THE more things change, the more they stay the same.

The season is only 90 minutes old and already we are into the first Jim Goodwin controversy of the season. The Irishman got promoted from club captain to player/coach in the reshuffle which saw Tommy Craig replace Danny Lennon as St Mirren manager this summer, but in every other way the outcome must have been wearily similar for St Mirren fans yesterday.

They saw their talisman earn an early yellow card, then live dangerously for the remainder of the game before eventually being dismissed with just over a quarter of an hour remaining for the fourth time in just over three seasons at the club - to go with his 45 bookings - after picking up a mysterious second caution of the day.

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At first, everyone's best guess was that it had been awarded for dissent towards referee Callum Murray, but it soon became clear it was for violent conduct, linesman Frank Connor noticing a sly elbow into the small of John Sutton's back.

While the personnel on both sides was different, the sense that this was last season all over again was confirmed at full time. When the dust had settled, St Mirren had taken nothing from a match in which they carved out plenty of promising positions, while the Lanarkshire side had made light of the availability issues in their squad to eke out the three points.

This they did courtesy of a tidy debut goal by Lee Erwin, a rangy 20-year-old striker from Bellshill who came through the youth ranks, and spent last season on-loan at Arbroath.

His alert striker's finish, following up on a Lionel Ainsworth drive which could only be parried back into play by Marian Kello, showed glimpses of his potential, and helped make up for cruciate ligament injuries which have blighted him in each of the last two seasons.

"I can't sum up how I felt when I scored - the main thing was just to get the three points," said Erwin. "The goal was just a bonus, especially on my debut. I just want to stay injury free now because I have had knee ligament injuries in both legs in the last two years. It has been murder, but I need to kick on now."

The narrative of Motherwell in recent seasons has been Stuart McCall working wonders amid serious squad shortages, but the absence of star names can rarely have been as marked as it was yesterday. While Shaun Hutchinson, Henri Anier and James McFadden have moved on this summer, also posted missing on the injured list yesterday were Iain Vigurs, Simon Ramsden and Steven Hammell.

"I can make excuses now that I wouldn't have done if we'd lost because that would've been sour grapes," said McCall. "We had a lot of quality missing from our squad out there and we haven't yet replaced those who've left.

"There were players below par out there and we won't get away with that all season. But things will get easier over the next few weeks as we bring new faces in and we add quality. Lee had a terrific debut and looked dangerous all day. He's got the potential to be a good player for us - no doubt."

While the result might have been different had St Mirren skipper Steven Thompson not been sitting this one out with a groin strain, St Mirren played the more cohesive football, with only the killer instinct of new boys James Marwood, signed from Gateshead this summer, and Callum Ball, of Derby, proving suspect. On another day, the latter could have notched a second half hat-trick, while Gregg Wylde also forced a fine save from Dan Twardzik, Motherwell's new Czech goalkeeper.

Although their efforts became desperate following the dismissal of Goodwin, it was little wonder their players felt aggrieved. "We are trying to understand how we lost that - we were sharp, we moved the ball about well and created lots of chances," said St Mirren's John McGinn, whose own performance merited praise. "It was something of a bad habit last year, us playing well and losing games so we are desperate not to continue that this season."