of movement, utilising his frame and his physicality, probably getting him fitter. His work rate is top drawer, he presses from the front.

“It’s taken him time to get there and big Theo will acknowledge that, because he is probably a bit of a baby when you look at the game time he has played.

“He didn’t come here with loads of minutes, 24 years old doesn’t mean you are sitting there with 150-200 appearances. I believe when you have that trust and opportunity to play, that’s when you see the fruits of your labour.

“Now with that level of confidence, you start to see him maybe take part in elements of the game where before he was maybe looking at one of his team-mates.”

Motherwell recently gave an insight into the work they and Bair have been doing behind the scenes to spark his prolific run, including footage of video analysis sessions.

“Ross Clarkson and Graeme McArthur, our two analysts, are absolutely sensational at what they do, the level of detail they go to, but the bit that goes unnoticed is the work ethic,” Kettlewell said. “We feel we have that in the staff in general.

“We have players who go to lengths to get the best out of their career but also all the staff have that same vision and ambition for your career.

“But we need guys who are coachable and want the best out of their career. If we get that we will give them every minute of every day to meet the goals they set themselves but also what we think they can get to.”

Meanwhile Jon Obika has suffered another hamstring injury in training having already had three lay-offs with a similar issue over the past 12 months.

“I don’t have a specific update, we will have him scanned and find out what’s going on,” Kettlewell said.

New signing Moses Ebiye could feature against Aberdeen on Saturday but Kettlewell warned the 26-year-old Nigerian striker had not played a competitive game for some time, having left Norwegian side Aalesund in January.

“He has taken part in every training session and has had minutes on the pitch in a bounce game,” he said. “But I need to manage expectations. I think he can possibly give us something at this stage but it’s very, very early.”

Boss Philippe Clement claimed Ross McCausland was “kicked off the pitch” in the 2-1 defeat by Motherwell which dented Rangers’ cinch Premiership title hopes.

With the visitors leading through a Theo Bair strike, the Northern Ireland winger had to be replaced by Fabio Silva in the 35th minute after he was caught by Dan Casey after the Fir Park defender won a tackle.

Gers skipper James Tavernier scored from the spot on the hour but Casey’s 74th-minute header gave the Steelmen their first league win at Ibrox since 1997.

It was a first defeat in 12 games for Rangers and although they remain two points clear of Celtic at the top of the table, the Parkhead side get the chance to leapfrog them at Hearts on Sunday.

Clement confirmed beforehand that Oscar Cortes, on loan from Lens, would be out for “a long time” following the muscle injury picked up against Kilmarnock in midweek, with fellow wide-men Abdallah Sima and Rabbi Matondo also out.

The Gers boss said: “Ross is bad because he was kicked off the pitch. There was no foul, no yellow card, no red card.

“When I see how we’ve got red cards in the last few months – then I see this action – I don’t understand it to be honest.

“There is too much intensity. When you have to take a player off in the first-half because he can’t walk any more after contact, you need to realise something bad happened there. But clearly not.

“I didn’t think about the fact the same player scored the winning goal.

“I only think about the chances we had to score. I only think about my team and making it better.”

The Belgian boss would not directly say that Casey should have been red carded by referee Alan Muir, adding: “I am not a referee. And I know every word I say becomes a big thing always.

“I think players need to be better protected. We have now already several players kicked off the pitch this season. I think they need to be protected in a better way.”

It was the first points dropped at home by Clement since taking over from Michael Beale in October and he is expecting a positive reaction.

He said: “That’s the interesting thing now. I didn’t expect to have this moment after five months in the building. I thought it would be much earlier.

“Now I’ll get to know my team even better. I know them really well already. But now I’m going to see who’s going to be the guys to stand up after a disappointment.

“I don’t doubt it too much. They are very disappointed and a lot of heads are down. I’m disappointed too, not to get the three points.

“But you need to cope with it, take the right lessons and learn from it to become better. That’s our ambition now.”

Stuart Kettlewell was delighted with Motherwell’s performance but puzzled by Clement’s assessment of McCausland.

He said: “Everybody has got their own opinion. I don’t see it as kicked off the pitch as such.

“I’ve not seen a replay of the incident but at the time it was very close to me and Dan Casey looked 60-40 favourite, or maybe even more than that, to come through and get the ball.

“At the time I wasn’t seeing anything. The referee doesn’t even book him so it doesn’t look as if there was a foul. He was first man to the ball clearly so I’m a wee bit surprised [by Clement’s comments].”

On his side’s shock victory, the Well boss said: “We were asked plenty of questions, we were put under the cosh.

“We had to go into what I call emergency defending in the dying embers. We know that you are going to have to go through all that to get something here – you are going to have to suffer. Of that there is no question.

“When you come here that idea of just sitting in is never going to work. You need to carry a threat on the other side. That is what pleases me most.”

Dan Casey’s stunning second-half goal gave Motherwell a shock 2-1 win over Rangers at Ibrox and handed the initiative in the cinch Premiership title race back to Celtic.

Stuart Kettlewell’s side silenced most of Ibrox in the ninth minute with a goal from striker Theo Bair which left the Light Blues struggling to read an unexpected script.

Gers skipper James Tavernier scored from the spot on the hour after the VAR had intervened but Irish defender Casey restored the visitors’ lead with a close-range finish in the 74th minute for the first Well win in the league in Govan since 1997.

It was a first defeat in 12 games in all competitions for Philippe Clement’s side and although they remain two points clear of their Old Firm rival at the top of the table, Celtic get the chance to leapfrog them against Hearts at Tynecastle on Sunday.

Clement’s side had fought back to beat Kilmarnock 2-1 at Rugby Park on Wednesday night, which kept them ahead of the Hoops and it was widely believed that three more points would be garnered against the Steelmen.

Ridvan Yilmaz, Nico Raskin, Dujon Sterling and Cyriel Dessers came back in to the team amid the usual rotation.

Motherwell, with defender Shane Blaney and on-loan Blackburn striker Jack Vale returning, arrived in eighth place fresh from a 3-1 win at bottom side Livingston.

The visitors had the first chance when defender Bevis Mugabi headed a Blair Spittal corner over the bar but they did not miss the second. Vale got past defender John Souttar and cut the ball back for Bair to steer the ball past goalkeeper Jack Butland and in off the post for his sixth goal in nine games.

Dessers headed a Yilmaz past the post and Well keeper Liam Kelly punched a dipping shot from Mohamed Diomande past the post for a corner before Kelly made an even better save from Yilmaz’s swerving shot from distance.

The traffic towards the Motherwell goal was busy but in the 35th minute Spittal had a decent effort saved by Butland, before winger Ross McCausland was replaced by Fabio Silva after failing to shake off the effects of a crunching Casey tackle.

Silva weakly knocked a long pass from Connor Goldson into the arms of a grateful Kelly and Rangers’ best chance of the first-half was gone.

Tom Lawrence replaced Raskin for the start of the second half and within two minutes Dessers had the ball in the Well net from a yard out but the flag was up for an infringement as a clutch of players contested a high ball.

Soon after Spittal’s flick hit the crossbar at the other end, the Govan side were level.

There was a long VAR check for a penalty when Motherwell right-back Stephen O’Donnell tackled Silva inside the box and when referee Alan Muir checked his pitchside monitor and pointed to the spot, Tavernier smashed the ball high past Kelly for his 21st goal of the season.

The home fans roared Rangers on for a winner and Sterling missed the target when set up by John Lundstram.

However, sprightly Motherwell retained more than a hint of danger.

Bair got past Goldson to spring a Motherwell break but hit his pass straight at Souttar, although Casey made no mistake when he headed in Spittal’s deep cross to the back post.

Rangers threw everything forward in the final stages.

Kelly made good saves from Lundstram and Yilmaz and Goldson twice missed the target with headers from six yards and Well defender Paul McGinn cleared off the line.

But Casey’s goal was a blow from which Rangers did not recover and they will need to dig deep when they play the first leg of their Europa League last-16 tie against Benfica in Lisbon on Thursday night.

Both managers felt Motherwell could have scored more in their 5-0 victory over Ross County.

Blair Spittal hit two brilliantly-taken goals and both Andy Halliday and Jack Vale netted their first goals for the club, while Theo Bair converted a penalty to make it six goals in five cinch Premiership games.

But Bair also had three one-one-ones, being denied twice by George Wickens and chipping just wide, and County’s two centre-backs were consistently exposed.

After his side moved a point off the top six after just a second win in 20 league games, Motherwell manager Stuart Kettlewell said: “It’s a top-drawer performance. To beat any team in this league 5-0, you’re playing well.

“I felt you saw what was an accumulation of what I feel has been some good performances. Sometimes you feel as if you’re patronising supporters and people in the media but I genuinely do believe we were working towards a win.

“We have been functioning well as a team, six unbeaten now, and that puts a nice finish to it with the five goals. But probably the ruthless side of me says that it could and should have been several more. We had some wonderful opportunities.

“The ruthless side of me says that we still want to work towards a better conversion rate but I have just reminded everyone it’s one game of football.”

Ross County have now collected only two points from eight games since beating Motherwell two months ago and fell six points behind their opponents.

Manager Derek Adams said: “Motherwell were the better side, obviously, scored goals and could have scored a lot more.”

Adams blamed “decision-making on and off the ball” for the heavy scoreline.

“We didn’t deal well enough with the runners,” he added. “It’s the basics of defending, isn’t it? Seeing your man in front of you. As soon as your man is in front of you then you’ve got a problem.

“The Motherwell attacker was on our shoulder a number of times and was able to get in behind. They had some good runs in behind and I thought they were excellent. They picked us off and scored five.

“Our goalkeeper, George Wickens, was very good and kept us in the game.”

Adams admitted getting out of the bottom two would be an uphill task.

“It’s very difficult because we’re five points adrift now,” he said.

“Well, we’re in the same position as we were when I came into the football club 11 games ago.

“Motherwell have had two wins in 20 games, we have had two wins in 11 games. That tells its own story. The problems are continuing.”

Theo Bair scored for a fifth consecutive cinch Premiership game as Motherwell thrashed Ross County 5-0 at Fir Park.

The former St Johnstone forward put Motherwell three up with a 38th-minute penalty to make it six goals during his run and eight for the season.

Blair Spittal struck two brilliantly-taken goals and both Andy Halliday and Jack Vale hit their first Motherwell goals as the Steelmen recorded their biggest victory since beating the same opponents by the same scoreline under Steven Hammell in October 2022.

Despite claiming only a second win in 20 league games, Stuart Kettlewell’s side moved one point off the top six and opened up a six-point lead over second-bottom County.

Derek Adams’ side have not won since beating Motherwell two months ago and have only collected two points in that period.

Bair could easily have had a hat-trick as Motherwell took advantage of an open County structure which left their two centre-backs exposed.

Motherwell were ahead in the eighth minute when Spittal fed Bair to square for Halliday to sweep home from 12 yards.

The home side doubled their lead in the 21st minute when Spittal latched on to Halliday’s pass and curled a powerful shot in off the far post from the left corner of the box.

It initially looked like being a frustrating night for Bair, who was twice set up for one-on-ones by Spittal but was foiled by George Wickens each time.

The striker could not quite reach Spittal’s low cross and was then waiting for a tap-in when Harry Paton picked the wrong option.

Bair came closer when he chested down Stephen O’Donnell’s diagonal ball and volleyed into the top corner from 18 yards, only to be denied by the offside flag.

But the Canada international got his goal after Paton was tripped by Will Nightingale, assuming penalty duties from Spittal, who missed his last effort against Alloa. Bair shrugged off a needlessly-lengthy VAR delay to send Wickens the wrong way.

County had plenty of possession in the first half but Motherwell generally blocked their way to goal with some compact defending and effective pressing. Liam Kelly comfortably saved from Simon Murray in the visitors’ only effort on target before the break.

Motherwell looked comfortable after the restart without seriously threatening and Murray missed a glorious chance to give the visitors a lifeline midway through the second half when he sent a free header wide from six yards out.

The hosts otherwise looked the far more dangerous side. Bair was again played through by Spittal and appeared to have done everything right when he dinked the ball over Wickens but his effort drifted just wide.

Wickens saved well from Georgie Gent after slack play from James Brown but the goalkeeper was well beaten in the 87th minute when Spittal curled a majestic strike into the top corner from 25 yards.

The midfielder then played a perfect pass in between the County central defence for on-loan Blackburn forward Vale to run on to and slot home in stoppage-time.

David Martindale told his Livingston players to take responsibility for their predicament as he labelled their first-half defending “shambolic” following a 3-1 defeat by Motherwell.

Theo Bair scored twice and set up another for Blair Spittal inside 35 minutes, with Scott Pittman pulling one back midway through the half.

Livi pushed for a lifeline after the break but never really troubled their former goalkeeper Liam Kelly as they slipped further adrift at the foot of the cinch Premiership.

Their visit to Fir Park provided a chance to cut the gap at the bottom to one point but they are now six behind Ross County, who have two games in hand.

“The first-half performance, I never saw it coming,” Martindale said. “It was well below the standard expected of Livingston players.

“They should probably have been three up before they scored. Our defending was shocking. It was shambolic. And it comes from the individuals on the park.

“I spoke to the players, we can talk about game plans, tactics, formations, it’s all bulls*** if you don’t do your one-v-one jobs properly.

“As a defensive unit, the individual errors we made in the first half were terrible.

“We get ourselves back in the game, and we shouldn’t have been anywhere the game, and we shoot ourselves in the foot again with a mistake. It gives us a mountain to climb.”

Motherwell had not won in 15 games but started brightly to leave Livi with two points from 12 matches since beating the Steelmen in West Lothian.

Martindale added: “I have sat in numerous press conferences and tried to take the pressure off the players and be positive. I don’t feel that after today’s game.

“Players need to start taking a bit more responsibility. It’s too easy in modern-day football – sack the manager, sack the manager.

“What about the players? They now need to start taking responsibility.

“I tried to take the pressure off them but we are in a relegation battle now and that first-half performance was diabolical. Second half was a bit better but not much.”

Motherwell manager Stuart Kettlewell praised his players for their approach after they doubled their tally of first-half league goals for the season.

“Everyone has spoken about the poor run we have been on and you need to show massive character to get yourself out of that,” said Kettlewell, whose side moved up to eighth.

“I thought the first half, especially the start to the game, was indicative of where we were and what the players were pouring into the game.

“Everyone with that one cause, to break the cycle and give ourselves a chance to move up the table

“The only way we could do that was defend better, switch on better, and then from my side of things it was very purposeful in going with three strikers, and going with mobility at the top end of the pitch where we felt we could try and expose Livingston. We got joy from it.

“Second half wasn’t pretty but you know Livingston are going to fight for their cause and you know they are going to go straight up to the striker.

“So what you have to do is defend against that and the three points were always going to be the most important thing.”

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