Alan Burrows at The Global Energy Stadium
Motherwell slipped to third in the SPL after a disappointing 3-0 defeat at the Global Energy Stadium.
Played on a bumpy, sandy pitch, Ivan Sproule opened the scoring on 34 minutes, firing a Rocco Quinn pass under Darren Randolph after Zaine Francis-Angol was caught in possession.
Sproule turned provider twenty minutes from time, setting up Richard Brittain to curl home from just inside the box.
The home side added the exclamation mark to the victory in the dying moments, Iain Vigurs volleying home from close range.
Stuart McCall made three changes to the side that lost in midweek. Tom Hateley and Stevie Hammell both missed out through injury and Kallum Higginbotham had to be content with a place on the bench. They were replaced in the starting eleven by Francis-Angol, Adam Cummins and the returning Keith Lasley – making his 300th start in Claret and Amber.
‘Well had to start the match with just six substitutes after Fraser Kerr felt ill before the match.
The first chance fell to the visitors inside the opening two minutes but Michael Higdon’s shot was blocked.
County replied when Sproule volleyed over before both Vigurs and Quinn both tested Republic of Ireland International Darren Randolph.
The hosts eventually took the lead shortly after the half-hour mark. Francis-Angol was robbed in possession and Quinn quickly slid in Sproule who kept his composure to dink it past Randolph from close range.
Former Hibs striker Sam Morrow came close to a second for County but his shot was deflected just wide of the post for a corner.
Incredibly, despite having nothing in the way of an attacking threat for the majority of the first-half, Motherwell could and probably should have been level just before the interval.
Nicky Law’s free-kick was perfect for Shaun Hutchinson but the big Geordie could only head over from close range when a goal looked on the cards.
A few minutes after the restart Chris Humphrey gave Mark Brown something meaningful to do when he latched on to a ball over the top but his low shot was fairly comfortable for the former ‘Well stopper.
At the other end, Randolph had to look smart to block a close-range effort from Sproule after the Northern Irishman had been set-up by the excellent Paul Lawson.
McCall introduced James McFadden after the hour and his first action was to fire a free-kick off the wall. Nicky Law followed that up with a decent curling shot that had Brown scrambling only for it to drop a yard or so wide of the post.
It was to prove a pivotal point as County made it 2-0 shortly after. Sproule closed down Cummins and managed to block his attempted clearance. He hared off down the right before firing it across goal for Brittain who fired home from the edge of the box.
That took the wind out of the Motherwell sails and chasing a way back into the match, County created more.
Brittain curled a free-kick narrowly and Vigurs prompted Randolph into another decent block.
However, Vigurs’ next effort in the 89th minute was more successful when. From around eight yards, the former Inverness man was completely unmarked and smacked home a ball from the right to complete the scoring.
McCall will now need to pick his troops up for the midweek visit of Celtic who travel to Fir Park with at least an eighteen point gap.
[tab:As it happened]
Ally Reilly at The Global Energy Stadium
FT: Ross County 3 – 0 Motherwell
89mins: Ross County sub, Hainault on for Lawson
88mins: GOAL- It’s 3-0 as Vigurs volleys home form close range.
81mins: Vigurs should have buried that from only 12 yards out. Still 2-0
80mins: Motherwell sub, Daley on for Humphrey
78mins: Ross County subs, Sproule off for Wohlfarth and Glen on for Morrow
75mins: Morrow heads just past from Vigurs’ cross
72mins: Motherwell sub: McHugh on for Francis-Angol
70mins: GOAL: Brittain makes it 2-0.
69mins: Good effort from Law as he cut inside and curled it just past from 25 yards.
67mins: Faddy jinks past two and wins a free-kick in a good position. Free-kick drilled straight into the wall.
63mins: Motherwell sub: McFadden on for Carswell
59mins: Ramsden booked for a foul on the half-way line.
50mins: Great save by Randolph at the feet of Sproule after Lawson put it on a plate for him across the box.
47mins: Corner to Motherwell….easily gathered by Brown.
46mins: Humphrey races onto Law’s punt forward. Shoots straight at Brown. Good chance though,and encouraging.
Teams back out and we’re underway for the second half. Need a big, big improvement from that first half! #COYW
HT: Ross County 1 – 0 Motherwell
44mins: Corner to Motherwell…
41mins: Decent chance for ‘Well! Great free-kick delivered by Law. Hutchinson stretches and heads just over the bar from 10 yards.
40mins: Morrow really should have put them 2 up! Misses from about 10 yards out.
38mins: Humphrey gets in behind Oikonomou but his cross is just behind Higdon and County sweep it clear.
33mins: GOAL – Sproule opens the scoring for Ross County. Quinn slid him in and he found himself with all the time in the world to fire past helpless Randolph
30mins: Half an hour in and it’s still quite poor. ‘Well yet to have any meaningful possession.
29mins: Rocco Quinn up next to try his luck from range. His shot is on target from 20 yards but doesn’t really trouble Randolph
26mins: Brittain works a bit of space just inside the side the box but sees his shot deflected wide for a corner.
23mins: Another good chance for County.This time Britain drives in a crossed free-kick which Randolph has to deal with at his front post.
21mins: Morrow nods down Kovacevic’s cross to Sproule. Thankfully he blazes well over from 18 yards.
20mins: Ross County starting to get the upper hand. They’re pressing further up the field but have yet to test Randolph.
17mins: bit of slackness from Hutchinson allows in Vigurs. He tries to clip the ball in to Sproule but ‘Well clear.
12mins: Half chance there for County. Vigurs hung a cross up at the back post but Randolph gathered with ease.
10mins: 10 minutes in and there is very little happening. Most of action played on the sandy side of pitch and very scrappy so far.
1mins: Early corner to Motherwell… Falls to Higdon at the back post.His left footed volley is diverted away from danger by County.
And we’re underway! #COYW
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“Just not good enough and we need to be better.
“Everywhere throughout the park, they were better than us, stronger than us, wanted it more and from a manager you don’t want to say those things.
“I don’t think anybody in our side got pass marks whatsoever. I don’t take anything away from Ross County because they were, in spells, very good.
“We’ve got to make sure it is a one-off because we can’t have performances like that.
“I can always accept people just not having the best of games but I just thought there was a lack of urgency and a lack of real desire and stomach.”
Ross County manager Derek Adams:
“We’re moving on up the league, we’re eight unbeaten and we just want to keep it going,
“It was a very good win for us, against a team that are pushing for second position.
“We’ve cut the gap between Motherwell and ourselves to two points and moved up positions in the league.
“This is why I keep saying that the restructuring of Scottish football should not be happening.
“I’m deeply against it and this is one of the reasons why.”