Motherwell U19s booked their place in the 3rd round to the SFA Youth Cup thanks to three second-half goals against Stirling Albion.
Neither team could break the deadlock in the opening 45 but strikes after the interval from Josh Watt, Jamie Pollock and Steve Howarth was enough to give the young Steelmen a win.
Manager Gordon Young plumped for the same starting eleven that were held to a 1-1 draw with Aberdeen the previous week. ‘Well were boosted by the return of top-scorer Steve Howarth who had recovered from an ankle knock to take his place amongst the substitutes.
Both teams spent the first ten minutes feeling each other out; the game being played predominantly in the middle of the park. However, things exploded to life on the 13th minute mark when Watt almost opened the scoring for the Steelmen.
Collecting a magnificent 50-yard cross-field diagonal from Pollock, the Glasgow-born youngster, who only recently turned seventeen, skipped past two challenges before shooting across the goalkeeper only for the ball to drop agonisingly wide of the far post.
Keiran McGachie was next to threaten for the home side. The former Stenhousemuir man collected a well-worked throw-in on the edge of the area and his quick turn and shot was well saved by Murray Jackson at the second attempt. Two minutes later, Ross McKinnon fired a curling kick from the edge of the box into the hands of the Stirling as ‘Well continued to look for the opener.
It took the visitor almost 40 minutes to register an effort in an otherwise quiet first half.
Centre midfielder Daley McSorley was the first to have a go, but his thirty-yard strike was deflected wide of the post at the expense of a corner. Two minutes later, Andy Pender found space on the left flank and, after cutting inside, fired a low curling effort that forced Tom Bradley into a decent low save down to his left.
But it was the Steelmen who would record the last real chance of the half and it was that man Watt again causing the problems.
After intercepting a loose midfield pass on the half-way line, the winger burst clear, showing defender Ross Alexander a clean pair of heels. Bearing down on goal the opener looked imminent but the pint-sized predator could only blaze a shot high over the bar and the chance was gone.
Level then at the interval and Gordon Young opted to make a change with Bradley Halsman replacing Ryan Scanlan in the middle of the park.
The Steelmen came out the traps quicker in a pattern that would match the majority of the second half. After just five minutes, Captain Ross McKinnon, normally a left-back, created space for himself inside the box with a neat touch but his low angled shot was well saved by the feet of Jackson. The rebound landed, awkwardly, at the feet of substitute Halsman on the edge of the area but his shot sailed high and wide.
‘Well continued to press in search of the opener and McGachie was once again denied by Jackson after the big striker had cut in from the left touchline, danced past two challenges, before unleashing a curling shot that was turned away in spectacular style by the Albion number one.
Stirling’s reply came via a weak effort from Gary Brass that presented Bradley no problems whatsoever.
Motherwell continued to push and push in search of a breakthrough but the Binos were in a stubborn mood. Lee Erwin got on the end of a lofted through ball only to drag a shot way wide of goal. Moments later, Halsman had a stinging drive from the edge of the area comfortably caught by Jackson and you had the feelings it may well be one of those afternoons.
But the deadlock was eventually broke after 67 minutes and Josh Watt got the goal his play deserved. A cross from the left, by Watt, caused all sorts of problems inside the Stirling box but Euan Murray just couldn’t put a finish on it. McSorley’s poor clearance landed at the feet of the winger who turned inside Danny Ashe and unleashed a stunning thirty-yard bullet that flew past Jackson into the roof of the net.
Incredibly, moments later, Watt almost doubled his tally when he got on the end of a cracking cross from substitute Howarth but could only smash his shot into the ground and Jackson was well-placed to catch.
With 13 minutes left on the clock, Albion passed up a great chance to equalise. A long diagonal ball from left-back Matthew Johnston dropped kindly for Brass inside the area. The big striker had his shot blocked brilliantly by Murray, only for it to loop up kindly for McSorley but the midfielder could only head over with Bradley doing just enough to put off the midfielder.
It was to prove a crucial and costly miss as Motherwell would secure the win some eight minutes later.
Liam Sloan looped a pass back towards Tom Bradley with the Binos pressing high up the field. The former Bristol City stopper lashed a ferocious first time volley down field putting Motherwell immediately on the attack.
Howarth managed to control the ball and prod it to the supporting Pollock who did fantastically well to lob it neatly over the out-rushing Jackson and into the net. Game over!
Unbelievably, less than ninety seconds later, Pollock almost repeated that feat when he got on the end of a McKinnon through ball, lobbed the goalkeeper but his effort dropped just over the bar.
However, ‘Well wouldn’t be prevented from adding a third as Steve Howarth grabbed his fifth of the season with virtually the last kick off the ball.
Pollock won and took a free-kick on the edge of the box that careered back off the wall. The Scotland U19 maestro teed up Watt with a neat wide ball but the quality was yet to come.
Watt delivered a stunning back post cross that was met well by Howarth who finished with some aplomb, turning a difficult header into the far corner of the net from six yards out.
It was the exclamation mark on an otherwise comfortable performance from the Steelmen. Stirling battled hard but created little in the way of clear-cut chances and Young’s men deserve to be in the next round.
Motherwell: Bradley, Sloan, Murray, Lynch, McKinnon, Scanlan (Halsman 45), Carswell, Watt, Pollock, Erwin (Connor 84), McGachie (Howarth 68). Subs not used: Muir, Griffin, Brown.