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Theo Bair earns Motherwell point against former club St Johnstone

Motherwell’s Theo Bair earned his side a point (Jeff Holmes/PA).
Motherwell’s Theo Bair earned his side a point (Jeff Holmes/PA).

Theo Bair scored against his former club as Motherwell hit back to draw 1-1 at St Johnstone.

Saints took an early lead when Ryan McGowan’s goal was allowed to stand, despite Andy Considine appearing to be in an offside position.

The Steelmen reacted well to falling behind and levelled just before the half-hour mark as Bair nodded in Blair Spittal’s cross.

Motherwell had the better of the chances in the second half but lacked the cutting edge required to earn their first away win since September.

Both sides have increased their lead over Ross County in 11th place to three points, with their advantage over basement boys Livingston now nine points.

St Johnstone made two changes to the side that drew with Aberdeen in midweek, Max Kucheriavyi and Benjamin Kimpioka coming in for Diallang Jaiyesimi and Sven Sprangler.

Stuart Kettlewell handed Andy Halliday his first start for the Steelmen, the midfielder replacing Adam Montgomery who suffered a hamstring injury in training that is set to rule him out for around three months.

The hosts opened the scoring after three minutes with the first meaningful attack of the match.

Kucheriavyi’s cross was steered home by McGowan and there was no offside flag, despite Liam Kelly’s view being hampered by Considine, who looked to be offside.

The Motherwell players appealed in unison for offside and Kelly was shown a yellow card for his reaction in the aftermath, with the goal given following a lengthy VAR check.

Georgie Gent sliced an effort wide as Motherwell looked for an instant reply and the full-back was involved again when he fired a tantalising ball across the face of goal that narrowly evaded Stephen O’Donnell.

It took a fantastic stop from Dimitar Mitov to keep out Bair’s close-range effort, but the former Saints striker was not to be denied.

Spittal sent over an inch-perfect delivery and Bair’s glancing header went in off the inside of a post.

Saints were dealt a blow when Liam Gordon hobbled off with 10 minutes remaining in the first half, the Saints skipper being replaced by Jaiyesimi.

Kimpioka came close to restoring St Johnstone’s lead when he raced on to Dan Phillips’ defence splitting pass and lifted the ball over Kelly, but the effort drifted behind for a goal-kick.

There were chances at either end as the second half began at a frantic pace.

Kimpioka worked Kelly after being released by Matt Smith and Spittal failed to make proper contact with O’Donnell’s low cross a few minutes later.

Jaiyesimi should have done better when he met Graham Carey’s cross on the hour mark but sent his header wide of the target.

Motherwell were looking threatening on the counter-attack and Gent fired over the top before Harry Paton skewed wide after a well-worked passing move.

The visitors continued to pile on the pressure and Mitov gathered Spittal’s free-kick at the second time of asking before Kettlewell introduced new signing Sam Nicholson for the final nine minutes as he sought a winner.

The substitute made an impact almost immediately when he split the home defence with a superb pass with the outside of his foot and Paton burst past Mitov, only to be let down by a heavy touch.

The hosts had rarely threatened in the second half, but they could have clinched victory in the final minutes as Jaiyesimi got on the end of Smith’s cross. However, he could only a muster a weak header into the grateful arms of the Well keeper.