Motherwell U19s returned to action with a good win over St Mirren courtesy of a goal in each half from Lee Erwin.
The youths hadn’t kicked a ball since the 3-1 away defeat with Celtic but showed no signs of rustiness with a slick performance against the Saints.
The home side were the first to threaten after just eight minutes. Right back Dom Kennedy started the quick counter with a forward pass that was flicked on by Thomas Reilly into the path of Joel Kasubandi. Through on goal, the big striker’s low shot was expertly saved by Tom Bradley only for the rebound to fall kindly for the supporting Graeme Ramage. However, the midfielder snatched at the effort and ballooned a half volley high over the cross bar as the Steelmen survived.
Motherwell replied immediately, and industrious play by Josh Watt allowed Steve Howarth a chance to run in behind the Saints defence. With a shot on, the striker chose the unselfish, but ultimately wrong, option by trying to pick out partner Erwin inside the area, but Saints were able to clear before the Scotland U17 International could strike home from close range.
Play swung from end to end but it was ‘Well who threatened next just before the midway point of the first half. Neat play on the left between Ross McKinnon and Erwin opened space for Howarth who rasped a shot from distance. It looked to be heading wide but Dom McHugh took no chances and turned it round for a corner. The resulting kick from the quadrant wasn’t properly cleared and Watt smashed in another long range effort that was held by the Saints keeper.
Motherwell were beginning to get the upper hand and almost took the lead with a classic bit of route one football. Tom Bradley’s goal kick was flicked on by Erwin putting Howarth through on goal. Just as the former Clyde man was about to pull the trigger, he was expertly tackled by Craeg Little at the expense of another corner kick for the Steelmen.
That warning shot wasn’t heeded by the home side though as ‘Well went ahead from the resulting corner. Watt swung in a tantalising near post cross that was met by Lee Erwin who used all the pace on the ball to steer it past McHugh virtually unopposed.
It was to prove the last action of an otherwise entertaining first forty-five. Saints started the second period on the front foot and Ramage fired just over Bradley’s crossbar after a neat lay off by Kasubandi on the edge of the area.
It took ‘Well sixteen minutes to register an effort but even then, Watt’s low shot from twenty-five yards was more than comfortable for McHugh. Three minutes later, Watt turned provider and after some excellent wing play, picked out Howarth in the area but the striker could only head over from close range.
Incredibly, the same player had another header shortly after, getting on the end of an excellent Keiran MacDonald cross from the left, but McHugh made an incredible one-handed save from point blank range to deny the Steelmen a second.
St Mirren weathered that spell of Motherwell pressure and responded with a decent shot of their own. Good play on the right opened up space for Kenny McLean on the inside right flank. Taking a decent touch to set himself, the midfielder struck a stinging drive that forced Bradley to tip wide, although it was probably going a yard or two wide of the post in any case.
However, with fourteen minutes left on the clock, Motherwell tied up the game with the all important second. Ross McKinnon picked up the ball ten yards inside the Saints half, and dinked up a fantastic ball towards the penalty spot where Howarth nipped in ahead of the outrushing McHugh and knocked the ball sideways, where the grateful Erwin tucked into an empty net for his second of the match.
Saints had a few efforts from distance in an attempt to get themselves back into the match but nothing that would trouble Bradley in the visitor’s goal.
But neither team would add to their score and Gordon Young’s men would head back to Lanarkshire with all three points.
Motherwell: Bradley, Brown, Sloan, Murray, McKinnon, Carswell, Halsman, MacDonald (Griffin – 86mins), Watt (Connor – 81mins), Erwin (McGachie – 79mins), Howarth