Kris Jack at Fir Park
Motherwell remain in third place in the SPL after drawing a blank against Dundee United at Fir Park.
Neither side could break the deadlock, in a game which was dictated by the swirling wind and rain which engulfed the stadium.
Michael Higdon and Omar Daley had the best chances for Motherwell, while Jon Daly and John Rankin could have won it for Dundee United. However it wasn’t to be and a draw was perhaps a fair result.
Having gone so many games without changing his starting XI, Stuart McCall made a second consecutive rotational change, leaving Jamie Murphy on the bench, in favour of Chris Humphrey, in order to keep the game winning pairing of Michael Higdon and Omar Daley from last week’s victory in Aberdeen. Stephen Hughes had to make do with a place on the bench, on his return to Fir Park.
Peter Houston’s Dundee United side, fresh from a win over Hearts in their last outing, were looking to avenge the 3-1 defeat ‘Well inflicted upon them earlier in the season. Jon Daly took his usual dangerous place up front, with former Steelman Gavin Gunning returning to Fir Park in Tangerine instead of Claret and Amber.
The opening period of the game didn’t produce much in the way of free flowing football as the conditions played havoc with both teams passing and movement. Jon Daly headed wide from a Johnny Russell cross before Michael Higdon’s turn and shot from the edge of the box up the other end had Pernis scrambling to push it wide.
Mackay-Steven was fortunate not to be booked for a challenge from behind on Shaun Hutchinson, after the big defender had got the better of a tussle with the United wide man. Shortly later, he shot straight at Darren Randolph after being played in by Gavin Gunning.
Dundee United earned two quick-fire corners, the second creating a glorious chance for Motherwell to take the lead. Flood’s cleared cross found its way to an unmarked Chris Humphrey, who strode from halfway in to the opposition box. His cross failed to land on Daley’s head, with Lasley volleying well over when the ball landed at his feet.
Michael Higdon thought he had given ‘Well the lead when he poked the ball in from about an inch out, but the ball had gone out off Daley’s back before Humphrey’s cross found the striker via the post.
At the Cooper end, Randolph had to look lively to palm away a point blank Daly volley inside the box. He then had to repeat the action when a slip by Hutchinson allowed the United skipper the same chance. The first half had not quite been end to end, but both sides created chances to have gone in at the break with the lead.
As the second half got underway, Motherwell were using the wind to their advantage and won an early corner. Hammell’s inswinger found the head of Hutchinson, but Pernis got his full body behind it to keep it out. Down the other end, Willo Flood pinged a free kick in to the Well box, which was cleared to John Rankin, but the former Hibs man’s effort was straight at Randolph.
The game had opened up as both teams upped the tempo in search of an opener. United were looking dangerous on their few forward forays, but pressure from the ‘Well midfield mainly kept them hemmed in.
Jamie Murphy entered the fray for Chris Humphrey, as well looked to bolster their attack in the final 15 minutes. A wind assisted throw form Randolph almost played the former Scotland U21 star in, but Dixon got back to knock the ball out. Dalle Valle came on for Mackay-Steven and with his first touch, he almost set up Jon Daly, but a magnificent sliding challenge from Jennings thwarted him just as he was about to pull the trigger.
Jonathan Page replaced Shaun Hutchinson with eight minutes to go, as a draw seemed likely. John Rankin could have altered that with three minutes remaining when Dalle Valle’s slide rule pass played in Flood, but Rankin couldn’t put the former Celtic and Middlesbrough man’s ball on target.
Two minutes later, he once more, tested Randolph with a dipping drive from distance.
It was to be the last real effort of the game, as the match finished all square. The draw keeps the Steelmen in third place, but sees them fall five points behind Celtic in the quest for second place.
[tab:As it happened]
Kris Jack at Fir Park
90mins – Three mins added on time: Carswell on for Lasley.
87mins – Steve Jennings gets the sponsors Man of The Match award. He, Law and Lasley have bossed the midfield again today.
83mins – Hateley’s whipped cross is gathered on the line by Pernis. Will we see a winner?
82mins – Page on for Hutchinson. Nicky Law volleys off defender after good Lasley cross, corner amounts to nothing.
76mins– United Sub: Dalle Valle on, Mackay-Steven off.
74mins – Jamie Murphy on, Chris Humphrey off.
73mins – A Mackay Steven run in to the box is eventually headed back to Randolph by Craigan.
70mins– Hateley sends Daley sprinting down the left, he beats his man, but his cross is too close to Dusan Pernis.
67mins – Hateley’s near post corner is headed out, 2nd corner sails just over Daley’s head at back post.
66mins – Hammell free kick finds Hutchinson, whose header is palmed out by Pernis, ball rebounds off Kenneth for corner.
Attendance: 4487, as always cheers for coming folks!
63mins – Hutchinson booked for foul on Mackay-Steven.
61mins – Daley lays off For Higdon at edge of the box, but they get in one anothers way.
60mins – Dundee United sub: Russell off, Dillon on
52mins – Flood free kick from east Stand side cleared, Rankin works space, shoots straight at Randolph
51mins– chances for Law and Hutchisnon have seen Well dominate proceedings. Well have wind behind them and it shows.
45mins – Second half underway
Half Time – Motherwell 0 Dundee United 0 : Both sides have battled with the elements and had chances, but no goals as yet.
43mins – Humphrey hot foots it to the bye-line, but his cross is cut out and cleared.
40mins – 2-0 Queen’s Park, looks like Hampden is coming to Fir Park…
39mins – Randolph forced in to 2 diving saves from Daly to keep game level, makes a 3rd, clawing Kenneth’s header out from under bar.
35mins – Well have ball in net, but disallowed for either offside or the ball being out of play. Higdon poked it in on line. No goal.
31mins – Well break through Humphrey, run delayed, crosses for Daley, falls for Lasley who blasts high in to South Stand.
30mins – United corner. Flood drives ball to Kenneth, Mackay-Steven jinks past 2 Well men for another corner.
26mins – Nicky Law cuts in form the left and opts to pass rather than shoot, Omar Daley goes down under Kenneth challenge, Brines says no.
21mins– Omar Daley wins a foul, as his trickery leads to him being the meat in a United sandwich. Free kick taken short, Well win corner.
20mins – Queen’s Park currently 1-0 up on Elgin as they compete for a crack at The Well in the next round of the Scottish Cup…
10mins – The Well fans choose the 10th minute to ring out a chorus of “One Phil O’Donnell”.
9mins – A Higdon turn and shot on the edge of the box has Pernis scrambling to palm the ball wide. Good effort from Higgy.
9mins – Mackay-Steven drives wide form 18 yards but is penalised for hand ball.
7mins – Paul Dixon throws a throw in straight out the park. No doubt the conditions are to blame…
3mins – Daly flashes a header wide from Johnny Russell’s cross.Never troubling Randolph.
1min – The wind and rain are driving in to the Well players faces in the first half, glad I’m in the stands.
KO: The teams emerge in to the tempestuous Saturday afternoon wind and rain, shake hands and get ready for kick off.
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“If it had been cancelled at one o’clock I would have been delighted. It was just what I expected. You can play in rain, the pitch is in great nick, but when you get wind over so many miles an hour it just makes it a lottery.
“It can’t have been great for the punters and it certainly wasn’t great for the players. If we had come in and had won 4-0 I would have said the same. I wasn’t looking forward to the game to start with.
“Sometimes you can end up with an exciting game just through mistakes. We certainly haven’t entertained the punters and that’s not the fault of the players.
“It’s easier for us to sit in the stand but when you’re down there, one minute the ball will carry on, then it will swirl, the next minute it will stop. You lose a little bit of confidence on the ball because things aren’t going right. There were some decent passages of play but not enough to merit what it costs to get in.”
Dundee Utd manager Peter Houston:
“We’re asking people to travel from Dundee and leave their homes in Motherwell and pay good money in a time when football is desperate to get as many punters through the door, we’re asking them to watch football in that.
“We had two teams who worked their socks off and tried their hardest, not to play football, because when it came near our box I told our boys to get rid of it and let a mistake happen at the other end.
“But should we be sitting down with the powers-that-be and discussing summer football? Years ago I wasn’t an advocate of summer football but I look at the Irish league from March to November, and the weather for the past two seasons, the snow.
“I’m not for a winter break – I would rather change the season similar to what the Irish do. You are going to play in the summer where people might see a better game than we’ve seen today. We’re asking people to pay a lot of money and the entertainment value, let’s be honest, was fairly rank.
“The wind is the biggest problem. Players love playing in the rain when the surface is slick but as soon as it becomes as windy as that, it’s not conducive to any type of football.”