Kris Jack at Fir Park
A late Johnny Russell sucker punch clinched all three points for Dundee United as Motherwell were once more left to rue missed chances.
The defeat sees the Tannadice go level with ‘Well in the SPL, robbing the hosts of the chance to go second.
Henrik Ojamaa hit the woodwork twice as Motherwell failed to continue from where they had left off on Saturday.
Having secured a first victory in four games, Stuart McCall kept faith in the side that dispatched of St Johnstone 3-1 in Perth. Jamie Murphy was looking to grab his first goal at Fir Park for the season after netting a brace at McDiarmid Park; Euan Murray replaced Adam Asghar amongst the subs.
Former ‘Well defender Brian McLean came in for Peter Houston’s United side, in place of Barry Douglas, in the only change from the side that snatched a late, late draw against Celtic on Sunday.
Gary Mackay-Steven, who was amongst the goals at Tannadice, started from the bench after a long injury lay off as did recent recruit Rudi Skacel.
The first half was full of half chances for both sides, with Murphy looking keen to get on the scoresheet. He was given an early opportunity to open the scoring after cutting in from the left hand side, only to see his effort parried wide by Czierzniak.
The United keeper was then on hand to make a great point blank save from Murphy after Michael Higdon had knocked Chris Humphrey’s cross down in to his path. From six yards, the Polish stopper somehow blocked out Murphy’s first time effort.
United should have done better when a breakaway saw Johnny Russell send Stuart Armstrong through on goal, but he could only blast into the stand when he should have worked Randolph at least.
The Steelmen were kept to efforts from the edge of the box as Ojamaa, Murphy, Lasley and Hateley all tried to score form distance, but couldn’t find a way past Czierzniak. Jon Daly headed wide for United from a good Keith Watson cross, before Gavin Gunning forced Randolph in to a double save from a set piece.
Richie Ryan was felled at the edge of the box and Gunning’s blast was well stopped by Randolph, with Jon Daly’s follow up also blocked out superbly by the Irish keeper’s legs.
The best chance of the half fell to Henrik Ojamaa, who, after roasting Watson on the left drove in to the box to crash a shot high past Czierzniak only to see it cannon back off the bar and out.
It took a while for the second half to come to life, and when it did, the roof almost came off Fir Park, as Ojamaa was once more denied by the woodwork. Ryan lost possession 30 yards from his own goal, as Lasley nipped in to play a great pass to the Estonian. His shot from the angle had Czierzniak rooted as it slithered across the greasy surface only to bounce off the base of the far post.
Stuart Armstrong then had two chances to give Houston’s team the lead, but his first effort on the break went well wide and the second was deflected past by Hateley. A series of corners ensued and from the final Willo Flood delivery, the ball looked to have been forced over the line. However, referee Alan Muir and his linesman opted not to give the goal, as ‘Well looked to be served a let off.
Michael Higdon was then in the right place at the right time to fire Chris Humphrey’s low cross on target, but he could neither get the power or the accuracy to beat the keeper. Humphrey then flashed a great low cross just wide after a neat 1-2 with Nicky Law a the edge if the box, as Well looked to make their pressure count.
Instead, it was the visitors who snatched the lead and the points after 83 minutes. With Mackay-Steven and Skacel on as subs, United’s attacking options were bolstered, and after both were involved in an attack which broke down, Keith Watson floated a great ball to the back post, catching the ‘Well defence on its heels. The ball dropped over Jon Daly, right on to the head of the onrushing Johnny Russell who crashed the ball in off the underside of the bar.
It was a well taken goal, which takes Peter Houston and his side back up the A9 the happier of the managers. Stuart McCall’s attention now turns to the Dundee game this weekend to get his team back to winning ways.
[tab:As it happened]
Alastair Reilly at Fir Park
FULL TIME: Motherwell 0 – 1 Dundee United
90mins+2: Cummins booked
90mins: Corner to Motherwell…… comes to nothing. Need some magic now.
90mins: 3 minutes added on….
87mins: Motherwell sub: Daley on for Humphrey
86mins: Dundee United sub: Russell off for Millar
83mins: GOAL: Russell loops a header over Randolph to send United in front.
81mins: Law goes for the spectacular curler into the top corner……he very nearly finds it……the corner of the stand that is.
79mins: Motherwell and Dundee Utd subs: McHugh on for Ojamaa and Skacel on for Rankin
78mins: Should have been! Humphrey and Law link-up well out wide but there are no takers of the cross.
75mins: ‘Well looking to hit on the break and almost did. Humphrey burst clear and squared to Higdon. He shoots first time but easily saved
72mins: Rankin booked for handball as Motherwell broke.
70mins: Dundee United sub: Ryan makes way for Mackay-Steven
65mins: Oohhh, bit of controversy there. United fans thought their team had scored but linesman says it wasn’t over the line.
64mins: Good chance for United! Armstrong, dangerous all night, cuts in and see’s his shot deflected just past.
60mins: Gunning rightly booked for hauling down Murphy just outside the box. Chance here for a penalty as he hit the deck. Hard to tell from up here though!
56mins: Oh drama! First Ojamaa hits the post. The ball is kept in play and as Law made his way into the box, the FP crowd claimed…
51mins: Murphy’s touch lets him down at the vital moment after Ojamaa slid him through. Unlucky, surface doesn’t help.
48mins: Early pressure from United. Armstrong has been a nuisance all night and wins a corner off Lasley. No danger from corner.
46mins: It’s raining here at Fir Park. Not just raining….RAINING! Tricky surface now….
Second half underway. Come on the ‘Well!
A great double save from Randolph to deny United and Ojamaa’s strike off the bar + Murphy’s early chance from close were the highlights
HALF TIME: Motherwell 0-0 Dundee Utd. Entertaining game and both sides will maybe feel they should be on the scoresheet.
43mins: Ojamaa drifts out left to collect the ball. He jinks towards goal but his shot is waayyyyy over the bar.
40mins: Ryan hits a speculative effort from about 30 yards. Sails well wide.
39mins: Almost the breakthrough! Ojamaa strikes from distance and is denied by the bar. Great effort!
36mins: Lasley does ok with an effort on the edge of the box. It’s on his weak foot though and never troubled the Cierzniak.
35mins: Still 0-0 then. The curse of the twitter comment striking again!
25mins: Should probably be a goal by now! Humphrey is next up to try is luck. It’s well over but it’s just a matter of time now surely?!
23mins: Chances just keep coming! This time it is Hateley driving forward to then cut in on his weaker foot. It’s an ok strike but is saved.
19mins: Watson chopped down about 25 yards out. Gunning to take…..it’s a sizzler but Randolph does superbly to save it! And the rebound! Oh that is just fantastic goalkeeping!
17mins: Murphy continues to threaten! Similar to his last chance, the exact same actually. Corner leads to nothing.
14mins: Unlucky! Murphy fed in by Law but is forced wide by the United defence. He managed to shoot but it is tipped past for a corner.
10mins: Decent chance for United there. Daly powered in a header at the back post which went just wide. Cummins hurt but will carry on.
8mins: Ojamaa spins his man 25 yards out. He shoots but his effort is tame and well wide. Decent game so far.
5mins: United break up the pitch and Armstrong finds himself 18 yards out. Fails to hit the target and lets Motherwell off.
5mins: Great chance! Law curled in a cross at the back post which Higdon controlled and squared to Murphy. From 10 yards, Cierzniak saves.
2mins: Armstrong shoots from 30 yards….never enough power to beat a keeper like Randolph though.
1mins: Almost a bit of deja-vu there! Murphy driving straight at the United defence gets a shot off from 25 yards. Good hands from Cierzniak.
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“We’ll play a lot worse than that and lose. I found it very difficult to say anything negative other than the result.
“It was two good teams out there. How we have failed to score I don’t know.”
Dundee Utd manager Peter Houston:
“On a difficult night I thought both teams tried to serve up a lot of football. One wee bit of quality has won us the game.
“It’s not the first time Johnny Russell has scored a goal like that, he scored one at McDiarmid Park last season that was the exact same.
“I don’t think it was a header across goal, he was trying to score. It deceived the goalkeeper and went over the top of his head but for me that shows great quality.