Motherwell suffered a 2-0 defeat to Dundee United this evening following a lacklustre performance at Tannadice.
Second-half goals from Johnny Russell and David Goodwillie earned the home side a comfortable victory over the Steelmen.
After a first period of fairly concerted pressure from the hosts, they eventually took the lead after the break when Russell nodded home after Garry Kenneth won a header from a Paul Dixon corner.
Russell then turned provider for Goodwillie to make sure of the points on the stroke of full-time following a swift breakaway.
It was a disappointing night for Stuart McCall’s men, who returned to Dundee in a confident mood just three days after the Scottish Cup victory over United’s neighbours.
The manager made one change to the team which won 4-0 at Dens Park, with Ross Forbes taking the place of Marc Fitzpatrick, who turned down a contract extension to remain at the club.
That change facilitated a change in formation, with Motherwell playing a 4-3-3 with Chris Humphrey and Jamie Murphy flanking lone striker John Sutton.
Peter Houston’s men were playing their first SPL home game in two months and were clearly keen to claim a comprehensive victory, starting with Russell, Goodwillie and captain Jon Daly in an attacking starting eleven.
It didn’t take long for their attacking intent to become apparent, striking the post within three minutes. A long ball was played up to the sought-after Goodwillie, and he cushioned a delightful flick into the path of Daly. The United captain teed up Russell on the edge of the box and he saw his low drive come crashing back the base of the post.
Five minutes later the hosts created another chance as a Scott Robertson cross was only cleared as far as Morgaro Gomis on the edge of the area but he dragged his volley well wide.
United remained on top in the opening stages and two more chances soon followed. Firstly, Prince Buaben fired in a vicious 20 yard drive which forced Darren Randolph to parry wide before Goodwillie shot tamely at the Motherwell keeper from close range.
Then out of nothing and against the run of play, Jamie Murphy almost scored at the other end when he jinked in from the right flank before firing in a rasping drive inches past the post.
Dundee soon regained control however and Morgaro Gomis was obviously fancying his chances of getting his name on the score-sheet to warm up a bitterly cold Dundee night as he fired two shots from distance in the space of five minutes.
The first effort was straight at Randolph following some neat build-up play, before, with 15 minutes until the break, he forced the big English stopper to sprawl full length to parry another shot from the edge of the box wide.
A Forbes free-kick from 30 yards out proved to be the closest ‘Well would come in the remainder of the first half. His powerful strike drifted just over Pernis’ crossbar as the opening 45 drew to a close.
United flew out of the traps in the second-half and almost broke the deadlock when Goodwillie broke down the left and fired in a teasing cross. With Daly arriving, Randolph could only parry the ball as far as Buaben, who fired wide from the corner of the six-yard area.
The already-frustrated hosts had even more cause for complaints moments later as Russell appeared to be bundled over in the box by Chris Humphrey, although referee Iain Brines booked the midfielder for diving.
United continued to attack and their pressure paid off on 53 minutes with the opening goal. A Dixon cross was won at the back post by the towering Kenneth and his header across the six-yard box was nodded home by Russell, via the post.
With Motherwell looking to steady the ship, the Arabs were restricted to long range efforts, the most dangerous of which was from Goodwillie, who thrashed a 25-yard dive towards goal. Randolph spilled the ball at first but then threw himself to the ground to grasp the ball ahead of the incoming Daly.
United were nearly made to pay for not taking advantage of their dominance as Motherwell went close to snatching the most unlikely of draws late on. Murphy lifted a beautiful ball to the back post where Humphrey arrived to head the ball towards goal, only for Pernis to push the ball away on the line.
But they did make sure of the points in the 90th minute with Russell broke free and fed Goodwillie, who slotted home from six yards to make it 2-0.
[tab:As it happened]
90’+2 FULL-TIME The referee signals the end of the game.
90′ GOAL David Goodwillie finds the net with a goal from inside the penalty area to the bottom left corner of the goal.
89′ SUB Stuart Armstrong comes on for Jon Daly.
84′ A cross is delivered by Jamie Murphy, Chris Humphrey takes a shot. Brilliant save by Dusan Pernis.
83′ SUB Craig Conway joins the action as a substitute, replacing David Robertson.
81′ SUB Esteban Casagolda comes on for Keith Lasley.
79′ Foul by John Sutton on Garry Kenneth, free kick awarded. Sean Dillon takes the free kick.
79′ SUB Scott Robertson replaces Prince Buaben for the home side.
78′ David Goodwillie takes a shot. Save by Darren Randolph.
77′ Free kick awarded for a foul by Steve Jennings on Morgaro Gomis. Free kick crossed by Paul Dixon, Stephen Craigan manages to make a clearance.
75′ SUB Jamie Pollock comes on for Ross Forbes.
69′ Ross Forbes concedes a free kick for a foul on David Goodwillie. Sean Dillon takes the free kick.
65′ Inswinging corner taken by Paul Dixon from the right by-line played to the near post, Tom Hateley manages to make a clearance.
64′ Keith Lasley fouled by Prince Buaben, the ref awards a free kick. Tom Hateley has an effort direct from the free kick, Prince Buaben gets a block in.
62′ Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Mark Reynolds by Jon Daly. Direct free kick taken by Darren Randolph.
62′ David Goodwillie takes a shot. Save by Darren Randolph.
53′ GOAL Johnny Russell scores a headed goal from a Paul Dixon corner, assist by Garry Kenneth.
51′ BOOKING Paul Dixon is shown a yellow card.
46′ KICK-OFF The match restarts for the second half.
45′ HALF-TIME Referee Iain Brines brings the first-half to an end.
44′ Outswinging corner taken by Paul Dixon from the left by-line, Steve Jennings manages to make a clearance.
35′ Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on John Sutton by Garry Kenneth. Direct effort from the free kick comes in from Ross Forbes.
33′ The assistant referee flags for offside against Jamie Murphy. Garry Kenneth takes the indirect free kick.
33′ Unfair challenge on Tom Hateley by David Goodwillie results in a free kick. Ross Forbes delivers the ball from the free kick left-footed from right wing.
30′ Unfair challenge on Jamie Murphy by Sean Dillon results in a free kick. Jamie Murphy takes the direct free kick.
29′ Morgaro Gomis takes a shot. Save made by Darren Randolph.
28′ Foul by Keith Lasley on Johnny Russell, free kick awarded. Sean Dillon takes the free kick.
25′ The offside flag is raised against Jon Daly. Stephen Craigan restarts play with the free kick.
24′ Morgaro Gomis takes a shot. Darren Randolph makes a save.
20′ Shot from just outside the box by John Sutton goes over the bar.
19′ Corner taken left-footed by Paul Dixon from the right by-line, save made by Darren Randolph.
16′ David Goodwillie takes a shot. Save by Darren Randolph.
14′ Outswinging corner taken by Paul Dixon from the left by-line, Stephen Craigan manages to make a clearance.
14′ Prince Buaben takes a shot. Darren Randolph makes a save.
13′ Keith Lasley challenges Garry Kenneth unfairly and gives away a free kick. Paul Dixon takes the direct free kick.
9′ John Sutton challenges Sean Dillon unfairly and gives away a free kick. Garry Kenneth takes the direct free kick.
9′ Morgaro Gomis has an effort at goal from just inside the box that misses to the right of the goal.
4′ Johnny Russell has an effort at goal from outside the box, hitting the post.
1′ KICK-OFF The game begins.
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“It’s a disappointing result. We didn’t start well enough in the first ten or 15 minutes but once we weathered the storm in the first half, I thought it ended up quite even.
“But, when you are up against a strike-force like Daly, Russell and Goodwillie you have to accept that you will be on the back-foot at times.
“All managers will tell you they are hugely disappointed to lose a goal from a set-piece. Kenneth is a big lad but it’s the second balls you have got to be alert to and we weren’t.
“After that we huffed and puffed. The ‘keeper made an outstanding save from Humphs with five minutes to go and we just got caught pushing forward at the end.
“I’m relatively pleased with the possession we had. We had the ball in good areas – although perhaps we should have done more with it. We didn’t make the keeper do enough work.”
Dundee Utd manager Peter Houston:
“Johnny Russell scoring was so well deserved because he put in a great shift. The boy has a great chance in the game.
“He is not even playing in his best position yet because he was a right good striker and a good goalscorer through all the youth teams.
“It was great to see a young lad like Stuart Armstrong come on and be positive, driving forward into the box, and one where I thought he was going to pull the trigger, he laid Goodie in, who showed good composure and a great finish.
“It wasn’t Goodie’s best night but I thought if you keep him on the park, he is liable to score a goal, and he did.”