Phil McGhee at Fir Park
For the second time this season, a solitary strike from Johnny Russell was enough to give Dundee United a narrow 1-0 victory at Fir Park.
And even the introduction of James McFadden for the final 18 minutes couldn’t save ‘Well from slipping to their first home defeat since November, ironically when United were the visitors.
In truth this would have been a more convincing win for Jackie McNamara’s men had Darren Randolph not produced a handful of stunning second half saves to give ‘Well some faint hopes of sneaking a draw.
From the kick-off Motherwell put pressure on a United defence which conceded six goals at Celtic Park on Saturday. The shell-shocked Tannadice backline was bolstered by Jon Daly at centre back leaving Johnny Russell as the visitor’s lone forward.
Despite camping in United’s half for the first five minutes, though, only a Chris Humphrey drive into the advertising hoardings came close to testing Radoslaw Cierzniak.
At the other end, Russell’s pace and Gary Mackay-Steven’s trickery always looked threatening.
And after seventeen minutes the pair combined for the opening goal.
From a ‘Well corner Mackay-Steven raced upfield and his pass in behind Shaun Hutchison allowed Russell to draw Darren Randolph from his line before calmly slotting the ball inside the keeper’s right hand post.
The expected storming fightback from the Fir Park side did not materialise. Instead both teams were intent in playing some good possession football, largely in the middle of the park, without threatening either goalkeeper in the first half.
A rising shot from Henrik Ojamaa after the break and a free kick which Stevie Hammell curled just over the cross bar at least gave an early indication that the second half would be better.
After 64 minutes Randolph kept ‘Well in the game with an outstretched leg to block Mackay- Steven’s low drive.
The Motherwell keeper, who rightly earned the man of the match award, then produced three magnificent saves inside two minutes to deny Mackay-Stevens, John Rankin and at point blank range Russell.
Having survived that, Stuart McCall immediately rang the changes bringing on Bob McHugh and to a thunderous reception, James McFadden, for the final 18 minutes.
Almost immediately ‘Well were denied a penalty when Michael Higdon’s thumping volley cannoned off Daly’s arms.
In 78th minute ‘Well came within inches of the equaliser when Cierzniak raced from his line to palm a Tom Hateley cross only as far as Nicky Law but his floated shot over the stranded keeper skimmed off the cross bar.
Mackay –Steven had the chance to make certain of the points six minutes from time but his drive past Randolph was booted off the line by Hutchinson.
After the emphatic victory over Inverness CT on Saturday and the frenzy surrounding the re-signing of Faddy, it was a disappointing evening for the Steelmen.
[tab:As it happened]
Alastair Reilly at Fir Park
FT Motherwell 0 – 1 Dundee Utd.
90mins: 3 minutes added on as Higdon heads tamely to Cierzniak.
89mins: Faddy free-kick appears to have knocked Rankin out.
86mins: Dundee Utd Sub, Flood off for Millar
83mins: Oofft, Daly’s header cleared off the line by Hutchy! And again! This time from Mackay-Steven.
78mins: Off the bar from Law as Cierzniak comes flapping. Feels like one of those nights.
74mins: Another handball shout! Again, a difficult one to call on first viewing.
72mins: Motherwell subs, McFadden and McHugh on for Higginbotham and Ojamaa
72mins: Quite incredible trio of saves from Randolph keeps us in the game.
67mins: More pressure from Motherwell results in Higginbotham firing tamely at Cierzniak from just inside the box.
64mins: Randolph does fantastically to block from Mackay-Steven on a tight angle with his feet.Utd counter attack there looking dangerous.
59mins: Bit of an onslaught now from the Steelmen! Balls flying about left right and centre in the box but no killer touch.
54mins: Motherwell sub: Hammell off for Francis-Angol
52mins: Free-kick in a dangerous position! Hateley ruled to have been fouled just outside the box. Utd defence not happy. Hammell tried the curler but there is too much on it and it’s well over.
49mins: Ojamaa sprints up the other end and he too blazes well over, this time from 25 yards.
47mins: Bit of a let-off there. McLean swings a boot at it inside the Motherwell box but scoops it well over. Needed composure.
47mins: Hutchinson flattens Mackay-Steven and is rightly booked.
46mins: Second half underway.
HT: Motherwell 0 – 1 Dundee Utd
44mins: more frustration as again we got in the box but get crowded out of a shot then Utd get corner for what looked like a wrong decision
36mins: Ryan tries a shot from 22 yards but it slices off the outside of his boot and sails well wide.
32mins: Again, Ojamaa picks the ball up in the box but can’t create the angle for a shot. Frustrating
26mins: Russell is unlucky as he pounces on Hammell’s indecision. Curls it just over from 20 yards.
23mins: It’s been a good reaction to the Utd goal. Lots of positive play, just lacking that killer pass.
22mins: Boos ringing out at FP! Home fans think they were denied a penalty after McLean appeared to handle. Hard to call though!
17mins: GOAL! – Russell slides the ball under Randolph after springing the offside trap. 0-1
12mins: Game starting to open up. United probing a little more and putting ‘Well on the back foot.
6mins: Higginbotham looking lively tonight. Cuts in and tries and ambitious effort from range. Doesn’t trouble Cierzniak though.
4mins: Again creating a bit of an opening there. Higginbotham slid in Ojamaa who cut it back to the danger zone. No takers
2mins: Sliced clearance by McLean gifts us our first corner of the game.Headed clear to Humphrey who shoots wide.
1min: Slack defending from Utd gifts Ojamaa a good chance! Can’t get a shot off though unfortunately.
1min: Teams are out…kick-off just moments away! Teams have switched ends. Carswell and Law kick the game off.
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
Dundee Utd manager Jackie McNamara: