Alan Burrows at Fir Park
Stephen Craigan scored the only goal of the game as Motherwell ran out 1-0 winners over Partick Thistle in the skipper’s testimonial.
The Northern Irish International netted from the spot after Jamie Murphy had been pulled down in the box by Thistle keeper Scott Fox.
And it was a night of emotion for the 34-year old with 2000 plus supporters turning out to honour his fourteen years at Fir Park.
‘Well boss Stuart McCall made two changes from the side that swept away Dumbarton last Saturday. Darren Randolph and Steve Jennings both returned from knocks to play their first match in pre-season at the expense of Lee Hollis and Ross Forbes.
Thistle included two former ‘Well players in their starting eleven. Willie Kinniburgh was at the heart of the Jags’ back four whilst Martin Grehan was instructed to spearhead the attack.
As far as scripts go – it was impossible to write it any better as the man of the night Craigan put his team ahead in the opening minute. A lovely Stevie Hammell through ball sent Murphy on the chase one-on-one with Thistle keeper Fox. The former Scotland U21 starlet got there first and was crudely grounded; referee Alan Muir pointed to the spot. An almost hesitant Craigan stepped up and duly converted with some aplomb.
Motherwell continued on the front foot when Higdon had two half decent chances to double the home advantage and, at the same time, net his first goal in Claret and Amber. The first, a bending shot following good Humphrey build-up, went just over and the second, a header from a Hateley corner, was well saved by Thistle keeper Fox.
Fellow new signing Nicky Law was also getting in the thick of the action and, similar to Higdon, had two decent efforts of his own to get amongst the goals. A headed effort at the back post was followed by a terrific jinking run and shot that was brilliantly turned over by Fox to keep the score at 1-0.
It only looked like a matter of time before the Steelmen would double their advantage and that would’ve been the case had it not been for a brilliant block by William Kinniburgh. Jamie Murphy was the man with the effort, his low shot beating the keeper only for the defender to scoop the ball away from under the crossbar.
That seemed to give the visitors some belief and they knocked the ball about with a degree of confidence in the remaining fifteen minutes of the first-half. Martin Grehan, had the Jags’ first chance at goal when he met a teasing ball from the left, but his header dropped harmlessly wide.
Stuart McCall replaced Michael Higdon during the interval with young Bob McHugh and the striker, who would’ve spent time on loan at Firhill last year but for a nasty wrist injury, had the first chance of the second period when he headed over a Hateley cross. Minutes later, Humphrey came close again with a blazing shot after some lovely jinking lead up play.
Thistle knocked the ball about nicely without creating too much in the way of problems for Darren Randolph or the ‘Well rearguard. Down the other end, Fox had to look smart to save a testing Tom Hateley effort; the former Celtic youngster grabbing at the second attempt.
Things got slightly sloppy as match headed into the final stages, substitutions from both sides interrupting the flow. That lull was interrupted by a moment of brilliance from Jamie Murphy though as the youngster bent a terrific curling effort from the edge of the box off the of the bar and out.
Two minutes later, another moment of quality, this time from Nicky Law, set up Murphy who could only head over on the stretch from six-yards out.
It took Thistle until the 88th minute to force Randolph, who had been a spectator for the majority of the match, into action. A driving run by substitute Thomas Stewart almost brought its rewards but his low bouncing effort from the edge of the ‘D’ was well held by the Republic of Ireland international.
It was to prove the last action in an otherwise entertaining ninety minutes.
[tab:As it happened]
Graham Barnstaple at Fir Park
Full time – 1-0 ‘Well, highlight Criagan’s penalty to win the game!
90mins – Stephen Craigan replaced by Saunders, and he leaves the field to a standing ovation from all fans.
81mins – Almost two nil, a Murphy bending shot from 18 yards crashes clear off the cross bar.
77mins – Two changes for ‘Well, Humphrey and Jennings off, Forbes and Lawless on.
76mins – Thistle make three more changes, and another player coming on has no number – it’s getting silly!
75mins – Willie Kinniburgh cleans out Humphrey at the edge of the box, a yellow in any other game but not tonight.
72mins – Just before change McHugh’s header from Hateley’s cross had the goal keeper scrambling to save at the 2nd attempt.
70mins – Strange sub for Thistle, Balatoni goes off, someone with no number comes on! He is a trialist not listed on our team sheet apparently.
69mins – Crowd just announced as 2122….
65mins – Double sub for Thistle – Grehan and Cairney off and Stewart and Bannigan on.
50mins – Humphrey cross from the right headed just over by McHugh, then Humprhey cuts in off right and fires left foot shot over.
45mins – Teams back out, ready to get 2nd half underway, with McHugh on for Higdon.
Half time – 1-0 Well, Thistle started to look slightly better as half ended but Well dominated for long spells and could be further ahead.
33mins – Thistle create their first chance with Martin Grehan heading wide from about 10 yards out.
29mins – Law sends Murphy through with a brilliant pass, he rounds the keeper but Kinniburgh clears off the line.
22mins – Nicky Law ghosts in off left leaving three in his wake, but his deflected shot is brilliantly tipped over by keeper Scott Fox.
19mins – A great Hateley cross to the back post is headed just wide at the back post by Nicky Law.
10mins – Higdon’s downward header goes straight at keeper from a Hateley corner, inches either way it would have been in.
6mins – great passing move down right sees Hateley release Higdon but he can only bend his shot over.
2mins – GOOOALLLL – 1-0 ‘Well. Crags takes and coolly strokes the ball into the bottom right hand corner with the keeper going the right way.
2min – Murphy pulled down by keeper Fox for a penalty in only the second minute – only one man to take it!!
Kick Off – Game underway with Thistle kicking off and we are shooting towards the South Stand.
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“It was a good work out for the boys, the only down side was we could have scored more goals, and Michael Higdon had to come off with a slight knock.
“On the plus side, Darren Radolph got 90 minutes, although he made his only save in the last minute, and Steven Jennings got 70 odd minutes under his belt.”
Partick Thistle boss Jackie McNamara:
“It was a good test for us against a good side. I think they proved that last season when they reached the Scottish Cup Final that they are a good team. Fitness wise I was very pleased with what I saw.
“There are a few things though that we need to work at, especially offensively. Going forward last night I felt that we were too predictable and that is something that will be working to improve upon. Overall though, there were good things to take from the game.