Motherwell crashed to a poor 5-1 defeat to Aberdeen and a drizzly Pittodrie this evening.
The Fir Parkers turned in probably their poorest performance of the season to date and two from Cameron Smith and a Declan McManus gave the home side the win.
BOB McHUGH fired the consolation for the Steelmen but it certainly won’t be a match that will live long in the memory.
Jonatan Johansson made three changes from the side that lost to Dundee Utd at Fir Park last midweek. LEE HOLLIS, ADAM CUMMINS and FRAZER JOHNSTONE all dropped out, replaced by ROSS STEWART, MORGYN NEILL and DOMINIC GREEN.
The visitors made the worst possible start when they conceded a penalty-kick inside the opening two minutes.
EUAN MURRAY knocked the ball square to Stewart whose heavy touch was intercepted by Smith. The young goalkeeper tried to win it back but clipped the striker and the referee had no hesitation pointing to the spot. Smith dusted himself down to slot home the opening goal, placing the ball low to Stewart’s left with the stopper going the wrong way.
That goal gave the Dons the perfect platform to go on and dictate (and dominate) most of the first-half and they had chances to increase their lead further through Joe Shaughnessy and Smith again but neither forced Stewart into any real saves of note.
Motherwell, for their part, took twenty minutes to register an effort at Danny Rogers but although DOM THOMAS’ half-volley had the desired power, it was too straight allowing the Dons keeper to clutch fairly easily.
Winger Alan O’Sullivan headed wide before the Dons finally doubled their advantage. Smith was the man doing the damage once again, collecting on the edge of the box before curling a delightful effort high into the top corner leaving Stewart helpless.
With the game already looking as if it was drifting away from the visitor, Bob McHugh halved the deficit with his fourth consecutive goal for the Under 20s.
A header forward by ADAM ASGHAR was flicked on by McHugh into the path of the supporting CRAIG MOORE. The little striker couldn’t get the ball properly under control but it fell fortuitously for McHugh who smashed it home from about eight yards out.
Despite the set-back of losing their two-goal advantage, the Dons were still looking dangerous with almost every attack. O’Sullivan had a shot blocked and Smith almost nabbed a hat-trick with a back post header but the Steelmen got in at the break just 2-1 down.
However, any hopes of getting back into the match were quickly extinguished by an astonishing nine-minute hat-trick from Declan McManus.
His first was a real striker’s finish, nipping in between two centre-backs to tuck home a low, teasing Craig Duguid cross from the right.
The second, shortly after, was a deft flick on a Rob Milsom free-kick to nutmeg Stewart at his near post and the third was a fine solo goal, racing seventy yards before curling a beautiful effort high past the ‘Well keeper from just inside the area.
That was the end of the scoring for the evening but it certainly wasn’t the end of the Red onslaught.
It was wave after wave of attacks from the home side but despite chances for Stephen O’Neill, Rob Milsom, Kieron Gibbons and Craig Storie, it remained 5-1.
Motherwell’s only real chance of the second half fell to Moore who managed to race clear and on to an excellent STEVIE HETHERINGTON’s pass. However, his attempt at a chip over Rogers sadly ended up in the Markland Stand.
There was one other half-chance near the end when PAUL McCAFFERTY shimmed clear of his marker but could only pull his low shot wide of the far post.
It summed up a miserable night’s work at Pittodrie for the young Steelmen side who were second best for the majority of the ninety minutes. There will have been plenty for Johansson, Black, Marshall and Co. to ponder on the long journey home from the Granite City.
Motherwell: Stewart, Green (Johnstone – 58), Neill, Murray, Leitch, Asghar, Hetherington, McCafferty, Thomas (Trialist – 80), Moore (Shirkie – 80), McHugh
Subs Not Used: Currie, Ferguson