Sutton piles misery on Saints
St Mirren old boy John Sutton returned to haunt his former club and heap further pressure on under-fire Danny Lennon as he grabbed the only goal for Motherwell in a hard-fought encounter at St Mirren Park.
The Buddies manager had come under pressure from supporters following a poor start to the season and he attempted to reverse their fortunes by making three changes to his starting line-up from the defeat to Partick Thistle last time out.
In came Darren McGregor, Paul McGowan and Gary Teale, with David van Zanten, John McGinn and Kenny McLean making way.
Simon Ramsden's suspension as well as an injury to Fraser Kerr forced Motherwell boss Stuart McCall to reshuffle his back line, with Stevie Hammell filling in at right-back and Zaine Francis-Angol taking over Hammell's usual station on the opposite flank.
With St Mirren employing three at the back, the away side were getting some early joy on the wings, Hammell cutting in on his favoured left foot to deliver an in-swinging cross that only just evaded McFadden and Sutton.
Former Scotland winger Teale was providing an early threat for the home side and his run and cross provided a sight of goal for Steven Thompson, who headed wide under pressure.
There was a further let-off for Motherwell as Conor Newton broke through the Motherwell rearguard and was fouled by Keith Lasley on the edge of the box. Referee Craig Thomson initially awarded a penalty despite the challenge seeming to take place a yard outside the area, but eventually made the correct call after consultation with assistant referee Alan Mulvanny and Danny Grainger blazed the resultant free-kick high over the crossbar.
Just as St Mirren appeared to be taking a hold of proceedings, Motherwell hit the front in the 38th minute.
Excellent play between Iain Vigurs and Francis-Angol on the left allowed the latter space to hang up an inviting cross to the back post, where Sutton rose highest to plant his third goal of the season past David Cornell and give Motherwell the half-time lead.
St Mirren started the second half at a high tempo as they tried to find a way back into the game, Newton immediately finding space in the Motherwell box before his shot was blocked by a combination of Stephen McManus and Shaun Hutchinson.
The visitors then came close after a free-flowing move resulted in Francis-Angol winning a corner. Vigurs' floating delivery was met by Hutchinson on the penalty spot and his looping header found the top of the crossbar.
This signalled a good spell for Motherwell in which the hesitant Cornell almost presented Sutton with an opening, James McFadden clipped over following good work from Francis-Angol and Cornell made amends for his earlier mistake by saving well from Henri Anier after the Estonian had been put clean through by Vigurs.
St Mirren were finding it hard to get the ball forward now, and substitute Bob McHugh shot just wide shortly after replacing Anier on 70 minutes, latching on to Lasley's pass after Grainger had presented him with the ball.
That was to be the last action for Grainger as Lennon attempted to reverse the course of the game by throwing on new recruit Jake Caprice. Thomas Reilly had earlier replaced the ineffectual Bahoken.
They almost equalised in the final minute of normal time, McGowan's inswinging cross only just evading the desperate dive of Thompson.
A St Mirren corner then resulted in a goalmouth scramble, the ball being fed back across the face of goal by Caprice, but there were no takers for the home side.
Motherwell safely negotiated the final few seconds to heap further misery on the beleaguered Lennon, whose side have now picked up just one point from their opening five Premiership matches.