Steven Saunders marked his return to action with a goal but it wasn’t enough as a young Motherwell U20s side crashed to a 3-2 home defeat at the hands of Dundee.
The visitors raced into a three goal lead thanks to an opener from Martin Boyle and a double from Craig Wighton.
Adam Asghar reduced the arrears before the interval but the Steelmen couldn’t add any further goals until the closing seconds when sub Saunders neatly tucked the ball under Baird.
Johansson made a massive seven changes from the side that drew 1-1 with Falkirk at Airdrie last Wednesday.
Dom Green, Danny McNulty, Ross Kellock, Adam Asghar, Paul McCafferty, Omar Daley and Dale Shirkie came into the side in place of Fraser Kerr, Simon Ramsden, Zaine Francis-Angol, Stevie Hetherington, Craig Moore, Axel Bossekota and Bob McHugh.
And it was Dundee who made the best possible start when Boyle scored inside the opening 90 seconds. The former Montrose striker got on the end of a lovely slide-rule ball from Jamie Reid and kept his composure to slot under Ross Stewart and into the far corner.
‘Well tried to hit back when Daley’s great run and cross found Jack Leitch in the box but his goalbound looking shot was blocked by Lewis Toshney who had got across to cover well.
It was to prove pivotal as the Dark Blues doubled their advantage on the eleventh minute. Wighton collected 25-yards from goal and after a neat one-two with Boyle on the edge of the area, he had all the time and space he required to pick his spot in the corner as Dundee went two ahead.
At that stage the visitors were well on top and should have added to their advantage. Connor MacLeod blazed over from the edge after robbing Green and Danny Cavanagh crashed a shot off the crossbar as Gavin Burns’ side cut the home defence open at will.
‘Well then had Stewart to thank as he twice produced great blocks to keep the score respectable. His first was a one-on-one with Wighton and the second, a minute later, was a low Boyle shot again saved by the Motherwell number one.
The home side somehow managed to weather the storm without conceding and gradually got themselves back into the match. Asghar had a near post shot well saved by Baird before almost connecting with a fizzing Daley ball across the face of goal.
Johnstone also had his shot blocked after a neat McCafferty cut back and Green’s header from the resulting corner was straight at Baird as the Fir Parkers worked hard at getting back into the match.
However, their hard work would be undone as the Dens Park side grabbed a decisive third just eight minutes before the interval with a classic counter attack. Daley had his pocked picked on the left flank before the ball was quickly knocked forward to Boyle in the centre of the park. Driving forward and the home defence scampering back to cover, he rolled in his strike partner Wighton who got to the ball just ahead of Green to toe-poke past Stewart and into the net.
There was a danger of a Motherwell collapse but, to their credit, the young Steelmen side hit back almost straight away. A Jack Leitch free-kick flew towards the penalty spot allowing Asghar, who had made a great run across his marker, to flick it on and past Baird into the net.
It was a glimmer of hope the hosts required.
Incredibly, they should have reduced the deficit even further before the interval. A Green cross was almost turned into his own net by the recovering Easton but the former Hamilton defender’s blushes were spared by Baird who was well placed to block.
Asghar hit a close-range free-kick straight at the Dundee keeper and Leitch burst clear after a terrific Daley diagonal but with a large part of the goal to aim at, his shot lacked conviction and was easy for Baird to catch.
The second half didn’t produce the same amount of chances as the first but there was still enough opportunities for more goals.
Seconds after the restart, Boyle should have made the game safe for his side when he got on the end of a great cross from the left but his header dropped inches wide.
Up the other, Shirkie got on the end of a neat Daley reverse ball but his low shot was deflected just wide. The resulting kick from the quadrant was perfect for Morgyn Neill but the big defender could only head over.
Both teams traded half chances with Johnstone firing straight at Baird and Reid fizzing an effort at Stewart which the ‘Well keeper was well placed to save.
The highlight of the night was the return of Steven Saunders who has missed the last eighteen months with an Achilles injury then a tidy up operation on his knee. His introduction on the hour gave the Fir Parkers some much-needed composure in the back four.
Play raged on though and a low Asghar shot and a Dom Thomas header were both blocked by Baird as it remained 1-3.
‘Well were forced into another change when Dale Shirkie was forced off after colliding with the advertising board behind the goal. The big striker was treated for a significant time before leaving the ground in an ambulance. He was replaced by another returner, Steven Higgins, himself having missed the last five months due to injury.
Thankfully, Dale was later discharged from hospital with some bumps and bruises and is already on the mend.
With the game nearing its conclusion, McCafferty had a great chance to make the last five minutes interesting when he burst into the area but with just the keeper to beat, his shot lacked the desired power and it was easily gathered by Baird who hadn’t been properly tested all night.
Right on full time, substitute Saunders marked his return with an excellent goal. Dom Thomas was the creator, sliding the defender in on the left flank and his first time shot was slotted past Baird.
It was too little too late though as another disappointing night ended in defeat for Johansson’s young men.
Motherwell: Stewart, Green (Saunders – 58mins), Kellock (Thomas – 58mins), Neill, McNulty, Johnstone, McCafferty, Asghar, Shirkie (Higgins – 7mins), Daiey, Leitch
Subs Not Used: Currie
Goals: Asghar (39), Saunders (90)
Referee: Alan Newlands