Motherwell Under 20s picked up their first three points of the season following a 2-1 win over Dundee at a rain-soaked, windswept Dens Park.
In truth, ‘Well dominated for the majority of the ninety minutes and the margin of victory could and should have been much more empathic.
Ironically, it was the Steelmen who had to shut-up shop in the closing stages of the match after a dubious penalty and red card forced ‘Well to play the last fifteen minutes with ten-men and defender Jonathan Page in goals.
Jonatan Johansson’s had the luxury of a much more experienced side than two week ago at St Mirren Park.
Lee Hollis, Simon Ramsden, Omar Daley, Jonathan Page, Stevie Hetherington, Stuart Carswell and Zaine Francis-Angol could all rely on first-team experience.
There was some unfortunate drama before the game even kicked-off when striker Lee Erwin pulled up during the warm-up with what looked like a knee injury. He was treated on the field before being carried to the dressing rooms; his late replacement was Dale Shirkie who would partner Craig Moore in attack.
And it was Moore who would set Motherwell on their way with a goal inside the opening two minutes.
The striker got on the end of a neat Ramsden ball into the channel. He did very well to wrestle his marker off the ball before cutting inside and blasting a low left-footed shot into the far corner; his third of the season.
That was a taste of things to come as Motherwell dominated the opening twenty-five minutes and created enough changes to win three football matches.
Shirkie in particular was getting himself into great positions and fired both wide and over as the Steelmen continued their onslaught. He had another that looked net-bound but for a great sliding block by Thomson. All this and there still hadn’t been ten minutes on the clock.
The home goal was leading a charmed life and the woodwork came to the rescue for Alex Baird as Page came within an inch of doubling Motherwell’s advantage. Hetherington’s curling corner found the big English defender but his piercing header cannoned back of the crossbar before being hooked clear.
Shirkie had yet another chance shortly after but his stinging close-range volley was expertly saved by Baird. The rebound fell to Josh Watt who wasted no time whipping in a cross but Moore could only turn a flicked header over the bar.
Jamaican International Omar Daley then brought out another decent save from young Baird with a low shot before Watt had a great effort fizz inches wide of the post after some tenacious wing play.
It took Dundee thirty minutes to even get the ball close to Hollis’ goal but the best they could muster was a daisy-cutter from former ‘Well midfielder Kevin McBride. It was more than comfortable for the ‘Well goalkeeper.
Just before the interval, Motherwell should have been given the chance to double their lead but were denied what looked like a stonewall penalty kick. Daley’s trickery was again at the heart of the visiting attack and one run in particular was crudely halted by Dundee substitute Reid. Not only did it look like an obvious foul, the sound of the boots clashing could be heard above the howling Dundee wind. Daley’s bemused expression told its own story.
Johansson’s message at the interval would certainly have been to continue some of the excellent play on display during the first forty-five. His message certainly resonated as ‘Well doubled their lead inside sixty seconds of the restart.
Moore and Daley combined on the flank before the latter rolled the ball to the supporting Stuart Carswell who had taken up a great spot on the edge of the area. His fizzing low drive zipped past Baird into the net to put the Fir Parkers well on their way to the first three points of the campaign.
Page, Francis-Angol and Daley all had half-chances to increase the lead further before the hour but none would find the back of the net.
The second half was petering out with ‘Well creating another couple of chances before a controversial call from the match official turned the game on its head.
Dundee striker Boyle raced through on goal but he was halted by what looked like a well-timed interception by Hollis in the away goal. The referee took a dim view, pointing to the spot and sending the former Airdrie stopper for an early bath.
It looked a very harsh decision indeed. Motherwell had already made a trio of substitutions so it was left to defender Jonathan Page to take the gloves and play out the last seventeen minutes between the sticks.
His first job was to pick the ball out the net as Kevin McBride smashed home the resulting spot kick.
You may be forgiven for expecting the last quarter of the match to be a backs to the wall exercise for what was now a young Steelmen side after the introductions of Jack Leitch, Paul McCafferty and Adam Asghar from the substitutes bench.
In actual fact, ‘Well remained in control; Page a virtual spectator aside from dealing with a handful of pass-backs with the back four marshalled by Euan Murray constantly barking instructions.
Indeed, it was Motherwell who almost extended their advantage with a few minutes left on the clock but Hetherington’s low strike was well saved by Baird.
It was the last piece of noteworthy action in a very competent and professional performance from Motherwell, a win that lifts them off bottom spot in the table. They are back in action this Sunday against East Fire in the SFA Youth Cup before Lanarkshire derby at Fir Park next Tuesday.
Motherwell: Hollis, Ramsden (Asghar – 65), Francis-Angol (Leitch – 65), Carswell, Murray, Page, Watt, Hetherington, Shirkie, Moore, Daley (McCafferty – 65)
Subs Not Used: Green, Johnstone
Sent Off: Hollis (73)
Goals: Moore (2), Carswell (46)