A brace of own goals by Dundee United secured a well-deserved 2-1 victory for the Steelmen at Fir Park this afternoon.
The Steelmen took the lead within the first minutes following a swift counter attack, ending with Scott Severin firing into his own net.
Missed chances galore were the only reason Motherwell didn’t have the match sewn up by half time – and United took advantage, with David Goodwillie lashing home a second half penalty.
However justice was done later in the second half when a fantastic cross from the excellent Chris Humphrey was turned in by the Dundee United right-back Sean Dillon.
Motherwell’s challenge against the men from Tannadice was illustrated by the fact Dundee United came to Fir Park having not lost an away game out-with the Old Firm in over a year. ‘Well, for their part, were looking to build on their first home win of the season against St. Mirren earlier in the month.
Craig Brown sprung a pre-match surprise as he attempted to nullify United’s terrific recent record, replacing John Sutton with Alan Gow; handing the former Rangers man his first SPL start for the Fir Park side. Other than that it was the same team which was defeated 4-1 at Ibrox last week.
It didn’t take long for the gaffer’s decision to be vindicated as Alan Gow capatalised on a Scott Severin slip in the very first minute before striding into the United half. His pass into Blackman was beautifully weighted and allowed the big English striker to turn and feed Murphy in the left channel of the box. Muphy’s low drive was parried by Pernis, but it deflected off Scott Severin – trying to make up for his original mistake – and crossed the line.
The early strike was a sign of things to come as ‘Well went for the jugular. Surging runs from Nick Blackman and Jamie Murphy created excellent openings for ‘Well as, in particular, Garry Kenneth was given a torrid time by vibrant Motherwell front four of Humphrey, Murphy, Blackman and Gow.
Strikes from distance by Steve Jennings and Alan Gow saw the home side threaten to stretch their lead in a blistering opening 15 minutes in which Motherwell could quite easily have been four goals to the good against a sluggish United side.
The only negative of the early stages – although a notable one – came after 20 minutes with the withdrawal of influential midfielder Keith Lasley with a nasty looking knock, to be replaced by Stevie Saunders with Hateley moving into the midfield.
Peter Houston’s men had to wait until almost the half-hour mark for anything resembling a response from his men. It came through captain Jon Daly, as the big Irishman brought a long clearance out of the sky and fed David Robertson out wide. Robertson’s cross perfectly picked out Daly, but thankfully his spectacular scissor-kick was straight into the arms of his fellow countryman Darren Randolph.
The balance of injury misfortune was redressed ten minutes before the break as gifted wide-man Craig Conway had to be replaced by young Barry Douglas. It was a real blow for United, at a time when they were actually threatening to pin the home side back.
A scrappy closing period to the first half saw both teams’ trade bookings – for Saunders and Buaben – but not too much enterprising football as ‘Well went in at the break one-nil to the good.
As the second half got under way most of the 4635 fans inside Fir Park were hoping to banish the memories of recent sluggish second half performances, especially considering ‘Well could quite easily have built a more substantial lead during an excellent first 45.
Early signs were certainly promising. ‘Well almost doubled their advantage after a stunning Tom Hateley delivery evaded the head of Alan Gow by a matter of inches with Dusan Pernis absolutely stranded.
Yet just 60 seconds later history repeated itself. A rangy long throw by Garry Kenneth was headed straight up into the air by the ‘Well backline, and as the ball dropped out of the sky Stephen Craigan flicked the ball clear with his arm. Ref Steven McLean quickly pointed to the spot.
David Goodwillie stepped up and sent Darren Randolph the wrong way with aplomb, following a stuttering run up, to bring United level in a match which should have been out of sight.
The whistle of young ref Steven McLean was becoming an all-too familiar sound in a bitty, disappointing start to the second half, disrupting any attempts by Craig Brown’s troops to recapture the flow and attacking impetus of an invigorating first half.
A bizarre booking for Chris Humphrey when he merely queried an incorrect decision and the decision to not give Prince Buaben a second yellow card – after he appeared to be reaching to his pocket, until he realised the culprit already had a booking – symptomised a poor afternoon from the rookie whistler.
Despite refereeing inconsistency, Motherwell did manage to regain some semblance of control as the half wore on. Strikes by Alan Gow and Jamie Murphy both tested Dusan Pernis from distance as The Steelmen attempted to chase a deserved lead.
Those efforts were merely the forerunners for something more incisive. Tom Hateley showed marvelous composure in the middle of the park to shake off the attentions of two players before slipping the ball to Chris Humphrey in acres of space down the right. The English wingers’ brilliant driven cross was simply impossible to defend and Sean Dillon fired into his own net from close range.
‘Well could have extended their lead when Chris Humphrey whipped in a super corner for Steven Saunders to head over.
The miss didn’t prove costly as The Steelmen held on to claim a deserved, and valuable, three points – keeping ‘Well in third place.
[tab:As it happened]
90+1 The match has reached full-time.
90′ SUB Robert McHugh is brought on as a substitute for Chris Humphrey.
88′ Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Chris Humphrey from the left by-line.
88′ Chris Humphrey takes a inswinging corner.
86′ Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Barry Douglas from the right by-line, Mark Reynolds makes a clearance.
83′ David Goodwillie gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Stevie Hammell. Free kick taken by Stevie Hammell.
82′ Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Mark Reynolds by David Goodwillie. Direct free kick taken by Darren Randolph.
81′ Corner taken by Chris Humphrey from the right by-line to the near post, Close range header by Steven Saunders goes over the bar.
81′ Unfair challenge on Steve Jennings by Prince Buaben results in a free kick. Darren Randolph takes the direct free kick.
80′ Paul Dixon challenges Chris Humphrey unfairly and gives away a free kick. Darren Randolph takes the direct free kick.
80′ Steve Jennings concedes a free kick for a foul on David Goodwillie. Free kick taken by Scott Severin.
79′ Stephen Craigan fouled by Jon Daly, the ref awards a free kick. Darren Randolph takes the direct free kick,
79′ SUB David Robertson goes off and Johnny Russell comes on.
77′ SUB John Sutton joins the action as a substitute, replacing Alan Gow.
76′ Unfair challenge on Jamie Murphy by David Robertson results in a free kick. Free kick taken by Stevie Hammell.
76′ BOOKING David Robertson booked for unsporting behaviour.
74′ Assist by Tom Hateley.
74′ GOAL – Sean Dillon: Motherwell 2 – 1 Dundee Utd Sean Dillon puts the ball into his own net.
72′ Jon Daly gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Stephen Craigan. Direct free kick taken by Darren Randolph.
71′ Inswinging corner taken from the left by-line by Chris Humphrey.
71′ Jamie Murphy takes a shot from 20 yards. Dusan Pernis makes a save.
69′ Free kick awarded for a foul by David Goodwillie on Mark Reynolds. Darren Randolph takes the direct free kick.
68′ Alan Gow is flagged offside by the assistant referee. Direct free kick taken by Garry Kenneth.
67′ Drilled right-footed shot by Chris Humphrey. Tom Hateley gets a block in. Inswinging corner taken from the right by-line by Chris Humphrey.
65′ The assistant referee signals for offside against Alan Gow. Dusan Pernis takes the direct free kick.
63′ Morgaro Gomis gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Stephen Craigan. Stephen Craigan restarts play with the free kick.
61′ BOOKING Chris Humphrey is booked.
60‘ Alan Gow produces a left-footed shot from the edge of the box and misses to the right of the target.
58′ Steve Jennings challenges David Goodwillie unfairly and gives away a free kick. Garry Kenneth restarts play with the free kick.
57′ Nick Blackman is caught offside. Direct free kick taken by Scott Severin.
56′ Unfair challenge on Jamie Murphy by David Robertson results in a free kick. Stevie Hammell takes the direct free kick.
55′ Barry Douglas takes the inswinging corner, save by Darren Randolph.
55′ Steve Jennings concedes a free kick for a foul on Morgaro Gomis. Scott Severin restarts play with the free kick.
54′ Free kick awarded for a foul by David Robertson on Nick Blackman. Tom Hateley takes the free kick.
53′ Alan Gow has an effort at goal. Save made by Dusan Pernis.
52′ The assistant referee flags for offside against Barry Douglas. Free kick taken by Darren Randolph.
51′ Alan Gow concedes a free kick for a foul on Dusan Pernis. Dusan Pernis restarts play with the free kick.
49′ GOAL – David Goodwillie: Motherwell 1 – 1 Dundee Utd David Goodwillie scores a penalty.
49′ PENALTY for Dundee Utd. Stephen Craigan handball in the area
48′ Shot by Nick Blackman from 30 yards. Dusan Pernis makes a save.
47′ Steven Saunders is ruled offside. Dusan Pernis takes the free kick.
47′ David Goodwillie gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Alan Gow. Tom Hateley takes the free kick.
46′ Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Chris Humphrey.
45′ KICK OFF The match restarts for the second half.
45+3 HALF TIME The match has reached half-time.
45+1 Free kick awarded for a foul by Alan Gow on Prince Buaben. Scott Severin takes the free kick.
43′ Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Scott Severin by Steven Saunders. Dusan Pernis restarts play with the free kick.
43′ BOOKING Steven Saunders is shown a yellow card.
42′ Unfair challenge on Darren Randolph by Jon Daly results in a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Darren Randolph. .
42′ Corner taken left-footed by Barry Douglas, Darren Randolph makes a save.
40‘ Unfair challenge on Stevie Hammell by David Goodwillie results in a free kick. Stevie Hammell takes the direct free kick.
39′ Unfair challenge on David Goodwillie by Stephen Craigan results in a free kick. Barry Douglas takes the free kick, Prince Buaben takes a shot from just outside the penalty area which clears the crossbar.
36′ Prince Buaben challenges Jamie Murphy unfairly and gives away a free kick. Mark Reynolds takes the free kick. Corner taken by Chris Humphrey. Chris Humphrey takes a corner.
36′ BOOKING Prince Buaben is cautioned.
34′ SUB Barry Douglas comes on in place of Craig Conway.
33′ The referee blows for offside against Craig Conway. Direct free kick taken by Darren Randolph.
31′ Drilled right-footed shot by Jamie Murphy. Save by Dusan Pernis.
30′ Tom Hateley fouled by David Goodwillie, the ref awards a free kick. Free kick taken by Stephen Craigan.
29′ Morgaro Gomis challenges Steve Jennings unfairly and gives away a free kick. Darren Randolph takes the free kick.
28′ SUB Steven Saunders replaces Keith Lasley.
17′ Effort on goal by Steve Jennings from deep inside the area goes harmlessly over the bar.
15′ Corner taken right-footed by Chris Humphrey from the left by-line to the near post, Sean Dillon makes a clearance.
13′ The assistant referee signals for offside against David Goodwillie. Direct free kick taken by Tom Hateley.
12′ Drilled left-footed shot by Alan Gow. Dusan Pernis makes a save.
11′ Craig Conway concedes a free kick for a foul on Tom Hateley. Tom Hateley restarts play with the free kick.
9′ Corner from left by-line taken by Chris Humphrey.
9′ Shot from 25 yards by Jamie Murphy. Save made by Dusan Pernis.
5′ Free kick awarded for a foul by Craig Conway on Tom Hateley. Darren Randolph takes the direct free kick.
4′ Stephen Craigan fouled by Jon Daly, the ref awards a free kick. Tom Hateley takes the free kick.
3′ Garry Kenneth gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Alan Gow. Direct free kick taken by Tom Hateley.
1′ GOAL – Scott Severin: Motherwell 1 – 0 Dundee Utd Own goal by Scott Severin. Motherwell 1-0 Dundee Utd.
0′ KICK OFF The game begins.
Motherwell boss Craig Brown:
“We have no chance of being in the first two. That’s not being defeatist, that is being realistic. I think we can occasionally get a result against the Old Firm, but over the period there is no way any team will divide the top two.
“If it’s the same at the end of the season we can say we are third best.We have no chance of being in the first two. That’s not being defeatist, that is being realistic,” he said after the 2-1 home win over Dundee United.
“I think we can occasionally get a result against the Old Firm, but over the period there is no way any team will divide the top two.
“If it’s the same at the end of the season we can say we are third best.”
Dundee Utd manager Peter Houston:
“I thought we were poor and what we’ve got to find out is why we were dictated to in the first half.They were the better team and created more chances,” Houston added. “It was 27 minutes before Jon Daly had a shot at goal; that’s not the United I know.”
“I felt we got a wee break getting back into the game with a penalty kick. Then it comes to the bit where we actually do okay for 20-25 minutes and then Motherwell score.
“I’ve got to find out why we’re not starting games well. I had a right blast at them at half-time. The only reason I did that was because we were second to every ball.”