Kris Jack at Tannadice
A Michael Higdon brace helped Motherwell to a comprehensive 3-1 win over Dundee United as the Steelmen ascended to second place in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League.
Keith Lasley’s rounded off a superb team move to slot home his third league goal of the season and give the Steelmen the lead. And Michael Higdon’s double either side of the break gave Stuart McCall’s charges a degree of comfort in Tayside.
Jon Daly countered for the hosts but ‘Well comfortably held on for a well-deserved away victory at Tannadice.
The result ensures Motherwell will sit in second spot in the SPL, for 24 hours at least.
For the fourth consecutive match, Stuart McCall stuck with the same starting line-up. Bob McHugh was unlucky to miss out after his late winner against Aberdeen, while Omar Daley also had to be content with a place on the bench.
United’s starting XI featured Craig Levein’s latest Scotland call up Danny Swanson and former Motherwell loan star Gavin Gunning. Johnny Russell was left on the bench alongside former Dundee man Barry Douglas. While contract rebel Scott Allan was left out altogether.
On what was a dreich, dank day in Dundee, Motherwell gave a first outing to their new silver away kit – in the hope of giving a shining performance.
And the first half started brightly enough. Motherwell’s first real opportunity came when Stevie Hammell and Nicky Law set up Jamie Murphy to deliver in to the box. His centre was knocked to Law by Lasley, with the former Rotherham midfielder’s shot blocked by Dixon.
Daly then gave Darren Randolph his first touch of the ball, heading too close to the keeper from 12 yards after good work on the left between John Rankin and Ryan Dow.
United appeared to have a let off when Garry Kenneth appeared to handle in the box from Law’s attempted knock on, but ball-to-hand was called and no penalty was the decision.
Motherwell took the lead on 14 minutes – and did so in glorious fashion. A great diagonal ball from Law found Tom Hateley scampering down the right. His first time cross fizzed across the box to the on-rushing Keith Lasley, who blasted high beyond Pernis.
The 4-5-1 setup that McCall had employed was putting pressure on United’s midfield, as Steve Jennings , Lasley and Law seemed to dampen the threat of Willo Flood, Rankin and Swanson.
Law was next to have a crack at goal on 20 minutes. Higdon won a high ball at the second attempt, knocking down for the “Motherwell Messi” but his shot from the edge of the box drifted just wide.
A nice interchange on the edge of the United box between Higdon and Hateley set up Humphrey, whose shot from just inside the box was deflected wide. From the resulting corner, Higdon’s header floated just wide.
Dundee United attempted to find a response to Motherwell’s dominance and a surging run from Gary Kenneth almost caused chaos in the Well box, but Steven Hammell cleared the danger.
Early substitute Lauri Dalla Valle’s first involvement was a stooping header from a Keith Watson cross, which barely troubled Randolph. Jon Daly then volleyed over from the edge of the box as Dundee United exerted some pressure.
Kenneth once more escaped with an apparent hand-ball in the box when Murphy got in behind the Terrors’ defence. His attempted cross from the byline looked to strike the Scotland internationalist’s arm, but play raged on.
And Higdon made it 2-on the stroke of half time, thanks to a horrific blunder by Dusan Pernis. A terrible clearance from the Keeper landed right at the big striker’s feet with no one around him. He had time to compose himself before firing low across Pernis and in off the post.
It was the ex-St Mirren forward’s third league goal of the season and will probably be one of the the easiest he gets. It was the ideal finish to a first half in which Motherwell looked comfortable throughout.
A rare loose ball form Lasley allowed Jon Daly to send Swanson on a mazy run as United looked to respond in the second period. His shot from distance was struck with power but was blocked out by Clancy. From the resulting corner, Scott Robertson headed wide when he should have at least hit the target.
A great run to the byline by Law earned his side a penalty on 64 minutes. His jinky waltz was halted when he was upended by Kenneth, leaving referee McLean with no option other than to give the spot kick.
Michael Higdon sent Pernis the wrong way for his second of the game. The travelling fans were noisily basking in being 3-0 up as Swanson and Robertson were hooked for Russell and Mackay-Steven.
Gavin Gunning tried to instigate a comeback against his old side with a rasping 30-yard free kick, but it was tipped round the post by the diving Randolph. John Rankin was next to try his luck but blasted high, wide and not-so handsome as the ‘Well defence backed off him.
The Tangerines’ captain Daly eventually pulled one back for the hosts on 76 minutes. A low ball across the 6-yard line was palmed out by Darren Randolph. Watson was at the back post to feed Daly, who poked home from close range.
Despite the concession of the late goal no comeback was forthcoming. Indeed, Craigan and Clancy remained solid at the back, with Law, Lasley and Jennings winning everything in the midfield as Motherwell saw the game out for a superb away win ahead of the upcoming international break.
[tab:As it happened]
Alan Burrows at Tannadice
Game over – 3-1 Well, great victory that sees us jump into second for at least one night!!
90mins – Unbelievably FIVE minutes are being added on – don’t know where that came from!!
87mins – another change, on comes Daley off goes Humphrey
86mins – Sub for Well, Carswell on for Murphy
78mins – GOAL Dundee United. Jon Daly (again vs Motherwell). Scrappy too!
76mins – Rankin shot from distance flys high into the Eddie Thomson stand. Didn’t close home down quick enough there…
72min – Game still tight here despite Motherwell’s lead. United look good on the attack but Craigan and Clancy doing well at the back.
68mins – Offt, former defender Gavin Gunning almost makes it 3-1 with a rasping free-kick by Randolph turns it wide. Brilliant!
64mins – Higdon slots home for his 6th of the season so far! Love the big man… Buzzin for him!
GOOOALLLLL – Michael Higdon! #handsupforhiggy
63mins – PENALTY to Motherwell!
62mins – Great counter attack by Motherwell/ Murphy breaks, plays in Lasley but him, Pernis and Dixon pile in. Keeper saves! #brave
57mins – Corner from Swanson finds Robertson unmarked but his header drops a good foot or so wide. Should have done better there….
56mins – Slack ball across the middle of the park from Las is given away. United break, Clancy blocks for a corner.
51mins – Corner from ‘Well causes problems in the home box. Ball lands at Lasley but his shot almost takes out the lineo on the far side.
50mins – Signal had gone there but back now! 5 mins into the second half and nothing much happening.
Half Time: Dundee Utd 0 – 2 Motherwell (Lasley, Higdon)
45mins – Right on half-time, Pernis shanks a kick right to big Higgy. He keeps his composure to make it 2-0. #handsupforhiggy
GOOOOOALLLLLLLLLLLL HIGDON!!!!! YA WEE BEUTY!
44mins – Free kick from the half way line is floated into the box for Kenneth but his header bounces wide. Half time would be welcome…
44mins – Half Time tea is on its way to the gantry – wonder if it’s still the molten lava variety the causes your mouth to fall off?
41mins – Daly follows that with a looping shot from about 35 yards that goes WAAYY over the bar.
40mins – Scooped cross from the right by Watson lands at Dalla Valle but his looping header is comfortable for Randy.
36mins – United’s extra man in attack has forced Motherwell into knocking it longer for Higgy. Kenneth is winning the headers at the moment.
35mins – Passing football has gone out the window as Gary Kenneth puts one in orbit. Ball came down like a hailstone…
34mins – The change has perked United up a bit – crowd seem a bit more up for it too! Half-time wouldn’t be a bad thing for ‘Well just now.
30mins – The Finnish striker will certainly give United more options going forward. It’s now 2 vs 2 in the middle of the park! C’mon ‘Well!
30mins – That’s United going two up top now… The one up in Daly wasn’t working for the home side, allowing ‘Well to play from the back.
30mins – Sub for United already – Ryan Dow is coming off and is replaced by Dalla Valle! That’s tactical from Houston.
29mins – Motherwell burst forward. Space opens up for Humphrey but his shot is deflected wide for a corner…
27mins – Game has slowed down slightly which will suit Motherwell I think. Was 100mph but tailed off in the last few mins..
22mins – Some nice football on display from the Steelmen so far. United still look good going forward. More goals to come I am sure of it…
20mins – @N7KOL4W7 sends a shot from about 20mins a few yards wide of the post. Good effort from the wee man! More of this please Motherwell
20mins – Great play from Captain Crags… Slipped on the edge of the area but still got a goal kick from it. #oldhead
17mins – With 73mins left, I am already looking towards ref Stevie McLean. That’ll do us ref eh? :-p
14mins – Lasley’s third goal of the season. His highest tally for one season in his Motherwell career if memory serves me! YASSSSS!
14mins – Great goal from the Steelmen! Law sends Hateley down the right. His cut back finds Lasley who smashes it high into the top corner
GOOOOALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!! KEITH LASLEY!
11mins – Handball shout here at Tannadice – Gary Kenneth catching it with the hand. To be fair, only claimers was Graham, Kris and I.
10mins – Great running from Nicky Law – turning midfield into attack but his ball across the box had no takers. #encouraging
8mins – Twice United have found Daly in the box early on. Wee warning shot across the bow I’d say. Need to stop crosses at source.
7mins – Another chance from United. Cross from the left this time – from Ryan Dow – picks out Daly in the area but his header is saved.
6mins – Been a good start to the game from both sides. Trying to play football on the carpet and play swinging from end to end.
5mins – First half chance of the game goes to United. Good decent cross if the match by Watson finds Daly but his header drops wide. Phew!
4mins – Hammell and Law combined. Former Rotherham man gets a good shot away but it is blocked by the Utd defence. Good early stuff!
2mins – First offside of the game – Think it was Swanson. It’s quite quiet inside Tannadice. Hopefully ‘Well fans will warm-up soon…
1min – Inside the opening 30 seconds and Jenno catches Tom Hateley. Yes, you did read that right. He’ll be okay though!
1min – ‘Well kick-off! C’mon the Steelmen!!!!!!!!!
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“We’re miles above our target and we’ve got to be careful we don’t get carried away. First and foremost, our target is to be in the top six.
“Outside the Old Firm and possibly Hearts, who have a big squad, and Jim McIntyre at Dunfermline who is probably looking for consolidation, every other manager believes they can be in the top half.
“And that’s quite right. There are a lot of good and evenly balanced teams. To have the number of points we have is great. The lads have been fantastic but we’ve got to keep it going.”
Dundee United manager Peter Houston:
“We weren’t near it. We played against a good Motherwell side who looked hungrier, sharper and fitter than us.
“Normally I can’t accuse my players of not working hard but the team that worked the hardest won the match.
“It was a really, really poor performance. The better team won.”