Phil McGhee at Fir Park
Motherwell had to settle for a point after a dramatic late fightback failed to give them all three points against Kilmarnock.
For the third time in their last four games ‘Well trailed by 0-2, as goals from Borja Perez and Paul Heffernan put Kimarnock on the road to victory.
But the introduction of Bob McHugh for the last 25 minutes had Motherwell laying siege to the visitor’s goal and after Jamie Murphy and Henrik Ojamaa brought them level, a grandstand finish found them just unable to convert one of a number of great chances.
It almost seemed like a win though and the Fir Park faithful appreciated their efforts applauding the team at the final whistle for the final home game of the year.
Stuart McCall made two changes to the side which had such a stunning win over Aberdeen, bringing back Stevie Hammell and Chris Humphrey.
Despite both teams coming into the game on the back of good victories, it was a cautious start and the first thing of note was in honour of Phil O’Donnell after 10 minutes. The poignant minute’s applause, commendably honoured by all 700 Kilmarnock fans, almost had a rousing finale as Humphrey worked his way to the goal line. His cut back was met by Michael Higdon he thumped his drive straight into Cammy Bell’s chest.
A minute later though the Killie fans were back on their feet celebrating the opening goal. James Dayton tentatively played the ball in from the left but as the ball rolled across the penalty area Borja Perez swiveled before sweeping a terrific drive high past Darren Randolph.
Higdon and Jamie Murphy had shots blocked but it was Kilmarnock who came closest to another goal in 23rd minute. ‘Well failed to clear their lines at the edge of the box and when Cillian Sheridan nodded the ball back towards the penalty spot it found the unmarked Paul Heffernan. While Randolph did well to block his volley it was left to Shaun Hutchison to complete the clearance heading the dropping ball over his own cross bar.
That was the last piece of action for the defender as he was replaced by Adam Cummings just before the half hour mark.
From then until the interval all of the play was towards the Kilmarnock goal.
Tom Hateley had two free kicks from identical spots well saved by Bell before Henrik Ojamaa dragged his low shot wide of the keeper’s right hand post.
On the stroke of half time ‘Well were denied a deserved equaliser. Hateley’s corner was superbly met on the volley by Murphy but as his shot was sneaking inside the post Jamie Fowler booted the ball off the line.
McCall’s men started the second half pressing for the equaliser and Keith Lasley came close after 52 minutes but his strike from 15 yards swerved off target.
Kilmarnock continued to look threatening on the break and it took a double save from Randolph in the 54th minute to keep the home side’s hopes alive.
Sheridan outpaced Hammell as he headed towards goal but his side foot finish allowed Randolph to block with his knee. But before the ball could be fully cleared Liam Kelly’s low drive was destined for the bottom corner before the ‘Well keeper at full stretch pushed it round the post.
The Ayrshire side’s second, though, was only delayed until the 61st minute. Perez’s in-swinging corner took a touch towards goal forcing Randolph to claw the ball out low to his left but Heffernan was first to react nudging the ball over the line to make it 2-0.
‘Well’s response was to send on Bob McHugh after 66 minutes for the unlucky Cummings.
The substitution paid dividends within five minutes when Humphrey’s cut back found McHugh and although his drive seemed net bound Murphy got the final touch to reduce the leeway – the forwards 50th goal in Claret and Amber.
That lifted the team and the crowd and just four minutes later the sides were level. Ojamaa cut in from the left side of the box and had only one thing on his mind as he curled an unstoppable shot beyond Bell and in off the keeper’s left hand post.
The final 15 minutes was enthralling as wave after wave of attack flowed towards the visitor‘s goal.
And with Humphrey having the measure of young Rory McKeown the ‘Well winger teed up a succession of chances with McHugh’s net bound effort from four yards blocked by Ryan O’Leary.
Lasley shot over and then watched another drive blocked by Michael Neslon’s arm as the Killie defence wilted but held on for a point, which their contribution to a thoroughly entertaining game possibly just deserved.
[tab:As it happened]
Alastair Reilly at Fir Park
FULL TIME: Motherwell 2 – 2 Kilmarnock
90mins: Yet again Humphrey does well to cut the ball across the face of goal. McHugh is just inches away from turning it home!
90mins: Three minutes added on
86mins: Lasley latches on to the end of a Humphrey pull back. Seemed to take an eternity to reach him and when it did, he scooped it over.
82mins: Killie sub, Johnson off for Slater
80mins: Murphy blazes Humphrey’s cutback well over. Was an awkward one to take to be fair.
79mins: Killie sub, O’Hara on for Perez
78mins: McHugh heads just past with the help of a deflection! All Motherwell!
76mins: Murphy has the crowd on their feet in celebration but his was just wide of the post and into the side netting
74mins: The pistols are back as Ojamaa curls in a wonder goal to pull it back to 2-2!!!!!!
GOOOOAAALLLLL! WHAT A GOAL!! OJAMAA!
72mins: Good chance here. Hateley delivers from a wide free-kick but Murphy’s header is too weak to trouble Bell.
70mins: Fantastic play from Humphrey to cut back for Murphy who bundles it home! 1 – 2
69mins: Hateley booked! Looked like he definitely made contact with the ball and was a great challenge.
66mins: Hammell has to be alert and opts to nod Dayton’s dangerous cross out for a corner.
65mins: Motherwell sub: Cummins off for McHugh
63mins: Tame effort from Law from 20 yards is easy for Bell of clutch onto.
62mins: GOAL: Heffernan doubles Killie’s advantage from close range after a fine save by Randolph
56mins: Randolph keeps us in the game with two fantastic saves. First at the feet of Sheridan, second from Kelly’s long range effort.
52mins: Just past the post from Lasley! What a strike that would have been from 25 yards out!
46mins: Second half is now underway. #COYW
HT: Motherwell 0 – 1 Kilmarnock
45mins: Murphy volley’s Hateley’s corner towards the bottom corner. Cleared off the line by Perez!
39mins: Ojamaa drags a shot just past Bell’s post. We’re still creating, which is positive.
39mins: Motherwell free-kick 20 yards out……Hateley’s shot is saved by Bell low to his left.
37mins:’Well still searching for the equaliser….Ojamaa cuts in and beats two men but sees his shot cannon off a Killie defender
33mins: Free-kick right on the edge of the box for ‘Well…. Hateley fires straight at Bell
29mins: Motherwell sub: Hutchinson off for Cummins.
23mins: Too close for comfort! Hutchinson has to head onto his own bar to divert Heffernan’s shot clear!
21mins: Law drives forward but with no options ahead, has to shoot from 25 yards. Bell makes a comfortable diving save to his right.
18mins: Half chance for Hutchinson there. Found himself unmarked from a corner but just can’t generate enough power in his header.
14mins: ‘Well peppering shots at the Killie goal in a bid to get back on level terms. Killie bodies in the way every time though.
11mins: GOAL: Perez opens the scoring with a spectacular curled strike. 0-1
11mins: Humphrey gets to the by and pulls it back to Higdon. The big scouser can only shoot straight at Bell.
10mins: One Phil O’Donnell
9mins: Slack back pass to Bell almost allows in Ojamaa! Bell recovers though and gathers the ball to safety.
6mins: Free-kick to Motherwell some 40 yards out. Hateley delivers but it is over hit.
1mins: Lasley and Law kick us off! #SIWY
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“I’ve been really proud of the lads in the past six weeks, probably longer, when you look at some of the matches we have been involved in. They have been fantastic.
“There’s a hint of disappointment in the dressing room at not winning.”
Kilmarnock manager Kenny Shiels:
“I’m sure it was an entertaining game for the neutrals and we made a contribution, which was good,” said Shiels, whose side remain in sixth place in the SPL table.
“I felt in the first 20 minutes of the second-half we had control but you know what a goal can do – it gave them a great momentum shift and they were really hard to play against at the stage.
“There were purple patches for both teams and that’s how football should be.
“The boys showed great spirit after conceding the second goal, we came here under-strength and to get a point is pleasing.
“You are always down a bit when you concede a late goal but you have to reflect on the whole game and it was a very good advert for the Scottish game.”