THIS was not, in the end, Greek odyssey to Perth tragedy for Allan Campbell’s Motherwell but the Steelmen could still count themselves a little fortunate to escape McDiamird Park with a point.

With the guests bereft of their young star by his Athens induced absence, it was a match where the drama was found off the pitch rather than on it with Scottish football plunged into yet another debacle that would be at home in Homer’s epic tale. 

There were fleeting moments of delight, no more so than Mark O’Hara’s fine opener, but it was St Johnstone who were left to rue what might have been as they failed to build on Stevie May’s equaliser from the spot. 

Unsurprisingly, Motherwell boss Stephen Robinson only had one thing on his mind after the match as he bemoaned Campbell and Barry Maguire having been identified as close contacts while travelling home from international duty.

“We’d named the team and were ready to go but I got told in a phone call at around 11am from the chief executive [Alan Burrows] the two boys [Campbell and Barry Maguire] couldn’t play,” the Northern Irishman said. “It’s also a double punishment they can’t play next week.

HeraldScotland: Allan Campbell missed out due to covid regulations Allan Campbell missed out due to covid regulations

“I know other clubs found out early in the day on Friday so the communication was poor, really poor. It has to be better than that when you go into an elite environment - allegedly. 

“I am being told a staff member tested positive and then the players weren’t retested before they flew on two flights.

“It’s not my problem if it hasn’t affected Motherwell but it has badly today. Allan Campbell is arguably my best player and I am missing two of my three midfield starters.

“It can be done better. I don’t usually try to jump on people as it’s hard. But communication was a joke.” 

You wouldn’t have known this was a depleted Motherwell eleven when O’Hara finished off a wonderful flowing move down the right to open the scoring. There was a flair of Scotland magic in the exchange, Stephen O’Donnell and Tony Watt drawing Scott Tanser and Jamie McCart out of position to create a Liam Polworth shaped hole in the box. His attempt was blocked but O’Hara pounced to stroke beyond Zander Clark. 

This was less than 20 minutes in but still the St Johnstone disdain was audible. They’d been the better side in the opening period, full of verve and vigour in the midfield and eagerly chasing down their guests’ hesitancy at the back. 

As the Saints battled, the visitors had Aaron Chapman to thank when he darted off his line to block a rampaging Craig Conway and later Devante Cole popped up in his own box to foil David Wotherspoon on the turn.

The guests’ resolve eventually cracked, just minutes from half-time, when the Canadian winger prodded the ball teasingly between May and Bevis Mugabi and the defender nibbled at the bait just enough to bring the striker down. May picked himself up to dispatch the spot kick with aplomb.

It seemed the Saints were now well and truly on the march, but a nasty Murray Davidson fall seemed to snatch away some of their momentum. While they scored minutes after he departed the pitch on a stretcher, there’s no doubt he’d been part of the driving force beside Ali McCann and his energy was missing in a quieter second-half. 

Losing the excellent Conway to an unfortunate fall after the break also did little to help the Saints’ charge. 

HeraldScotland: Murray Davidson, centre, had to be stretchered off following a nasty fall Murray Davidson, centre, had to be stretchered off following a nasty fall

They had the better of the chances with Jason Kerr and Conway going close with headers and were left to rue Chris Kane’s wild strike into the evening sky with the last kick of the ball. For Callum Davidson, however, the condition of his midfielder was his most pressing concern. 

“He [Davidson] fell awkwardly and I can’t say much more than,” said the Saints boss. “It’s more than a dislocated shoulder but I don’t know myself. Craig has broken his nose.

“We started brightly and got good areas. We pressed well in the middle of the pitch then conceded off a counter attack.

“Ali [McCann] was the one getting on the ball and trying to do things. He carried his tasks out and thought he was excellent.”