MOTHERWELL defender Shaun Hutchinson saw red for the second game in a row as St Mirren came back to grab a point three minutes into stoppage time.
Three points could have taken either side to the top of the table, but a draw was probably a fair result and leaves ’Well unbeaten in the SPL.
With Tom Hateley being unavailable for selection for the first time in three and half years Fraser Kerr was handed his first start at right back, while Steven Hetherington did likewise in midfield in place of Chris Humphrey.
The home side made the best possible start in just two minutes as Marc McAusland’s weak defence header caused hesitation in team mate Lee Mair, who was brushed aside by MICHAEL HIGDON, and the former St Mirren striker passed in his first goal of the season.
The Buddies were shocked, but got back in the groove with Paul McGowan pulling the strings from midfield and the ex-Celtic kid stung the palms of Darren Randolph with a drive that the goalkeeper could only push into the danger area, but Adam Cummins got into clear and deny Steven Thompson a tap in.
The game swung from end to end as Keith Lasley found Henrik Ojamaa who turned Mair, but shot wide, while Thompson’s low cross presented a great chance for Kenny McLean who unmarked 12 yards out somehow contrived to flick the ball up onto his own hand rather than shoot for goal.
Right on half time Higdon could have grabbed his and ’Well’s second as neat work by Ojamma, Lasley and Jamie found him unmarked at the edge of the box, but his weak shot was picked up by Craig Samson.
Motherwell ’keeper Randolph has continued his impressive form from last season into this and had to me at his best four minutes into the second half diving full length to turn McLean’s snap shot round the post.
Other than Murphy fizzing a shot over the bar it was all St Mirren in the second half as they pounded on the door looking for an equaliser and only Randolph stood between them and one.
He wasn’t too perturbed as McLean blasted a powerful free-kick straight down his throat, but has to show more agility to tip over McGowan’s curling effort.
Cummins and Hutchinson look like they will be a formidable partnership in the centre of defence for years to come, if the Fir Park side can hang onto them, and the former showed his increasing skill as he once again prevented Thompson getting a sniff of goal, this time from former Scotland winger Gary Teale’s dangerous cross.
Motherwell substitute Humphrey squared to an unmarked Higdon in the box, but his shot was over and instead of the game being made safe the afternoon got from bad to worse for the hosts.
On 84 minutes Hutchinson reacted verbally to referee Euan Norris after a challenge by Thompson that left him needing treatment on his ankle and was booked for dissent.
Just four minutes later the defender went through the back of St Mirren substitute Thomas Reilly and a second caution sent Hutchinson for an early bath.
Then with three of the four minutes of stoppage time played Teale swung a cross into the box, Randolph parried Thompson’s header but was helpless as REILLY slammed in the rebound.
Motherwell: Randolph, Hammell, Law (Carswell 70), Hutchinson, Ojamaa (Francis-Angol 76), Higdon, Murphy (Humphrey 64), Lasley, Kerr, Hetherington, Cummins. Subs not used: Hollis, McHugh, Daley, Page.
St Mirren: Samson, van Zanten, Mair, Goodwin, Imrie (Teale 69), Thompson, McGowan (Robertson 89), Carey, McAusland, McLean, Parkin (Reilly 78). Subs not used: C Smith, Barron, J Smith, McGinn.