Motherwell battled from 4-1 down against St Mirren, but it’s the Buddies who progress in the Scottish Cup following a 3-2 penalty shootout win, after it finished 4-4 following extra time.
Stephen Robinson had said before kick off the game was ‘touch and go’ after the pair’s league meeting at the weekend was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch. For the amount of bad weather it had endured following that, the surface seemed to be holding up quite well.
It was the away side though who’d strike first. A ball into the box from Ilkay Durmus found Jon Obika, completely unmarked, and the Buddies forward was all too happy to convert past Mark Gillespie.
They had the next big chance through Jamie McGrath but his effort was first spilled by Mark Gillespie before Ross MacIver turned it behind for a corner. St Mirren were looking more and more dangerous with every attack whilst Motherwell were struggling to kick into gear.
But against the run of play, Motherwell’s Liam Polworth found a way to goal. His corner was cleared straight back to him and under no pressure, he drove into the box and blasted a shot into the net. It lifted the mood around Fir Park after a hard 27 minutes. But it would soon turn into a nightmare scenario.
Again, Motherwell’s slack defending cost them. Cammy MacPherson’s free kick into the box found Obika, who had ghosted his marker before placing his second of the night into the net.
And two minutes later it was three. Obika started a Buddies counter-attack and Sam Foley broke through on goal. His shot was saved by Gillespie but the rebound hit Peter Hartley and landed in the net.
St Mirren were in dreamland and it wasn’t even half time. So when Foley made it four before the break, it sealed a tremendous half for manager Jim Goodwin. It was all about maintaining composure for the remainder of the match.
Early in the second half they looked hungry for more goals but it was the Well who struck next through Tony Watt. On his first start in claret and amber, he showed great feet before finding a way past Vaclav Hladky on the 57th minute mark.
There was hope for Motherwell and they had a few openings, one particular goalmouth scramble almost resulted in an own goal but St Mirren averted danger. Robinson’s side were pressing but nothing much was coming off for them. Yet.
There was a third Well goal soon after and a real chance of a comeback. Rolando Aarons’ cross avoided everyone and ended up in the net. It set up a grandstand finish but the 74th minute mark brought about the magic Well moment.
Allan Campbell’s cross this time looped over Hladky thanks to a big deflection, sparking wild scenes inside Fir Park as the Steelmen brought things back on level terms. Two goals in a minute had them roaring back at St Mirren.
Time to breathe? Not a chance. This game was going from one end to the other as both sides looked to finish a Scottish Cup classic in 90 minutes. Campbell went close with seven minutes remaining but his shot was blocked.
Motherwell looked most likely to score, a complete flip from the first half where it was St Mirren. No more goals were to be scored though as this game rolled on into extra time.
The start to this endurance test was slow, surprising given how the game had panned out throughout regular time. Frustrations were starting to fly slightly as players tired and a need for a goal became more desperate. Penalties were looming as the second half of extra time got underway. If the game was to be won before those dreaded spot kicks, something had to give, rapidly.
Junior Morias had a pop but Gillespie matched it. Obika was next to try, just over. Jake Carroll limped off shortly afterwards and Motherwell were forced to finish with ten men. Liam Donnelly had to lift the ball off the line as St Mirren came so close to victory. Penalties was how this would be decided.
McGrath scored first for St Mirren as Donnelly had his saved by Hladky. It was 1-0 St Mirren already. Tony Andreu was next but he blasted the ball over as Watt also put his over.
MacPherson wasn’t able to make it count as Gillespie stopped the stand-in Buddies captain’s kick. Aarons tucked one away for Motherwell as the home fans roared their team on.
Kyle McAllister remained cool to slot his and Polworth was next for Motherwell. He too managed to calm his nerves and find the net. Obika had two goals in normal time and added a spot kick to his collection with a rolled effort.
It left it all up to Jermaine Hylton v Hladky for a place in the quarter finals. The Well winger fired it wide and it’s St Mirren who progress to face Aberdeen or Kilmarnock in the last eight. Here are three things we learned.
An exhilarating eight-goal thriller, this had shades of Motherwell 6-6 Hibs. Whilst perhaps not quite on that level, there’s no denying this will be a cup tie remembered for a long time.
Defensively things left a lot to be desired, but the attacking efforts provided great entertainment. It was one for the neutral and a truly brilliant Scottish Cup tie.
St Mirren hold nerve
Goodwin’s side almost threw this one away. After finding themselves pegged back to 4-4 after going 4-1 up, the Buddies had to make sure they remained calm and got the job over the line.
It took until the spot kicks, but eventually St Mirren got the rub of the green and progressed past this difficult fixture.
Getting ready to go again
After an exhausting 120 minutes of action, mentally and physically, both sets of players could be doing with a good break. There is no rest for the wicked as they say.
St Mirren are back in action on Friday against Hearts whilst Motherwell face a Lanarkshire derby away to Hamilton. Both are huge games that the Buddies and the Steelmen will need to be fighting fit for before meeting again in league action next Tuesday.