Motherwell 4 – 1 Ross County
On a weekend for disguises Motherwell were unrecognisable from the team that lost to Inverness CT on Wednesday night. Two goals in each half and a couple of efforts off the cross bar earned ‘Well an emphatic victory over SPL strugglers Ross County.
And after the let down in midweek, the experienced players responded brilliantly. Scott McDonald and a rejuvenated Lionel Ainsworth were rewarded with a goal each, along with a first for the hard working Richard Tait. County full back Kenny Van Der Weg, who will have recurring nightmares of Chris Cadden powering past him, also had the misfortune of claiming an own goal.
Facing their second Highland visitors in four days Mark McGhee made three changes from the midweek defeat to Inverness. McDonald returned to partner Louis Moult with Ainsworth, in his first start since August, aiming to support the front two and claim a permanent place in the team. Following a superb 80 minutes and standing ovation from the Fir Park fans it would be difficult to deny him a start at Dundee next week.
Keith Lasley’s broken toe meant a league debut for Lee Lucas who has had to wait patiently for a starting place after being injured in the cup tie at Annan in July. However, his partnership with Craig Clay in the middle of the park was impressive.
Following the disappointing performance and lack of fire power in midweek Motherwell set out to test a County side with the poorest goal difference in the SPL.
And it took Motherwell only seven minutes to breach the leaky Staggies defence.
Chris Cadden, who had the measure of Kenny Van Der Weg throughout the game, burst past the County fullback only to be tripped 10 yards from the goal-line. Ainsworth’s measured free kick was perfect for the unmarked McDonald to stoop and nod the ball home for his 3rd of the season.
Suddenly ‘Well’s passing was crisp and accurate as the visitors were left chasing the ball and the game.
Van Der Weg was still chasing Cadden and another burst from the ‘Well midfielder took him to the opposition box. His pass found Moult who laid the ball off for McDonald but he dragged his shot agonisingly beyond the post from 10 yards.
There was no respite for the over worked Dingwall defence and after stretching to reach Ainsworth’s cross, Moult’s touch carried the ball just over the bar.
Scott McDonald was next for a strike at goal, turning at the corner of the penalty box before driving the ball over the bar.
A second goal was overdue and it arrived on the half hour mark. McDonald fed in Moult and he cleverly worked his way along the goal line before cutting the ball back for the waiting Cadden only for Van Der Weg’s touch to deflect the ball over his own goal line.
Local lad Ian McShane gave notice that County weren’t out of it with a 20-yard drive that skimmed narrowly past with Craig Samson at full stretch.
The visitors were soon on the back foot again and Van Der Weg’s first half got worse when he was cautioned after yet again tripping Cadden.
On the stroke of half-time and with County gaining in possession around the home box, Ben Heneghan’s brave and timely block prevented Michael Gardyne’s shot hitting the target.
Jim McIntyre’s thoughts that his team might stage a second half fightback were erased seven minutes after the restart.
Richard Tait’s trademark race down the right carried him into the box but rather than cutting the ball back the full back elected to unleash a thumping drive which Scott Fox could only parry inside his left hand post.
It was then a question of whether Motherwell had an appetite for more goals and Ainsworth proved he was in the mood two minutes later with an audacious free kick from fully 35 yards, casually curling the ball off the top of the cross bar.
The ‘Well wide man was not to be denied though, and after 63 minutes claimed the goal his performance earned. McDonald did well to hold off former teammate Paul Quinn before slipping the ball inside. With Fox advancing from his goal Ainsworth sped past the ‘keeper before calmly stroking the ball over the goal line.
Two minutes later Ainsworth came within inches of adding another, volleying Cadden’s cutback across the face of the goal and just beyond the far post.
Craig Samson then produced his first save of the game rising to his right to push Alex Shalk’s stinging drive away from his goal.
The Fir Park men looked the more likely to add to the scoring add after carrying the ball from his own half Ainsworth’s drive from the middle of the box was deflected over the cross bar.
The Staggies continued to chase a goal and were rewarded 13 minutes from time when Shalk whipped a low shot past Samson to make it 4-1.
‘Well hadn’t given up thoughts of making it five and Lee Lucas almost capped an very impressive league debut setting himself up 20 yards from goal before curling a fabulous effort which Fox touched onto his bar.
Minutes later Lucas left the field to the applause of the home fans as 18-year-old Allan Campbell made his first team debut.
And shortly after that, Ainsworth left the park to a similar reception from the jubilant home support.
It was just the response that Motherwell fans would be hoping for, and they were treated to a good afternoon of football of football too at Fir Park.
Lewis Irons at Fir Park
FT: Motherwell 4 – 1 Ross County
Superb stuff from Mark McGhee’s men, with goals from McDonald, OG, Tait and Ainsworth!
90′ | 4-1
Two minutes added on.
86′ | 4-1
Final Motherwell sub, Ainsworth off for MacLean
83′ | 4-1
Motherwell sub, Campbell on for Lucas.
82′ | 4-1
What a save by Fox to deny Lucas his first goal!! Tipped his 25 yard curler over the bar!
MATCH ATTAX | Young ‘Well fan? Vote for your Man of the Match now. Tweet us your name, age, choice & #MatchAttaxMOTM.
78′ | 4-1
Goal – County pull a goal back, Schalk firing home from a cross. 4-1.
76′ | 4-0
Ball falls into McDonalds path about 25 yards out. He spins and gets a shot off but it’s easy for Fox.
74′ | 4-0
So close again! Ainsworth runs from his own half and dribbles inside past Quinn but his shot is deflected over the bar!
67′ | 4-0
Schalk straight into action, forcing Samson into a good save with a powerful left-footed shot from range.
66′ | 4-0
Ross County sub, Boyce off for Schalk
65′ | 4-0
Nearly 5!! Cadden powers in a cross which takes a touch off Ainsworth but it flashes just wide of the far post.
62′ | 4-0
It’s 4!!!! McDonald slides in AINSWORTH who takes a touch past Fox and cooly slots it home!!! COYW!!!
53′ | 3-0
Quinn booked for wrestling down Moult. Free-kick about 30 yards out…..Ainsworth strikes the bar!! Inches away from 4!!
51′ | 3-0
It’s TAIT with his first Motherwell goal! Overlapped down the right, and fired a powerful shot past Fox. 3-0 to the Steelmen!!!
48′ | 2-0
Booking for Heneghan. Clumsy tackle on Dow after a loose first touch.
McDonald gets the second 45 underway.
Ross County sub at half-time, Curran on for Gardyne
HT: Motherwell 2 – 0 Ross County
Excellent first 45 from the Steelmen!
43′ | 2-0
Davies heads Wood’s corner wide of the post. Samson, so far,
….From that free-kick, Fox gathers Ainsworth’s delivery with ease.
39′ | 2-0
Van Der Weg finally into the book, after Cadden bursts past him. Free-kick in a dangerous area….
37′ | 2-0
Inches past the post from McShane there, a powerful low drive from 20 yards. Close.
35′ | 2-0
First sniff at goal there for County as Davies rises highest to meet a cross but it’s well over the bar.
30′ | 2-0
It’s 2-0!! Moult gets down the left, twists, turns puts the ball across goal and it ends up in the net via Davies!!! COYW!!!
29′ | 1-0
Close! Loose ball lands at McDonald’s feet and he opts for the half volley on his left foot but it flashes just over the bar.
27′ | 1-0
Lovely stuff again there as ‘Well carve open County again but Davies blocks Cadden’s low cross into the box.
22′ | 1-0
From that corner, Moult’s effort goes just past! Really positive start from Motherwell!
22′ | 1-0
Moult gets past Davies but the County man gets a foot on it and it goes out for a corner.
19′ | 1-0
Chance!! Cadden again gets down the right, clips it in to Moult who squares to McDonald but he drags his shot inches past the post
7′ | 1-0
From the free-kick, Ainsworth sticks it right on McDonald’s head and he makes no mistake, powering past Fox. COYW!!!!
7′ | 0-0
Nice turn of pace there to skip past Van Der Weg on the right. Hauled down, no booking.
Ross County get the game underway. COYW!!!
Motherwell manager Mark McGhee:
Ross County manager Jim McIntyre:
|Craig Samson||Scott Fox|
|Richard Tait||Marcus Fraser|
|Ben Heneghan||Michael Gardyne (45)|
|Stephen McManus||Martin Woods|
|(86) Lionel Ainsworth||Ryan Dow|
|Louis Moult||Liam Boyce (67)|
|Chris Cadden||Andrew Davies|
|(83) Lee Lucas||Ian McShane|
|Craig Clay||Chris Burke|
|Jack McMillan||Kenny Van Der Weg|
|Scott McDonald||Paul Quinn|
|Dean Brill||Aaron McCarey|
|Ryan Bowman||Erik Cikos|
|Kieran Kennedy||Chris Routis|
|Jacob Blyth||Jay McEveley|
|David Ferguson||Craig Curran(45)|
|(83) Allan Campbell||Tim Chow|
|(86) Ross MacLean||Alex Schalk (67)|
|5||Shots on target||3|
|7||Shots off target||7|
|Referee: Nick Walsh|