Alan Temple at Cappielow
A late Gary Smith winner secured a 3-2 win for Motherwell over Morton in an excellent pre-season encounter at Cappielow.
The encounter was always more about fitness than the result, but Stuart McCall will have been delighted to grab a late winner and the manner of the performance turned in by all 21 players used over the course of 90 thoroughly entertaining minutes.
Andy Graham was first to trouble the scoresheet, rifling a fine volley past the impressive Lee Hollis. Motherwell leveled relatively soon after through stunning Jamie Murphy curled effort, before Steven Saunders had a goal chalked off.
The second period was punctuated by changes – Motherwell changing all ten outfield players – yet continued to be an excellent spectacle. Jamie Pollock converted a super Stevie Saunders cross early in the second half before Morton finally breached Hollis’ defence through Andy Jackson.
But there was enough time for ‘Well to grab the win as Steven Lawless jinked past a challenge inside the box before hanging up a wonderful far post cross for Gary Smith to nod in the winner with four minutes to play.
Any sense of pre-season rustiness wasn’t apparent in the opening stages, as Motherwell produced a lively opening which saw them rattle Colin Stewart’s near post within two minutes. Tom Hateley produced a fine near post cross and new-boy Michael Higdon was unlucky to see his header come back off the woodwork.
Chris Humphrey also looked lively in the early stages, hitting the bi-line regularly and being found in one occasion, in particular, with a wonderful raking pass from Nicky Law who was looking comfortable on his first appearance in claret-and-amber.
Despite a good opening from McCall’s men, it took a moment of last-ditch defending to stop Morton from taking the lead within the opening ten minutes. Ex-St. Johnstone forward spun Shaun Hutchinson inside the area before cutting a lovely pass back to Michael Tidser with an apparent tap-in eight yards out – only for captain Craigan to clear off the line.
Allan Moore’s side, with seven days extra training under their belt in comparison to ‘Well, gradually came into the game as the half progressed, illustrated as Lee Hollis was forced to be at his very best to rush from his line and block a David O’Brien effort when the winger was played clean through by the busy Peter MacDonald.
And the ‘Ton pressure paid off just before the half-hour mark, from the boot of an ex-Hamilton defender. Andy Graham was the sharpest inside the box to volley home a fine Peter Weatherston free-kick from 12 yards.
That opener seemed to kick the Steelmen back into life and they were level within five minutes, and in the most sublime fashion. Jamie Murphy picked up a loose ball 20 yards from goal and, with no real options, shifted the ball on to his right foot and curled in a stunning effort past the desperate Colin Stewart.
Murphy, obviously with his eye in, tried his luck minutes later from even further out – about 30 yards – with a low drive which had to be parried wide by ex-Killie stopper Stewart.
‘Well, firmly on the ascendancy as the half drew to a close, were only denied the lead by the linesman’s flag on the stroke of half-time. Steven Saunders rose highest at the far post to nod into the net but, with the Morton defensive line pushing up, Mark McLean gave the home side the benefit of the doubt and raised his flag.
After a very watchable first half, there was a reminder that it was very much a pre-season encounter as Motherwell made eight changes. Ross Forbes, Jon Page, Jordan Halsman, Jamie Pollock, Stuart Carswell, Steven Lawless, Gary Smith and Bob McHugh took the field, leaving Hollis, Saunders and Hutchinson as the only starters still on the field for the second period.
Morton made a comparably tame two changes, with Creag Little coming on for Andy Graham and a Trialist goalkeeper coming on between the sticks. And the keeper was immediately in action, parrying away a deflected drive form Bob McHugh.
Despite the plethora of changes from the visitors, Motherwell continued to press in the second half, with the heart of Gordon Young’s under-19’s squad impressing early in the second period. That enterprising start was rewarded with a goal. Jamie Pollock, who signed a one-year extension this summer, cushioned a Steven Saunders cross into the net, via the far post.
Lee Hollis was further cementing his place as a highly thought-of understudy to Darren Randolph, and the ex-Airdrie United keeper made another great save, denying David O’Brien again as the winger bore down on goal.
Motherwell completed their ten outfield changes as Steven Howarth and Ross MacKinnon replaced Saunders and Hutchinson. But it was the one remaining player from the starting line-up, Lee Hollis, who continued to impress, pushing away an Archie Campbell drive with twenty minutes left on the clock.
The excellent Hollis was finally beaten with 15 minutes still to play as Andy Jackson slotted a calm left-footed finish past the ‘Well keeper from the edge of the box, following a fine pass from former Rangers youth Archie Campbell.
There was one more moment of drama in this friendly encounter, and it handed Motherwell the victory. The waspish winger Steven Lawless turned his man inside-out before hanging up a super cross for Gary Smith to nod home at the far post.
[tab:As it happened]
Alan Burrows at Cappielow
FULL Time – Morton 2 – 3 Motherwell (Murphy, Pollock and Smith)
86mins – GOAL Motherwell! It’s now 3-2 Motherwell. Lovely play by Lawless – skins the full-back before hanging up to the back post. Gary Smith heads home. Surely the winner!
84mins – Long shot by Forbes goes over the bar. Great build-up from Lawless and Howarth.
79mins – Andy Jackson almost puts Morton ahead but is thwarted by the feet of Hollis. Another good save by ‘Well’s backup GK!
74mins – I’ve heard it all now. Morton’s physio was announced on to the field by the enthusiastic PA guy. Bizarre!
73mins – GOAL Morton! 2 – 2 as Morton equalise. Campbell slips in Andy Jackson and the striker coolly slots past Hollis.
72mins – Ross Forbes almost adds a third with a long shot from distance but Morton’s trialist GK makes another good save.
71mins – Morton sub Archie Campbell races clear but, one-on-one with Hollis, the ‘Well stopper makes another great block.
68mins – Double sub for ‘Well! McKinnon and Howarth in place of Hutchinson and Saunders. Forbes takes the captains armband.
64mins – Good move by ‘Ton. David O’Brien’s shot is good but Hollis’ save is better! Still 2-1 for ‘Well!
59mins – Ross Forbes free-kick from distance goes inches over the stand. Not even a single ‘ohhh’ from the crowd…
56mins – Saunders almost gets amongst the goals himself but his back post header, from a Lawless cross, is saved at the back post.
53mins – Gary Smith almost makes it three. Collecting inside the area, the big striker was denied by a cracking sliding block from McCaffrey.
51mins – GOAL Motherwell! Jamie Pollock. Lovely ball from Saunders across the corridor of uncertainty. Young Pollock meets and tucks home! Good goal.
46mins – Carswell almost makes it 2-1 – His low shot is very well saved by Morton’s sub keeper – the evergreen Tony Rialist.
Second Half XI: Hollis, Saunders, Hutchinson, Page, Halsman, Carswell, Forbes, Lawless, Pollock, McHugh, Smith – Eight subs!
Half Time: There’s going to be a raft of changes in the second 45mins. New team to be listed shortly…
45mins – Half Time – Morton 1 – 1 Motherwell.
45mins – Motherwell have the ball in the net but Saunders’ looping header is ruled offside. Need to see TV evidence… Well, maybe not.
38mins – Another long range effort from Murphy. This time Stewart gets a good hand to it to turn it away. Better from ‘Well!
34mins – GOAL Motherwell! 1-1 and a belter from Murphy. Curler from edge of the box into the postage stamp. Applause from both fans. Belter!
34mins – Almost 1-1 as Humphrey’s cross and Higdon’s flick is almost turned into his own net by goal scorer Graham. GK Stewart saves blushes.
28mins – GOAL Morton! Free-kick by Weatherston is met by Andrew Graham and his first-time effort beats Hollis. Decent goal from ‘Ton.
26mins – Andy Jackson blasts a shot from distance the goes way over. Down the other end, Murphy sends a tiddler back to the GK…
25mins – Great chance for O’Brien. Put through by MacDonald, the winger was thwarted by an excellent Lee Hollis block 1-1.
23mins – Turn and strike from Higdon from the edge of the area sails high over the bar. Good feet on the edge of the area though.
19mins – David O’Brien double chance for ‘Ton. First effort well blocked by Hutchinson. Second curler is comfortably saved by Hollis.
12mins – Another header inside the area by Higdon but this one squirms away, Humphrey tries to keep it in but is beaten by the lineos flag.
8mins – Wee chance for Morton. McDonald turns Hutchinson in the area, His cut-back for Tidser was good but Craigan blocks on the line.
2mins – Tom Hateley’s corner from the right is met at the front post by Higdon but his header comes back off the post. Unlucky!
1mins – Game kicks off! Motherwell wearing the new 2011/12 training kit. Looks nice actually.
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“There were pleasing aspects in both halves and also things that we can work on,” McCall admitted. “It’s nice to have won the game and (Nicky) Law showed that he’ll be an asset for us and big (Michael) Higdon, I’m sure, will start getting the goals when we get the service to him.
“If I’m looking at it negatively then big Lee (Hollis) has had too much to do; he’s made some great saves and we’d prefer to have tightened up a bit. But it’s the first game of the season and everyone has come through unscathed so I’m pretty happy that it was a good workout.
“But I’ve been at clubs where we’ve had shocking pre-seasons and lost five out of five and then been superb at the start of the season, likewise I’ve been at clubs where we’ve been great in pre-season then won the first four out of five at the start of the season.”
Morton manager Alan Moore: