A late header from substitute Patrick Clarke denied Motherwell their first win of the pre season, as Raith Rovers claimed a draw at Stark’s Park.
Jamie Murphy had given the Steelmen the lead after 66 minutes, in a game which saw a much more coherent and competent performance than the 4-0 defeat to Ayr the previous Saturday.
Like the trip to Ayrshire, Stuart McCall’s men could have had the game sewn up in the first half, but instead, it was Raith who were left to rue a last minute chance of a winner, when Clarke hit the post when he should have scored.
Stuart McCall’s side travelled to the kingdom of Fife to take on a Raith Rovers side well into their pre season programme. Games against Ross County and Hearts had seen Grant Murray’s men draw with the Staggies and go down to a 3-0 defeat in Laurie Ellis testimonial. ‘Well were looking to bounce back from defeat as well, having lost 4-0 to a more clinical Ayr at Somerset Park.
With a bounce game against Arbroath lined up for the Wednesday, Tuesday’s game saw the Fir Parkers line-up without Chris Humphrey, Henrik Ojamaa, Tom Hateley and Nicky Law, with youngsters Lee Erwin, Josh Watt and Steven Hetherington earning a starting berth. The away bench was full of more under 20s, with the rest who featured in Saturday kept for the Arbroath tie.
The home side started the sprightliest, with some neat passing and balls in to the channels, testing Page and Ramsden in the defence.
With a chance to show what they could do, the three youngsters in Well’s starting line-up proved to be the most effective in the first half, with Hetherington the first to test Laidlaw with a low effort from thirty-yards.
Murphy then cut in from the right to have a shot on goal, but a sliding block by Murray prevented it from driving goalwards. Down the other end and Allan Graham tested Randolph with a fizzing free kick from the edge of the box, which the Irish International did well to tip over for a corner.
The closest either side came to a goal arose when a lovely ball in from the right from Hetherington evaded all in the middle to land at the feet of Josh Watt. However, the tricky winger’s volley was in to the ground, and the effort spun up and off the post, before Laidlaw grabbed it.
Hetherington was proving to be a thorn in Raith’s side and he was unlucky to see a goal bound effort deflected over as Motherwell exerted some pressure.
A succession of corners were defended competently by the First Division side, before they broke up the park and won a free kick when Saunders fouled Graham. While Walker’s kick had power, it lacked pace, allowing Randolph to comfortably save.
Lee Erwin then had a free kick of his own saved by Laidlaw, drilling the ball low between the wall from twenty yards. The big forward then brought out a fantastic reaction stop from the opposing goalie; Murphy coasted past Thomson and rasped across in to the six yard box. Erwin reacted first, but his toe poke was blocked out by Laidlaw, to keep the game goalless.
Moments later, Watt should then have produced better when he ghosted in to the box, but his effort was high and wide.
With half-time approaching, ‘Well came within an inch of taking the lead. Michael Higdon, who had won his fair share of flicks, finally caught a glimpse of goal but his strike from 25-yards had the sting taken out of it by a deflection. However, the ball spun awkwardly and struck the base of the post, having completely wrong-footed the keeper.
The second half began much like the first with Raith making the initial inroads, but Page and Ramsden did well to make sure nothing came of their attacks.
Murphy, keen to make amends for missing a handful of chances on Saturday, was looking to get on the score sheet and was unlucky to see his goalbound looking shot touched over by the thigh of boss Murray. From the resulting corner kick, Higdon headed wide from Hetherington’s delivery.
McCall opted to mix things up as Erwin and Watt made way for Craig Moore and Ewan Murray, and the bustling of Moore led to the opener for Motherwell.
A good surge forward from the youngster led to a corner, which was arrowed towards the goalkeeper by Hetherington’s whipped left foot. With the goalie flapping, Higdon poked the ball back in to the middle, where Murphy bundled the ball home from all of a yard. It was a lead that Motherwell just about deserved, but did not stop Raith from trying to get back in to it.
Patrick Clarke came on for Greg Spence for the home team and immediately set his stall out, stinging the palms of Randolph from distance. He then struck a marvelous volley after Graham’s flick on allowed him space, but again Randolph was equal to the task. Soon after, he managed to find the home fans instead of the away goal, when put through by Walker.
After numerous chances, Raith looked the fresher of the two sides and they eventually got level when Sub Clark finished an excellent move with a bullet header from about seven yards out.
As the game ran in to its final minute, the substitute could have won it for the home side when he found himself with all of the time in the world on the penalty spot. With just about the whole goal to aim at, he struck the junction of bar and post, when the net looked easier to ripple.
It was to prove the last action of an otherwise entertaining ninety minutes. It was a much improved effort from McCall’s men in Kirkcaldy, and while not being the win that many would have wanted, it was a decent workout and a good showcase for the young emerging talent at Fir Park, with 1-1 a fair result.
Motherwell: Randolph, Saunders, Hammell, Ramsden, Higdon, Murphy, Lasley, Page, Hetherington, Erwin (Moore), Watt (Murray)
Subs Not Used: Stewart, Leitch, Asghar, Green