Albion Rovers 1 – 3 Motherwell
The Steelmen got their pre-season fixtures underway with a short trip to Coatbridge to take on League One outfit Albion Rovers.
On a windy, wet afternoon, Mark McGhee’s men put in a dominant performance and ran out 3-1 winners.
Debuts were handed to Ben Heneghan and Jacob Blyth, and youngsters Jack McMillan and Allan Campbell started for the ‘Well.
It took around 20 minutes for the game to settle down, with some scrappy play in the opening exchanges.
Blyth looked hungry from the start, chasing down every ball and winning his aerial battles well.
And in defence, Ben Heneghan settled in comfortably alongside veteran McManus, and on the tenth minute the young centre-back thwarted an Albion chance by stepping up and catching trialist Calum Ferguson offside.
Blyth found himself through down the left-channel, but from a tight angle failed to test Albion stopper Ross Stewart.
Dom Thomas received the ball from Marvin Johnson after some tricky play down the right, and the midfielder curled an ambitious attempt on goal that found the target, but also the hands of Stewart.
Samson’s first real threat came just before the 20th minute, when a curled cross bounced its way in to the box, but the keeper gathered reliably with an onrushing Albion forward striding in looking for the follow-up.
Marvin Johnson produced a fine moment of individual skill to evade a number of challenges and drive towards goal, but sound defending stopped the midfielder from bursting into the box.
Thomas and Johnson swapped sides after 20 minutes, and the latter fed a neat through ball into the path of Louis Moult who found himself one-on-one with the keeper, but he fired over the bar.
Despite Motherwell’s strong start, Albion’s Paul Willis slotted the ball past Samson in the 25th minute after a fine pass left the midfielder with just the keeper to beat.
Albion grew confident after their goal, and a stinging cross was headed clear by McManus on the half hour mark.
But from then on, it was all Motherwell and Mark McGhee’s side strolled the rest of the match.
Blyth worked himself into some pace just outside the box after Lasley found the strikers feet, but the 23-year-old dragged his shot wide.
With ten-minutes of the opening half left to play, the Steelmen enjoyed a confident spell of possession around the edge of the Albion Rovers box, but a number of brave blocks kept the ‘Well out and eventually the ball ran out of play for a goal-kick.
And the growing pressure paid off just before the break as the Fir Parkers equalised.
Some hard-work in the box from Johnson to shrug off a number of challenges left the midfielder with a yard of space, and he swung the ball across goal. The cross was met by the head of Louis Moult who drew the ‘Well level with 5 minutes of the half remaining.
And a couple of minutes later, Mark McGhee’s men took the lead. Marvin Johnson turned on the edge of the area and fired low past Stewart, who could only get finger tips on the ball.
It nearly looked to be three for Motherwell in the space of 5 minutes, after Moult nearly scored a great solo goal. The forward dribbled past a number of challenges and fired on goal, but his powerful strike was well held by Stewart.
The ‘Well boss made a couple of changes at the break, with Cadden and Kennedy coming on for McMillan and goal-scorer Johnson.
Albion looked to tire after the first 20 minutes as the Steelmen grew in to the game and the second half got off on the same foot in which the first ended, with Motherwell firmly on top.
Moult dribbled in to the box and got a shot away from a tight angle on the 54th minute, but the shot was collected comfortably.
Ainsworth was brought in to the action on 56 minutes. The winger replaced youngster Allan Campbell.
Cadden was drafted in to Campbell’s spot to allow Ainsworth to occupy the right flank, and the tricky winger didn’t take long to get involved, as he danced his way to the by-line, but his attempted cross was blocked.
Albion made a trio of changes on the hour mark and McGhee made a couple more himself, as Chalmers and Ferguson came on for McManus and Hammell.
A wonderful lofted ball from Moult to Blyth in the 65th minute was a stretch too far for the Englishman, who failed to get a strong, first-time shot on goal and the ball went wide of the mark.
Another change was made as debutant Ben Heneghan made way to a great reception from the travelling ‘Wells fans. The big centre-back was replaced by Davie Turnbull after a fantastic performance.
And not long after, Louis Moult and another ‘Well debutant Jacob Blyth made way to a similar reception from the fans. The forwards were replaced by Moore and Mackin.
Mackin had an ambitious strike at goal just minutes after being introduced, but it never looked to trouble the keeper and flew wide.
But before long Motherwell had three, thanks to a wonder goal from the captain.
A corner from Dom Thomas was headed clear only as far as Keith Lasley on the edge of the box, who showed incredible composure to stroke a volley into the bottom corner.
A free-kick was awarded to the Steelmen on 70 minutes, and a dipping strike on target from 25-yards from Ainsworth tested the Albion stopper.
Dithering defensive work almost rewarded Motherwell with a fourth, as Mackin looked to sniff out a chance before the ball was eventually hooked clear.
A corner from Thomas was headed away and eventually worked its way back to the youngster, who hit a neat swerving strike on the bounce to bring out a good save from Stewart.
Ainsworth’s inch perfect cross found the head of Moore, who headed just over the bar.
Some great forward play by 19-year-old Mackin fed in Ainsworth, who fired straight at Stewart.
And the youngster was involved immediately again, as he teed up Moore who fired over the bar.
Moore had another good attempt with just minutes left to play, but he failed to find the target.
The full-time whistle signalled the end of a strong first outing for Mark McGhee’s men, who showed mental strength to come back from an early set-back and then never looked in doubt as they dominated at Cliftonhill.
Motherwell: Samson, McMillan (Kennedy – 46mins), Hammell (Chalmers – 57mins), Heneghan (Turnbull – 64mins), McManus (Ferguson – 57mins), Campbell (Ainsworth – 52mins), Thomas, Lasley, Johnson (Cadden – 46mins), Moult (Moore – 69mins), Blyth (Mackin – 69mins)
Subs Not Used: Brill