So close to top effort from Well

ONE thing Stuart McCall could never accuse his Motherwell players of is not giving everything they've got.

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That has been the not-so-secret key to their success – and the fact they were minutes away from going top of the SPL yesterday, while having to juggle the demands of European football, is to the credit of the manager and his team.

With better luck – and possibly better decisions from referee Euan Norris – Well might just have pulled off a 1-0 victory at home to St Mirren.

McCall's men took the lead after just two minutes through Michael Higdon but were denied victory by 17-year-old Thomas Reilly in stoppage time, after Shaun Hutchinson was sent off. It was a cruel blow to the Lanarkshire side after everything they'd put into the game .

They were without a host of first-team players and are in the midst of their Europa League play-off against Levante.

McCall was gutted to lose a goal so late but felt his players deserved great deal of credit for their efforts.

He said: "I probably can't argue too much with the result, maybe just the manner in which it came about.

"We had to put so much into the game, considering we were missing a few players, handed debuts to some of our young lads and played during the week.

"Our possession play could have been better but our work-rate was excellent. We defended well, we cleared every cross into our penalty area with the exception of the last one which St Mirren scored from and we worked really hard throughout the match.

"It would have been nice to hold on for the win and go to the top of the table but we were a man down at the end and we just couldn't hold out."

With a number of injuries to contend with, McCall was forced to hand teenagers Fraser Kerr and Steve Hetherington their first starting slots as the demands of European football impact of what was already a limited squad.

The fact Tom Hateley missed his first game in over three years with a groin injury is an indication of how demanding such fixtures can be.

But the makeshift Well side got off to the perfect start. Saints defender Marc McAusland made a mess of attempting to head a long ball clear, Lee Mair didn't cover himself in glory either and Higdon made them pay with a composed finish.

It was end-to-end stuff for the remainder of the first half with Saints perhaps deserving an equaliser as a reward for some of their impressive passing play.

The second half was pretty much the same, with both teams looking to get forward at every opportunity.

Despite Hutchinson having been shown a second yellow card with three minutes remaining, Motherwell looked as if they were going to hang on for the win.

That was until Saints sub Reilly bagged the equalised when Darren Randolph could only block Steven Thompson's header and the ball fell nicely at the feet of Reilly.

It was a sore one to take but with a trip to Spain to face Levante on Thursday, Motherwell, who trail 2-0 from the first-leg, can't sit around feeling sorry for themselves.

Not that you would expect McCall and his team to do that – which is why European football has come their way.

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