Motherwell and Inverness played out a no score draw at a rain-soaked Fir Park this afternoon.
It was the proverbial game of two halves, with the wind assisting Caley to dominate much of the opening forty-five.
However, the second half belonged to ‘Well but, despite both teams creating decent enough chances to score, it was defences on top as Stuart McCall’s men recorded their third clean sheet in four games.
The new Motherwell boss made one change from the team that lost to Dundee Utd during the week. Mark Reynolds, who would most probably have missed the game through injury, is in Sheffield tying up a deal to join Alan Irvine’s Sheffield Wednesday. His replacement was Shaun Hutchinson, making his first start in Claret and Amber in just under thirteen months.
An extremely quiet opening fifteen minutes was rudely interrupted by Chris Innes, whose foul on John Sutton on the edge of the box presented Ross Forbes with a chance to strike at goal. However, the youngster’s effort blasted off the Caley wall before being hooked clear.
The Highlanders replied immediately by forcing a couple of corners but it was the wind that was playing more havoc than the deliveries itself; Motherwell eventually managing to clear both efforts into the box.
It was a miserable half hour with neither team even mustering a shot at goal, never mind on target, but Terry Butcher’s men created three great chances to take the lead just after. Rooney broke the offside trap and, one on one with Randolph, crashed a shot at goal that the big Irishman did brilliantly to turn away.
The danger wasn’t over there though as, from the resulting corner, Ross Tokely’s shot was narrowly missed by Rooney, allowing Randolph to block. The ball broke out to Graeme Shinnie who blasted an effort at goal, once again expertly turned away by the Motherwell goalkeeper.
Inverness continued to attack and Rooney’s shot from distance proved difficult for Randolph on the slippy surface but, again, the former Charlton man was on hand to catch comfortably. Even full-back Ross Tokely was getting in on the act, striking a bouncing shot from distance that dropped narrowly wide of the post with Randolph at full stretch.
Motherwell started the second half brighter and Murphy forced Esson into a decent low stop with a fizzing shot from the edge of the box. Chris Humphrey followed that with a terrific run and low cross across the face, but no one was there to take the chance and Tokely hooked it clear.
The Steelmen continued to have more of it in the second half with Murphy being the main danger. The former Scotland U21 man had another effort at goal after 65 minutes, after some delightful approach work, but he dragged his shot just wide.
Motherwell were pushing and another good delivery from Humphrey almost created a golden opportunity for Ross Forbes. The Jamaican delivered a lovely bouncing ball towards the back post and, after being missed by a precession of strikers and defenders, the ball landed at the youngster. However, it was a difficult ball to control and his effort was blocked by Esson at the expense of a corner.
For all Motherwell’s dominance, Richie Foran had a golden opportunity to put his side ahead with fourteen minutes left to play. Shaun Hutchinson misjudged a ball in the middle of the park; allowing the former ‘Well striker a clear run at goal. Darren Randolph done well to narrow the angle against his fellow Dubliner, and Foran could only pull his effort marginally wide of the post, much to the relief of the majority of the 3,728 punters inside Fir Park.
The same player had another shot two minutes later but he was again denied by the well placed Randolph as the scores stayed level.
Motherwell made a few changes with young Steven Meechan making his first appearance for over a year and Esteban Casagolda getting another run. And it was the former Scotland U19 star Meechan who would bring ‘Well back into the game with a fizzing long range effort that dropped just over the bar.
Motherwell continued to push for a winner and Murphy almost was the hero again for ‘Well but, despite racing clear of the visiting defence, he could only prod a shot wide with his right foot when an effort with the left may have brought more joy.
In the end, both teams had to settle for a share of the spoils; probably a fair result in the end. Motherwell now face Hibs at Fir Park next week whilst Butcher’s men face a daunting trip to Ibrox on Tuesday night.
[tab:As it happened]
Graham Barnstaple at Fir Park
90mins+2 – Full time
90mins – Thankfully only 2 minutes are being added on!
84mins – Meechan 25 yarder just fizzes over the bar
81mins – Casagolda on for Forbes – is this his moment? Duncan off and Sanchez on for visitors
79mins – Foran shot from 18 yards easy save, Sutton released by Murphy at other end but just offside
76mins – Foran clean through after some sloppy play from Well but shoots wide -a real let off there
74mins – Meechan on for Lasley who limps off
73mins – Sutton and Murphy combine to send youngster clear but he can only slice wide from a tight angle
71mins – Jennings close range effort scrambled clear by Esson from Humphrey cross again, need to get winger involved more
70mins – Duncan shown yellow for ICT after foul on Humphrey
69mins – Craigan shown yellow for one foul too man
66mins – Murphy leaves Innes for dead and drives to the edge of the box where he drags his shot just wide
62mins – It’s just been announced that 3728 hardy souls have turned up today
60mins – As we reach the hour mark I am about to tempt fate by saying this game looks as though the first goal will be the winner
59mins – Humphrey outpaces Shinnie on the right and his cross into the 6 yard box is hoofed clear by Tokely
52mins – Our first shot on target!! Don’t be fooled though I could’ve saved Murphy’s 20 yard shot as easily as Esson did.
45mins – Teams are back out and we are ready to go again
45mins – That’s half time – it hasn’t been the best 45 minutes we have ever seen, hopefully with the wind behind us in the second it’ll be better.
38mins – Forbes mis-control allows Tokely a shooting chance from 25 yards, and his effort dips just wide.
36mins – Pen shout for Well as Forbes shot looked to strike Richie Foran on the arm – nothing given.
33mins – Randolph keeps us in it with three great saves, two from Rooney and one from Shinnie – one looked well offside though.
32mins – Narrow escape there, Forbes hand ball given just outside the box, but it looked just in to me
28mins – Bravest man at Fir Park = Stuart McCall for still wearing shorts in this weather!
24mins – Jamie Murphy has been moved to a more central role alongside Sutton after starting wide left.
22mins – Inverness on the ascendancy with their third corner, which is easily held by Randolph
20mins – It is Inverness who have the wind at their back at the moment
19mins – Both teams seem to be struggling with the conditions as the rain sweeps in on the back of a strong wind blowing towards the Cooper Stand
18mins – Hutchinson scrambles a corner clear as the ball drops dangerously in the 6 yard box.
16mins – First shot at goal as Ross Forbes drives a 20 yard free kick into the Inverness defensive wall
8mins – Ross Tokely getting his usual warm welcome from Well fans in the East Stand, didn’t help with an early foul on Murphy
3mins – First corner for Well, Forbes kick headed away at front post
1mins – Well win toss and it is Inverness who kick us off
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“I think they played the conditions better in the first half. I was happy to go in at 0-0 at half-time.
“I had a few words and I was really proud of the second-half performance.
“If you consider the heavy pitch and the fact we had a cup tie in Dundee on Saturday and a game at Dundee United on Wednesday night, they showed good desire and determination no to get beat.
“That’s three clean sheets in four games, we just need to start finding the net.”
Inverness CT manager Terry Butcher:
“I thought the conditions were awful and both teams tried to get the ball down and pass it. There were quite a few mistakes because of the wind. It led to an end-to-end game, it was very stretched in the second half.
“We’re disappointed because we had some really good chances – Randolph had some really good saves in the first half.
“We had a great chance near the end but Richie loves this club (Motherwell) so you think ‘was he being friendly’? It was a great chance and he was disappointed.
“That’s two SPL games in a row without a goal but I was really pleased with the unity of team.”