St Johnstone missed the chance to go top of the league after slumping to defeat against a sharp Motherwell side.

The visitors took the lead after only a minute when Jamie Murphy tucked the ball home and the forward doubled his tally with curling shot.

As Saints pressed for a lifeline Nicky Law picked up on a loose ball to flick the ball over goalkeeper Alan Mannus..

David Robertson found the net for Saints, firing home from 12 yards, but it was nothing more than a consolation.

Both sides were looking to recover from heavy defeats in their last outings, but it was Motherwell who took the lead through a simple early goal.

Law's low cross from the left was deflected into the path of Murphy by Steven Anderson and the Motherwell man coolly slotted the ball under Mannus from 12 yards.

Jamie Murphy

Murphy's first-half double put Motherwell in command

'Well should have been two ahead moments later. Henrik Ojamaa picked up a slack back pass by Frazer Wright and rounded Mannus before blazing his shot over the bar.

The opening stages were incredibly open and Saints had a chance to level when Gary Miller swung a deep cross into the visitors' box where Gregory Tade headed just wide at the back post.

Then, some slack defending by Anderson let Motherwell in again as he fluffed a headed clearance straight to Michael Higdon 20 yards out.

The burly striker steadied himself and let a rasping volley fly just past Mannus' left-hand post.

Another chance for the visitors came the lively Chris Humphrey cut the ball back across the six-yard box but no Motherwell player could connect cleanly with it and Anderson cleared off the line.

The home side were looking disjointed, and their best moments came from set pieces, with Frazer Wright powering a free header from a Liam Craig free-kick over the bar.

Murphy then doubled his tally as he picked up the ball 45 yards from goal, dribbled through the defence until he reached the edge of the box and curled the ball past Mannus and into the net.

Steven MacLean and Murray Davidson both missed chances for the home side as the first half drew to a close and Saints struggled to find a way back.

The second period opened at a much less frenetic pace than the first, with both defences clearly having had words from their respective managers at half-time.

Saints were enjoying much more of the pressure, but found time and again Motherwell defenders on hand to block any attempts on goal.

However, Motherwell carved out the first clear chance of the half when Ojamaa was played through in the inside right channel, Mannus blocking the shot with his feet.

The second period had developed into a tactical chess match, with Saints controlling possession and pressing hard high up the pitch, but 'Well launching fast, direct counter-attacks.

And, from one of these, Ojamaa was able to test Mannus with a low, right-footed drive from the edge of the box.

Nigel Hasselbaink managed to tee up Craig at the edge of the box but, with the penalty area crowded, the midfielder could only blaze his shot over.

And the home defence soon found itself at sixes and sevens after another 'Well attack.

Law picked up the loose ball, ran into the box and flicked the ball into the net from a tight angle.

Motherwell could have piled further misery on the hosts as the game became completely stretched in the final stages, but it was Saints who snatched the next goal, Robertson lashing home Hasselbaink's cutback from around the penalty spot.

But the goal did not ignite a Saints comeback as Motherwell saw out the win which gets them back on track after four straight defeats.

For Saints, it is back to the drawing board with their seven-game unbeaten run in the Scottish Premier League crashing to an end in a week that also featured a 5-0 cup loss to Celtic.

Match Stats

Shots

9 9

On target

5 7

Corners

6 1

Fouls

10 12

Live Text Commentary

90:00 +3:38 Full time

Full Time The referee blows his whistle to end the game.

90:00 +2:30

Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Murray Davidson by Nicky Law. Gary Miller takes the free kick.

90:00 +1:14 Substitution

Substitution (Motherwell) makes a substitution, with Stewart Carswell coming on for Chris Humphrey.

90:00 +1:14

Inswinging corner taken by Chris Humphrey.

90:00 +0:47

Jamie Murphy takes a shot. Steven Anderson gets a block in.

87:36

Assist on the goal came from Rowan Vine.

87:36 Goal scored

Goal! - David Robertson - St J'stone 1 - 3 Motherwell David Robertson fires in a goal from deep inside the penalty box high into the middle of the goal. St Johnstone 1-3 Motherwell.

87:36

The ball is swung over by Rowan Vine,

85:54

Shot by David MacKay from a long way out goes over the crossbar.

85:08

Nigel Hasselbaink delivers the ball.

84:23

Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Rowan Vine from the right by-line.

83:24

David MacKay produces a cross, Steven MacLean takes a shot. Save made by Darren Randolph.

81:26

Corner taken by Rowan Vine from the right by-line.

81:13 Substitution

Substitution Robert McHugh comes on in place of Henrik Ojamaa.

81:03 Substitution

Substitution Zaine Francis-Angol joins the action as a substitute, replacing Stevie Hammell.

80:53 Substitution

Substitution David Robertson joins the action as a substitute, replacing Liam Craig.

80:08 Substitution

Substitution Rowan Vine joins the action as a substitute, replacing Gregory Tade.

76:44

Jamie Murphy gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Chris Millar. Steven Anderson takes the indirect free kick, Tom Hateley takes a shot. Comfortable save by Alan Mannus.

76:06

Inswinging corner taken by Liam Craig from the right by-line played to the near post, save by Darren Randolph.

75:20

Chris Millar takes a shot. Blocked by Simon Ramsden.

72:42

Assist by Keith Lasley.

72:42 Goal scored

Goal! - Nicky Law - St J'stone 0 - 3 Motherwell Nicky Law gets on the score sheet with a goal from deep inside the penalty box low into the middle of the goal. St Johnstone 0-3 Motherwell.

70:49

Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Frazer Wright by Henrik Ojamaa. Indirect free kick taken by Alan Mannus.

69:53

Liam Craig takes a shot from just outside the penalty area clears the crossbar.

67:38

Chris Millar produces a right-footed shot from just outside the penalty box that misses to the left of the target.

66:30

Henrik Ojamaa takes a shot. Comfortable save by Alan Mannus.

64:25

Stevie Hammell produces a right-footed shot from the edge of the box and misses to the right of the target.

63:28

Free kick awarded for a foul by Liam Craig on Keith Lasley. Indirect free kick taken by Simon Ramsden.

63:00 Booking

Booking Keith Lasley is cautioned.

62:23

Unfair challenge on Murray Davidson by Keith Lasley results in a free kick. Indirect free kick taken by Alan Mannus.

61:55

Unfair challenge on Stevie Hammell by Steven MacLean results in a free kick. Darren Randolph takes the indirect free kick.

61:18

The ball is delivered by Chris Millar, blocked by Gary Miller.

59:50

Free kick awarded for a foul by Michael Higdon on Frazer Wright. Alan Mannus restarts play with the free kick.

59:12

Murray Davidson challenges Stevie Hammell unfairly and gives away a free kick. Indirect free kick taken by Darren Randolph.

58:28

Tom Hateley produces a cross, Adam Cummins makes a clearance.

58:06

Henrik Ojamaa takes a shot. Blocked by Alan Mannus.

57:18

Free kick awarded for a foul by Gary Miller on Jamie Murphy. Indirect free kick taken by Jamie Murphy.

55:52

Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Adam Cummins by Steven MacLean. Indirect free kick taken by Darren Randolph.

51:55

Gary Miller challenges Jamie Murphy unfairly and gives away a free kick. Darren Randolph takes the indirect free kick.

46:10

Free kick awarded for a foul by Jamie Murphy on Gary Miller. Steven Anderson restarts play with the free kick.

45:30

Tom Hateley delivers the ball, save made by Darren Randolph.

45:01

The referee gets the second half started.

45:00 +0:10 Half time

Half Time The whistle is blown to end the first half.

44:31

Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Liam Craig played to the near post, clearance by Adam Cummins.

42:30

David MacKay takes a shot. Save by Darren Randolph.

41:46

Inswinging corner taken by Liam Craig from the right by-line played to the near post, clearance by Michael Higdon.

41:26

Nigel Hasselbaink crosses the ball.

39:55

Long distance effort from Murray Davidson misses to the left of the goal.

39:15

Centre by Chris Millar, Simon Ramsden manages to make a clearance.

37:09 Goal scored

Goal! - Jamie Murphy - St J'stone 0 - 2 Motherwell Jamie Murphy scores a goal from just outside the penalty area to the bottom left corner of the goal. St Johnstone 0-2 Motherwell.

34:16

Chris Millar concedes a free kick for a foul on Jamie Murphy. Darren Randolph restarts play with the free kick.

33:43

Foul by Michael Higdon on Gary Miller, free kick awarded. Indirect free kick taken by Alan Mannus.

33:05

Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Keith Lasley by Murray Davidson. Simon Ramsden restarts play with the free kick.

32:26 Booking

Booking The referee cautions Frazer Wright for unsporting behaviour.

31:26

The referee gives a free kick against Keith Lasley for handball. Alan Mannus restarts play with the free kick.

28:24

Tom Hateley gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Gregory Tade. Liam Craig has a direct shot on goal from the free kick, save made by Darren Randolph.

26:50

Unfair challenge on Frazer Wright by Henrik Ojamaa results in a free kick. Alan Mannus takes the free kick.

25:32

The ball is sent over by Chris Humphrey.

22:58

Unfair challenge on Stevie Hammell by Nigel Hasselbaink results in a free kick. Indirect free kick taken by Stevie Hammell.

20:43

Inswinging corner taken by Liam Craig from the right by-line, clearance made by Michael Higdon.

19:30

Nigel Hasselbaink fouled by Adam Cummins, the ref awards a free kick. Shot on goal comes in from Liam Craig from the free kick, save by Darren Randolph.

17:15

Foul by Michael Higdon on Frazer Wright, free kick awarded. Alan Mannus restarts play with the free kick.

15:05

Unfair challenge on Chris Humphrey by David MacKay results in a free kick. Free kick taken by Nicky Law.

13:03

Centre by Chris Humphrey, Alan Mannus makes a save.

10:06

Unfair challenge on David MacKay by Chris Humphrey results in a free kick. David MacKay takes the free kick, Effort from outside the box by Michael Higdon goes wide right of the target.

9:05

A cross is delivered by Steven MacLean.

5:35

A cross is delivered by Gary Miller, save by Alan Mannus.

3:46

Keith Lasley produces a cross, clearance by Steven Anderson.

0:35 Goal scored

Goal! - Jamie Murphy - St J'stone 0 - 1 Motherwell Jamie Murphy fires in a goal from just inside the penalty area low into the middle of the goal. St Johnstone 0-1 Motherwell.

0:35

Blocked by Alan Mannus.

0:00

The match begins.

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