Kris Jack at Fir Park
Bob McHugh’s first SPL goal proved to be decisive as Motherwell beat Aberdeen 1-0 in a rather lacklustre affair.
The young forward’s strike seven minutes from time was the only moment of real quality in a game which was scrappy and bereft of many clear chances.
This game was set up to be an interesting battle, based on the recent history between both sides, with The Dons’ last visit to Fir Park mainly remembered for the altercation between former Chairman John Boyle and former gaffer Craig Brown.
Three points for Motherwell would see them hoping to pull away from Hearts in 3rd place, while a win for Aberdeen would see them start to pull away from the foot of the table.
Both teams crashing out of the Scottish Communities League Cup on penalties in midweek meant there was added spice to an already potentially fiery match.
Stuart McCall named an unchanged starting XI from Tuesday night while Aberdeen made four changes. Yaoule Mawene , Rory Fallon, Isaac Osbourne and Robert Milsom all came in at the expense of Rory McArdle, Josh Magennis, Peter Pawlett and Darren Mackie.
Jamie Murphy looked lively as early as the first minute, cutting in from the left and angling a drive just wide of Gonzalez’s far post. Ryan Jack was the first to trouble Darren Randolph at the other end after drifting in from the right, but his tame effort was smothered comfortably.
Tom Hateley played a slick ball in behind Andy Considine to Chris Humphrey, but the winger’s cross was deflected in to David Gonzalez’s arms. Darren Randolph then had to palm away a good effort from Scott Vernon after good link up play down the left between Milsom and Considine.
Nicky Law responded, making a dart up the East Stand side, latching on to a great ball from Hammell – but his effort was too close to the keeper.
The best chance of the half up to that point fell to Chris Humphrey. Michael Higdon sent him clear through the middle, an unfamiliar position for the Jamaican to be in. After fighting off the last defender he rounded Gonzalez, only to smack the bar from a tight angle. From there, the game became sloppy and a little turgid, with little in the way of goalmouth action. Neither side seemed capable of playing an incisive ball, despite some decent build-up.
As the second half began, a foul on Murphy led to a great chance for the opener. Hateley’s flighted free kick to the back post was headed brilliantly towards the top corner by Tim Clancy. Only the crossbar kept the ball out, before a foul was given and the danger was gone.
A quick Lasley and Law corner caused a flurry of excitement in the box, which found its way back to the waiting Law, however he was once again crowded out.
Clancy then had to look lively to prevent Vernon getting a shot in at the other end, making a composed challenge on the byline.
Murphy then could have rounded Gonzalez when played in by Lasley, but he took too long to gain his composure. The ball was worked to Humphrey who crossed for Murphy to head straight at the Dons keeper. Vernon similarly headed straight at Randolph a few moments later.
Second half sub Pawlett’s first involvement in the game was a woeful cross ball that floated over, after Vernon had done well to send him free. His second was a horrendous tackle on Darren Randolph, as the big keeper tried to clear the ball just outside the box. A deserved booking was dished out, to cheers from the Well faithful.
A massive shout for a penalty fell on deaf ears when Gonzalez failed to collect Hammell’s lofted free kick. As the ball bounced around, Clancy went down under a challenge from the goalkeeper but no spot kick was awarded. Omar Daley replaced Humphrey on the hour-mark as Motherwell attempted to unlock the Dons defence.
But Darren Randolph was becoming the busier goalie, and had to punch Pawlett’s corner out from under the bar. He then had to have his wits about him, saving well from point blank range from Vernon. He then held a thumping effort from the edge of the box from Vernon once more.
Brown brought on Megginson for Rory Fallon on 75 minutes as McCall swapped Murphy with McHugh. Scott Vernon was soon replaced by Josh Magennis as Brown changed his attacking options in search of a winner.
However, it was McCall’s sub that made the most of his late opportunity.
A long ball from Steve Jennings to Bob McHugh saw him pip Ricky Foster in the chase. As the Aberdeen captain slipped, the little striker ran free and cut in to the box, before shimmying past Arnason and blasting low in to Gonzalez bottom corner.
It had taken 83 minutes for the game to come to life, but the diminutive McHugh’s goal was worth the wait.
As a spectacle, it was far from a classic, but the dramatic 1-0 win for Motherwell is all that matters to the Claret and Amber support.
[tab:As it happened]
Graham Barnstaple at Fir Park
Game over – three points secured it wasn’t pretty but we got there.
84mins – Bob McHugh’s first SPL goal – good time to get it!! Robs Foster, cuts in and smashes home from about 25 yards. Ya beauty!
84mins – GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!l McHugh makes it 1-0, Page on for Law.
83mins – Another Dons change – Magennis for Vernon.
75mins – Change for both sides Murphy off, McHugh on, Megginson for Fallon.
68mins – Humphrey off Daley on, and a Clancy booking.
66mins – Pawlett booked for late tackle on Randolph, only on 7 minutes and it’s his second offence!
63mins – Crowd is 4348.
61mins – Murphy header from Humphrey cross goes straight to the keeper.
58mins – Aberdeen change – Pawlett coming on for Clark.
47mins – Clancy’s looping header come off the underside of the bar.
45mins – Teams are out for second half and we are under way again….
Half time – 45 minutes that won’t live long in the memory!
41mins – Law run from midfield ends with a 20 yard shot easily saved by Gonzalez.
26mins – Humphrey robs Considine at the edge of the box rounds Gonzalez but from a tight angle could only hit the bar.
20mins – After 20 minutes this game badly needs a goal to liven it up, a lot of nice passing but little in front of goal from either side.
19mins – Law then cuts in off left but his shot doesn’t really trouble Gonzalez who makes a comfy save.
18mins – Scott Vernon in space at the edge of the box and his shot pulls out a full length save from Randolph.
14mins – Humphrey cross deflected by Foster straight into arms of his keeper Gonzalez.
1min – The match gets underway.
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“It’s a great win and I’m delighted after that disappointment when were unfortunate to go out of the cup.
“It was ironic that Bob got the goal after scoring the other night; without bleating on about it again, that should have stood, but it didn’t affect him and it was a great finish.
“He’s strong and quick but he doesn’t have a left foot so when he cut in on his left foot today I was expecting a goal kick to Aberdeen!
“It was a difficult game and it’s always a battle; I was thinking that a draw would probably be a fair result but we hit the bar twice and got the better chances, although there wasn’t a lot in it.
“Looking at this league, any team can beat any team on their day; it wasn’t the greatest game but I think we just about edged it.”
Aberdeen manager Craig Brown:
“I don’t think we deserved to lose but I didn’t think we deserved to win. The teams cancelled each other out in a stalemate type of game, and that’s what I think the result should have been.
“We conceded a soft goal – credit to Motherwell and Bob McHugh for taking their chance and for a good substitution, but we’re obviously disappointed that they scored from our corner with a breakaway.
“An individual error cost us and that’s been the case in one or two games, and we’ve had very little good fortune.
“Motherwell hit the bar twice but that’s the first time anyone’s done that against us this season – we’ve hit the bar five times and the post twice, when we make an error we get punished, and we haven’t had any good fortune at all.
“I thought our performance was solid enough; there wasn’t great flair about the team but it was a workmanlike, solid, conscientious display.”