Goals from Steve Jones and John Sutton helped ‘Well to a comfortable 2-0 win over Stranraer at Stair Park this afternoon.
The Third Division side battled bravely throughout the match, giving a good account of themselves, but rarely troubled Darren Randolph in the visiting goal.
Motherwell eventually took the lead when Steve Jones got on the end of a Steven Saunders cross to poke home from inside the six yard box.
The Steelmen had to wait until the 83rd minute to confirm their place in the Quarter Final draw when John Sutton managed to slide home a low Chris Humphrey cross from the right.
Stuart McCall made three changes to the side that somehow lost to Kilmarnock during the week. John Sutton and Tom Hateley both returned to the side after starting on the bench on Wednesday night. There was also a first-start for new signing Gavin Gunning who lined up at left back. Esteban Casagolda and Jamie Murphy had to be content with a place on the bench, whilst Stevie Hammell missed out with a hamstring injury.
Motherwell started the game in a positive fashion but were dealt a blow as early as the third minute when Keith Lasley was grounded with what looked like a nasty rib injury. The influential midfielder managed another thirty minutes but eventually had to come off and was replaced by Jamie Murphy.
Before the change, both teams exchanged half chances. Motherwell were the first to threaten when Gunning, Jones and Sutton all combined on the edge of the area to allow the experienced Northern Irish winger to get a shot in, however, it was comfortable enough for David Mitchell in the home goal. Tom Hateley had a couple of free-kicks, both comfortably saved by the Stranraer number one.
Stranraer weathered the early ‘Well pressure and, as the half wore on, fought their way back into the game with a couple of efforts from distance. Steven Noble and Danny Mitchell both blasted over, neither effort really causing Darren Randolph any problems.
The arrival of Murphy just after the half hour gave ‘Well an added spark and the former Scotland U21 hitman immediately won a corner. Hateley’s kick from the quadrant found skipper Stephen Craigan inside the area but his header dropped just over.
Two minutes later, Murphy was again the creator when he teed up Steven Saunders, who blasted a thirty-yard effort narrowly over the bar.
As half-time approached, Motherwell turned the screw and eventually took the lead thanks to the industrious Steve Jones. Scotland International Steven Saunders delivered an excellent ball towards the back post and, after dropping kindly for the 34-year-old, the on-loan Walsall winger poked home, despite the best efforts of Grant Gallagher on the line.
Stranraer came out the traps in the second half and managed their one and only shot on target just after the interval. Nicholls picked up deep inside the box, but his deflected effort was comfortably stopped by Randolph.
Steve Jones was keen to build on his first goal for the club and had a couple of efforts, but couldn’t add to his earlier strike despite some excellent marauding runs.
Jamie Murphy’s pace was also causing problems in the home defence and, after getting on the end of a direct ball from Steven Saunders, almost doubled ‘Well’s advantage but was thwarted by the feet of Mitchell who got down well to block.
Jones shot wide and Murphy had another effort fly over as McCall’s men searched for that elusive second goal. John Sutton almost provided it with fourteen minutes left on the clock when he got on the end of a terrific Hateley pass but, just as he was about to pull the trigger, Gallagher got across to block with a terrific tackle.
Tom Hateley fired a free-kick straight at Mitchell and it looked as if Motherwell would struggle to get that killer second goal. However, with seven minutes left to play, John Sutton popped up to secure the Fir Parkers place in the Quarter Final draw.
Jonathan Page, on for the injured Steven Saunders, started the move with a neat pass to Chris Humphrey who was in acres of space on the right flank. The Jamaican quickly hit the box before sending over a tantalising low ball that was begging to be tucked away. Former St Mirren striker Sutton was in no mood to pass up the opportunity, and he was on hand to tuck home his eighth goal of the current campaign.
That goal knocked the stuffing out of the Third Division side and ‘Well could’ve, and should’ve, added some gloss to the win. Sutton again got on the end of a Humphrey cross, but his downwards header was well saved by Mitchell. Two minutes later, debutant Gavin Gunning almost got his name amongst the goals with another good run and shot, but his effort spun way wide and the Irishman will have to wait a bit longer for his first goal.
Referee Charlie Richmond soon brought the game to an end with Motherwell comfortably in the next round. Stranraer battled hard and, at times, looked like a plucky side but the Claret and Amber men were never really in any danger and with better decision making in the final third, could’ve won by a more handsome margin.
[tab:As it happened]
Alan Burrows at Stair Park
Full Time – Stranraer 0 – 2 Motherwell (Jones, Sutton)
90mins – Two minutes of time added on here at Stair Park.
87mins – Last sub of the afternoon for the Steelmen. Esteban Casagolda is on for scorer John Sutton.
86mins – Motherwell almost make it three. Humphrey flights a ball towards the back post for John Sutton but his downward header is saved.
83mins – GOOOOOALLLL Motherwell – John Sutton – Page plays in Humphrey on the right flank and his low ball is slid in at the near post by John Sutton… Happy Days!
81mins – Couple of shots from distance from the home die but Randolph watches both go wide!
80mins – Jonathan Page is on for Steven Saunders. Think the youngster has taken a knock…
78mins – Hateley free-kick from the edge of the area is too straight and comfortable for Mitchell…
76mins – Great move from Motherwell. Hateley dinks a lovely ball over for Sutton but he’s tackled just before he pulls the trigger…
72mins – Hateley free-kick on the edge of the box drops a foot or so over the bar. Mitchell was scrambling but it was always going over…
70mins – Two shots – Murphy and Jones – neither trouble Mitchell in the home goal. ‘Well need another to secure this I think…
66mins – Another long bursting run from Jones. With better options either side, the winger shots harmlessly wide.
64mins – Murphy gets in behind the Stranraer defence but his low shot is well saved by the feet of Mitchell.
59mins – Fairly even stuff here at Stair Park. Still 1-0 to ‘Well though!
53mins – Low shot from Jones drops wide of the post. He follows that with another bursting run and shot that sails over.
47mins – Stranraer start the second half with a couple of shots. One deflected wide and the other from Nicholl is saved by Randolph.
46mins – Motherwell get the second half underway…
Half Time – Both teams are out for the start of the second half. ‘Well to kick-off!
Half Time – Stranraer 0 – 1 Motherwell. ‘Well have made hard work – very similar 1st half to the last time we were down here in 2003…
45+2mins – GOOOOALLLL Motherwell! Steve Jones! Cross from the right finds its way to Steve Jones via Sutton. The N. Irishman pokes home despite best efforts of D.Gallagher on the line.
45mins – Right on half time, Hateley swings a free-kick into the area for Murphy to head over!
43mins – ‘Well forcing a couple of corners and have a few wee sniffs in and around goal but Mitchell still not forced into a save.
39mins – Hateley corner finds Sutton at the back post but his shot is blocked by Gallacher for another corner…
34mins – Shot from distance from Steven Saunders goes a foot or so over the bar. No danger for GK David Mitchell.
32mins – Craigan header over from a corner is closest ‘Well have come in a while. Poor stuff… Still 0-0 here at Stair Park.
31mins – Motherwell sub – Jamie Murphy is coming on for Keith Lasley. Jones is going to LM whilst Murphy goes right up top…
27mins – Shot just wide by Malcolm as Stranraer crank up the pressure. ‘Well have had a pair of bookings too – Gunning and Hutchinson,
21mins – Stranraer fire their first real shot at Randolph. Noble fires over and, a minute later, David Mitchell does likewise.
8mins – Neat move involving Gunning, Sutton and Jones sees the latter flash a low shot at goal which is comfortable for David Mitchell…
4mins – Actually, somehow, he’s come back on. He looks in some distress though. Subbies are warming up!
3mins – Keith Lasley is down injured for ‘Well… He looks in trouble! Indeed, he’s having to come off!
1mins – Stranraer to kick-off!
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“We knew it was going to be a tricky tie, I said before the game the most important thing is to get through. We would liked to have better and made it easier for ourselves, but all credit to Stranraer the stuck at it and made it difficult for us at times.
“I thing getting the first goal was the key, if we had gone behind it would have been a really difficult today. The bottom line is we are through to the next round and that’s what we came here to do. We have played better in the last two games and got nothing, the main thing is we are in the draw tomorrow.
“The downside is a couple of injuries, Lasley looks as though he might have cracked a couple of ribs, we hope they are only badly bruised and not cracked. Then Steven Saunders had to come off with a hamstring towards the end.
“The players need a break, we have given them a few days off as we have no midweek game and hopefully they can re-charge their batteries. Then we look forward to going to Ibrox next Saturday.”
Stranraer manager Keith Knox: