Kris Jack at Pittodrie
Omar Daley’s 53rd minute strike continued Motherwell’s stunning form away from home, as they defeated Aberdeen 2-1 to stay in the hunt at the top of the table.
Michael Higdon netted an early header, only to be cancelled out by Scott Vernon’s counter a few minutes later. Daley’s first goal for the club at the start of the second half was enough to secure yet another win for Stuart McCall’s men over former gaffer Craig Brown’s Dons.
Motherwell travelled to the Granite City in hope of bouncing back from the home defeat to Celtic on their last outing. When the teams met at Fir Park earlier in the season, ‘Well ran out 1-0 winners thanks to Bob McHugh’s late strike.
There would be no place for McHugh at Pittodrie as his freak ankle injury kept him out of the squad. Shaun Hutchinson came in at centre back to replace the suspended Tim Clancy, while Omar Daley was given his first start in place of compatriot Chris Humphrey. Stephen Hughes, who returned to the club this week, made the trip north, but did not make the squad.
Aberdeen’s last game versus St Johnstone was postponed, so this was the first time they had kicked a ball in anger since their 2-1 defeat to Rangers at the end of October. Kari Arnason and Rory Fallon were Craig Brown’s only changes from that starting eleen, with Chalali and Scott Vernon stepping in.
Brown’s programme notes were very complementary to his former employers in the build up to what was an important game for both teams. A home win, would put the hosts three points clear of bottom club Inverness in the relegation battle, while a win for Stuart McCall’s men would go some way to helping the Well cement their intent for third place.
And Motherwell made the best possible start when they drew first blood after only five minutes. Law was needlessly fouled by McCardle on the left flank and from Tom Hateley’s set piece delivery, Micahel Higdon flashed a header beyond Gonzalez from close range. It was the Scouse striker’s 6th league goal of the season and second in as many games, giving Motherwell the ideal start to the match.
Scott Vernon had a chance to respond straight away for the Dons, but he was crowded out in the box. His pass back to Ricky Foster allowed the Aberdeen skipper a shot, but he blasted high over. The ‘Well defence failed to heed that warning as Aberdeen drew level. Vernon headed home unmarked from Foster’s 10th minute cross, to the audible delight of the home support.
Soon after, a Foster corner was cleared only as far as the edge of the box, but Milsom’s fresh air swipe killed any momentum Aberdeen were building. Soon after, a stretching clearance by Hutchinson prevented Chalali from getting a shot in. The hosts were pressing their visitors back in their own half and were controlling the midfield. Chris Clark was next to let fly, but his shot after cutting in past Steve Jennings, flew well over.
Motherwell enjoyed a hefty amount of possession, with some pin point passing, but little in the way of penetration. When they gave the ball up, Fraser Fyvie was given a sight of goal from a throw in. However the young forward’s first time shot was tame and trickled past the post. Aberdeen were getting the break of the ball more than their visitors as the midfield battle was being won by the men in red.
A push on Milsom by Hateley gave Foster a chance to whip another ball in from the left touchline, but his cross was deflected wide by his own man.
Another free kick from the left, this time from Fyvie, caused consternation in the ‘Well box, but poor touches from both sides managed to prevent a goal scoring opportunity.
Despite taking an early lead, Motherwell’s first half showing was reminiscent in parts, of their display against Inverness, which eventually earned a win. Despite having good spells of possession, the fluidity of other matches was not present. An improvement was needed in the second half.
They certainly delivered, coming out of the traps quicker in the second half and looked more comfortable going forward. A Hateley corner was cleared early on, while Law’s trickery on the left almost created a half chance. Yet, it was Aberdeen who almost took the lead, when McCardle’s cross was headed goalward by Vernon. This time though his header smacked the bar.
Motherwell’s response was to go up the park and take the lead for the second time. Omar Daley collected the ball on the edge of the box from Jamie Murphy’s neat pass, worked some space for himself and blasted a low shot past the diving Gonzalez from 16 yards; the Jamiacan’s first goal for the club on his first start.
Aberdeen were obviously not as enthralled with his strike, as Daley was scythed down on the left by Milsom. Referee Calum Murray deemed it fair, much to the chagrin of the Motherwell bench.
Darren Randolph was called in to action when a rasping drive from Fyvie forced the Republic of Ireland stopper in to a diving two handed save.
Stuart McCall introduced Chris Humphrey in place of goal hero Daley and a great run from the Jamiacan winger was halted when he was upended on the edge of the box by Foster, having roasted the Don’s skipper. Motherwell looked hopefully at referee Calum Murray for a penalty but a free-kick was all that was forthcoming from the match official.
Craig Brown threw on veteran striker Darren Mackie and his first involvement was to get in behind Hammell, but his low cross was easily cut out by Hutchinson and cleared. Down the other end, a fast break by Motherwell found Humphrey galloping in to the box, but his cut back for Keith Lasley was just behind the free scoring midfielder. They regrouped to play a great 1-2, but Humphrey’s cross from the bye line hit the side netting.
Aberdeen tried to throw everything at Motherwell in injury time, but the Steelmen held on to record another three points on the road. Despite an uncharacteristically lacklustre first half, Omar Daley’s second half strike earned Motherwell a glorious 2-1 win in Aberdeen, keeping the Fir Parkers joint second in the SPL.
[tab:As it happened]
Alan Burrows at Pittodrie
FT: Aberdeen 1 – 2 Motherwell! YYYAAAAAAAAAAASSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!
90mins – 3 minutes left to play… For God sake, where did he get that from. C’mon ‘Well – please hold on.
87mins – Mackie on for Dons. Oh no…. 🙁
82mins – Dons throw on another big player – Magennis on to add more threat to the home high ball. It’s like Bert Paton’s Dunfermline!
81mins – Ball is getting battered from one end to the other. Nine to go, can Motherwell hold. For my sake if anything, pleasssee! 😉
77mins – Dons throwing everything they can at Motherwell – we’ve dropped a little deep. Gonna hate these last 10mins… 🙁
72mins – Shot from distance by Osbourne (I think) goes way over the bar again. Down the other end, Humphrey’s ball in the box almost pays of
70mins – Motherwell make the sub – Goal scorer Omar Daley comes off and is replaced by Chris Humphrey.
69mins– Must be my MFC style Mancini scarf in the Press Box. On the park, Dons pushing for leveller. Well holding out for the moment.
68mins – I am getting pelters from the home fans. Stewards… Help! lol
61mins – Pawlett on for McArdle as Dons go looking for a second equaliser of the match.
61mins – I know I probably sound biased, but we’re not getting much in the way of calls from the referee today. Dons on the attack!
59mins – Shot from Chalali forces Randolph into the save. Good game now – tempers are getting het up too!
56mins – Terrible, terrible tackle on Omar Daley and it’s not even a foul. That’s a joke call from the referee I am afraid!
52mins – Ball over the top has the Jamaican in. He takes a touch, beats one and drills home from the edge of the box. 2-1 Motherwell. Get in!
52mins – GOOOOALLL OMAR!!!
50mins – Motherwell doing okay at the start. Having most of the ball but not able to create in the final third as yet. Dons defending well.
45mins – Teams are out for the second half – Motherwell to kick-off. No changes! C’Mon ‘Welllll!
HT: Aberdeen 1-1 Motherwell
37mins – Another soft FK award I think. Dons crowd on the far side influencing things I think. ‘Well clear up though.
36mins – Motherwell play into trouble with a short kick-out and Hateley giving away a free-kick. Looked VERY soft award right enough…
35mins – Scrappy stuff from both teams at the moment. Ball is taking a doing!
31mins – Motherwell can’t get strikers Daley and Higdon close enough to each other. Gap is allowing Dons to mop up.
28mins – Great punch from Randolph to clear though. Dons throw 30 yards from goal. Lands at Milsom, low shot bounces way wide.
27mins – Motherwell play keep ball for about 5mins without Dons touching it. Comes to nothing though and quick counter yields a corner.
21mins – Long range shot from Chris Clark goes a few yards over Randolph’s bar. Lots of Ooooohhhhhhs, but it was never going in. Thankfully!
20mins – On the park, still 1-1 with the Dons on top at the moment. ‘Well having to defend hard at the moment. C’mon Steelmen!
19mins – Stream of Motherwell fans getting carted out I am afraid. Chrous of boos from all stands accompany it to. Shame!
17mins – Well players chase referee Murray after what looked like an obvious foul on Hutchinson in the middle of the park. Not given, corner
16mins – Police look to be getting involved with the band of ‘Well fans over in the South Stand. Usual really… 🙁
13mins – My prediction before the match was 1-1. Although that’s correct just now, there’s deffo more goals in this game for sure.
10mins – GOAL Aberdeen! Vernon. Poor goal from Motherwell to lose. Ball from the left goes over Craigan’s head. Venon heads home thro DR.
8mins – Aberdeen look to hit back quickly. Seeing alot of the ball but eventually get into final third, Forster fires WAAY over the bar!
6mins – Free kick on the left by Hateley. Whipped in towards Higdon who flicks it home from close range. Amazing start!
6mins – GOOOALLLLLLLLL!!!! HIGDON!!!
3mins – Stuff start to the match. Dons looking to get in behind the ‘Well defence with the all silver Steelmen trying to get it down!
1min – Aberdeen kick-off and start with a thumping long ball. Looks like that’s how they will play – back to front.
Aberdeen manager Craig Brown:
“It was an even game. I’m still waiting to see our goalkeeper make a save, against a very good team. They are third in the league and didn’t involve David Gonzalez at all in the game.
“They had two shots and two goals. I’m not exaggerating when I say that; there was hardly a cross to cut out either.
“By the same token we didn’t have too many threats on Darren Randolph but we’re not third in the league, we’re down at the bottom. So there is no evidence of a gap between the two teams. We conceded two soft goals and that cost us.
“We didn’t do enough.”
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“I looked at the game last year and it was the first time we played the diamond, and probably the only time until today. We tried to get Murphy in behind and Omar’s pace is vital when we try to play that way.
“We weren’t really happy at half-time, I don’t think we got Nicky Law on the ball enough, or Omar or Murph. We had a lot of possession in the first half but we didn’t do an awful lot with it. We didn’t get in behind them enough until Murphy’s ball to Omar, and it was good skill and a great finish.”
“I thought second half we were a little bit better, but it was a gritty, tight win. When we went 2-1 ahead, we had a lot of blocks on the edge of the box and the desire from the lads to keep them out was very good. It was a strong, disciplined performance, but we can play better.”