ST JOHNSTONE’S reputation for defensive meanness was carefully constructed with seven clean sheets posted in their previous eight matches.

But it was undone in the opening 17 minutes as Tom Aldred and Danny Johnson took full advantage of Perth profligacy to direct Motherwell towards their first win at sleet-lashed McDiarmid Park in 10 attempts.

Saints manager Tommy Wright’s aspirations of matching a club record of nine games undefeated and, more importantly, claiming fourth spot in the Premiership standings was also undermined by yet another spot-kick miss, with Matty Kennedy the latest culprit as they slipped to seventh.

A late Jason Kerr header teed-up an anxious finale for their manager Stephen Robinson but his resolute Fir Park side stood firm.

“It was a really tough game and a scrappy one,” said Robinson.

“We showed a tremendous among of character. We dug in and battled hard in really difficult conditions.

“We’ve had very good performances and not got results in the last month but our performance levels are what they were last season again.”

Rival manager Wright admitted his side had paid the price for being caught cold at the outset.

“I can’t be too critical of them. I think we deserved a draw out of it on the chances we made,” he said.

“That’s the end of the run we have been. That doesn’t bother me. But it coincides with dropping three points.”

With five losses on their previous half dozen road trips they might have been forgiven for adopting a cautious approach but ‘Well took just 90 seconds to seize the initiative.

David Turnbull’s teasing corner kick evaded a posse of players in the six yard box but alert English defender Aldred stole in at the back post to stretch and prod home the opener.

The notoriously frugal Perth defence was far from secure as Motherwell punished them again in the 17th minute.

Turnbull completely miscued Liam Grimshaw’s cross with the target at his mercy but it rolled kindly to Danny Johnson and the striker instinctively hoisted a close range finish into the roof of the net.

Saints were gifted a 25th minute opportunity to trim the deficit when Charles Dunne handled a Kennedy cross but the winger was denied by a superb stretching save from keeper Mark Gillespie, with home fans reflecting ruefully on four misses in the last five attempts.

A timely David Wotherspoon block on the line prevented Curtis Main glancing home another troublesome Turnbull corner and at the other end Mark Kerr’s powerful 30-yard drive clipped Aldred’s head and veered inches wide.

Before the interval, Gillespie was called upon to grip a David McMillan header before dropping to divert a raking Kennedy shot round the post.

Saints manager Wright rated it a good save from Gillespie rather than a weak effort from his player.

“I am getting fed up with the misses but Matty took the last one and scored. It was right in the corner.”

Former Dundalk striker McMillan wasted a chance to make inroads near the hour-mark when he volleyed Kennedy’s tempting cross high over the target.

With seven minutes remaining Kerr crashed home a thundering header from another Kennedy delivery and Motherwell survived a late penalty claim when Perth substitute Danny Swanson was bundled over by Dunne, with referee Alan Muir unmoved.