Kris Jack at East End Park
A close range strike from MICHAEL HIGDON and a sublime HENRIK OJAMAA goal proved enough to earn Motherwell a third win of the season over Dunfermline.
The East End Park side frustrated the visitors for the opening hour, before a calamitous blunder from goalkeeper Chris Smith set Motherwell on their way to the win.
It was a game which neither side exerted themselves upon in the first half, mainly thanks to a poor pitch, but Motherwell upped it in the second half and probably just about deserved to take all three points.
KEITH LASLEY’S yellow card count meant he would miss the game through suspension, so Stuart McCall reverted to how he set out the side against Hibernian, with Omar Daley returning to the starting eleven.
LEE HOLLIS took a place on the bench after recovering from hip surgery, as back up to DARREN RANDOLPH. Jim McIntyre’s side also had one change, with Jordan McMillan returning to the starting line-up, and experienced striker Andy Barrowman left on the bench.
In the opening exchanges, Dunfermline were first to threaten when Liam Buchanan tried a spectacular effort from 20 yards; Darren Randolph got down well to the forward’s daisy cutter and the scores stayed level.
Ojamaa should have done better when he fought to get a shot away in the box, after great play between JAMIE MURPHY and Higdon. However, the Estonian blazed his shot well wide after getting control of the ball.
Play swung down the other end quickly and Randolph made his only real contribution of the game when he acrobatically palmed out a great effort from the right boot of Martin Hardie. The Dunfermline midfieleder hit a swett half volley with the outside of his right boot, from 20 yards, which the Irish goalie dived to his right hand corner to keep out.
Dunfermline played with more confidence than they had dome in this season’s previous encounters with Motherwell, and Ryan Thomson should have hit the target after a great cross from Jordan McMillan landed on his foot. SHAUN HUTCHINSON was in the right place to block his effort over for a corner.
There was little rhythm to Motherwell’s play and the few chances created perhaps could have been executed better.
One example was when Higdon failed to capitalise on a great TOM HATELEY run and pass. The ball fell to the big striker, via Murphy, on the penalty spot but Chris Smith saved the low shot at the second attempt.
Motherwell finished the half stronger and on the stroke of the interval, OMAR DALEY was unlucky to see his cross come shot tipped over by Smith.
To change things up Jim McIntyre replaced Joe Cardle with Paul Willis for the second half, while Stuart McCall took off Daley and replaced him with CHRIS HUMPHREY. It would be the ‘Well sub who would make the much bigger impact.
By having Humphrey out on the right, it meant the Dunfermline defence pulled an extra man over to cover his runs. This created acres of space for Murphy to exploit on the left, which he almost did perfectly after the restart. Ojamaa fed the former Scotland U21 striker on the wing, he roasted Jordan McMillan before having his shot blocked in the box.
The impressive Hutchinson, who was bombing forward as often as he could, was booked for pushing Willis just outside the box, as Dunfermline tried to muster up a threat in front of goal. A spell of sustained pressure form three corners in a row failed to provide them with a clear cut chance though, before Martin Hardie managed to head over from a Ryan Thomson cross on the hour.
The turning point came five minutes later thanks to an error from Dunfermline keeper Smith. Humphrey cut inside his man on the right and fed a lovely ball outside the left back to the supporting Ojamaa. The Estonian’s low cross was poked goalward by Higdon, but as Smith dropped on the ball, it somehow squirmed through him and in to the back of the net. It was a horrible goal to concede, but a magnificent one to score for Higdon, who celebrated in front of the noisy away support.
Humphrey was relishing his role on the right and drew a booking for Austin McCann when Pars’ defender had to rugby tackle him to stop him bursting through on goal. It didn’t deter the Jamaican though, as he went on to set up the clinching second goal for Ojamaa. Picking the ball up amidst the craters of mud on the right wing, Humphrey majestically jinked between Dowie and McCann in to the box, before laying the ball off to Ojamaa who rifled a first time effort in to the far top corner from 16 yards.
It was a great finish by the exciting Estonian and he should have had his second and Motherwell’s third when Higdon centred for him after more good work from Humphrey. However, the ball was slightly behind him and stuck in the mud before he could get the shot off.
Pars threw on Barrowman to try to make something happen up front, but Motherwell remained on the front foot for the rest of the game.
A Tom Hateley free kick just evaded TIM CLANCY at the back post and Ojamaa glanced a rare header wide from another Humphrey cross as Motherwell applied more pressure on the Dunfermline back line.
STEPHEN CRAIGAN came on for the war-wounded Hutchinson, as McCall’s men looked to see the game out. Murphy then went on another pacy run round the outside of McMillan before shooting across goal. Smith looked to have got a touch to send it out, but the referee robbed him of a save to make up for his earlier clanger by pointing for a goal kick.
It was not quite a vintage performance, but a 2-0 win away from home was enough to keep the pressure on Rangers, who lost 2-1 to Hearts. The victory put Motherwell three points behind the administrated Glasgow side as the quest for a European slot continues.
[tab:As it happened]
Alan Burrows at East End Park
Full time: Dunfermline 0 Motherwell 2
90mins – Have come and gone but not board as yet. Can’t be long to go!
88mins – Well fans sing about watching Brazil! About a 600-pass move is rounded off by a Murphy shot just over.
85mins – Jennings, my man of the match, fires a low shot just wide of the post. The midfield general has been awesome again!
84mins – Murphy bursts clear on the right. He rips McMillan but his shot is tipped wide. Incredibly, it’s a goal kick. Smith with be raging.
80mins – Craigan is brought on in place of Shaun Hutchinson who has been through the wars!
79mins – Henrik heads just wide from about the 80th corner in a row. At that, Pars bring on McDougall for Mason!
76mins – Pars sub – Hardie off and is replaced by Andy Barrowman!
73mins – Chris Humphrey has made a massive difference! He’s tearing the Pars down the right flank. Magnificent!
70mins – What a goal from Ojamaa. BRILLIANT play from Humphrey on the right. Dinks past two. Rolls in Henrik from 18 yards – BOOM!!!
GOAL – OJAMMMMAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
64mins – It’s harsh on Dunfermline. They’ve not been dominating by any matter but they don’t deserve to be behind that’s for sure…
63mins – Disaster for Pars goalie Chris Smith. Ojamaa cross from t left. Higdon pokes at goal – Smith lets it squirm into the net. Wow!
63mins – GOOOALLLLLLLLLLLL Michael Higdon!
62mins – Pars head over after another quick break. Hutchinson is down with a knock in the middle of the park and needs treatment.
60mins – Game is so, so, so scrappy! Motherwell haven’t really got out of first gear all afternoon. Pars force 3 corners in a row though…
48mins – Play swinging from end to end – game is stretched. Both sides creating half chances!
46mins – Motherwell win a corner but when Hateley goes to take it, the turf gives way and the chance is gone.
45mins – Motherwell get the second half underway! C’mon the ‘Well!!!
HT: Motherwell also make a change. Daley is off – Chris Humphrey is on!
HT: Pars make a sub – Cardle off for Willis!
HT: Poor first half here at East End Park. Pitch isn’t helping either side play any decent footy. More required in the second from ‘Well!
Half Time – Dunfemline 0 – 0 Motherwell
44mins – Game is so stop/start. Referee is not helping giving strange calls and not giving what looked like obvious claims.
39mins – Poor refereeing from Brian Winter. Hardie gets away with a climb – 39 seconds later, Higdon is booked for the exact same thing.
37mins – Omar isn’t getting much change out of the full-back and has been switched over to the right. Murphy is now on the left.
29mins – Great chance for Higgy. Terrific run from Hateley – his ball finds Murphy then to the big man. Low shot is well held by Smith.
28mins – Fans singing a nice wee ditty for Bob McHugh on his return to the squad. This is a family twitter though so better not repeat…
25mins – Henrik gets to the byline – Great ball across the face but it is touched behind for a corner. Pars clear the resulting kick…
22mins – Another long range effort from the Pars, this time deflected wide by one of their own players, goes just past the post.
21mins – Still 0-0 here. Pars having more of the ball and probably better of the chances thus far…
15mins – Wonderful cross field pass by Hammell has Murphy in space. His teasing near-post cross is cleared by the home defence.
10mins – Wind getting up down there at pitch level. Blowing towards the Motherwell goal making kick-outs difficult…
8mins – Pars have another chance, good ball from the left, ball into the middle but the shot is deflected over for a corner. Pars on top!
7mins – The pitch down in front of the Main Stand is cutting up badly. Almost like it was at FP back in 09/10.
6mins – Motherwell give it away cheaply. Hardie picks up and curls a lovely shot at goal. Randolph makes a great save…
4mins – Pars win a corner but Motherwell break. Daley counters but his final ball lets home down and Pars clear.
3mins – Motherwell hit back almost straight away. Great flowing move. Murphy’s shot is blocked but falls to Ojamaa. He blazes over!
2min – Long range shot from Buchanan is the first of the afternoon. Darren Randolph gathers fairly easily…
1min – Higdon is pulled up for a nothing foul already and we’re only 30 seconds in. Story of the season that… #frustrating
1min – Dunfermline kick off – shooting to the ‘Well fans in the traditional away end here at East End Park.
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“I am delighted with the three points, after a poor first half display.
“I thought first and foremost that Dunfermline worked a lot harder than we did in the first half and I told the front four we needed more from them in the second half.
“The first goal is always crucial and we managed to get it, we looked dangerous in the second half and the players who didn’t show in the first half like Henrik (Ojamaa) and Higgy (Michael Higdon) performed much better in the second half.
“Chris Humphrey also gave us a spark, I took Omar Daley off as he just had one of these days that wingers sometimes have.”
Dunfermline manager Jim McIntyre:
“I thought we started the game really well and were on the front foot against what is a good side, but the first goal changes everything.
“The big man knows he has to save it, it’s a bread and butter save. What I would say is Chris has bounced back before, it’s a horrible position and to be honest I don’t know why anyone would want to be a goalkeeper growing up.”