Alan Burrows at Dens Park
On-form Motherwell produced a confident display to see off bottom side Dundee at Dens Park this afternoon.
Michael Higdon headed home the opening goal after nine minutes and Nicky Law grabbed a second-half brace to complete a satisfying afternoon for Stuart McCall’s men.
Victory for Inverness at Easter Road ensured the Steelmen remain three points ahead in the race for second spot with six games left in the campaign.
‘Well boss Stuart McCall made just one chance from the side that thumped Hibs 4-1 at Fir Park fifteen days ago. Chris Humphrey returned from a troublesome hamstring injury, replacing Kallum Higginbotham who would have to settle for a spot amongst the substitutes.
It was the hosts who started the brighter of the two teams and John Baird passed up a chance after Nicky Riley whipped in a decent near post ball. Unfortunately for John Brown’s side, the header was almost into the ground and the ‘Well rear-guard were able to clear.
They were to be punished as Motherwell made the breakthrough after nine minutes, Chris Humphrey burst away down the right and floated over a perfect cross for Higdon to head beyond Steve Simonsen from close range.
After netting his first goal since making his Fir Park return, James McFadden came close to adding to his tally when he forced the Dundee keeper into a low stop seven minutes later. The ball rebounded back into the danger area and although Henrik Ojamaa was in attendance, the home defence were able to hook it clear.
It was all looking rather comfortable for the visitors and the Estonian Ojamaa really should have converted Humphrey’s cut-back instead of firing straight at Simonsen midway through the first-half.
Referee Steven McLean infuriated the Dundee supporters when he brandished only a yellow-card to Hutchinson after he brought down Riley – deciding it was not a last-man challenge. Television replays would show he got it just about right.
For all Dundee’s possession, they were restricted to periodic shots from distance that weren’t troubling Darren Randolph. Gary Harkins stung the palms of the Irish International and Baird failed to hit the target from the rebound as Dundee demonstrated a rare attacking threat shortly before the break, but it’s the only time in the match they’d make the former Charlton man work.
In first-half stoppage time, Higdon came within an inch of doubling the lead with a curling effort from just inside the box, following a lovely spell of keep-ball, but it went a yard or two over Simonsen’s bar with the English keeper at full stretch.
The Fir Parkers made the brighter start to the second 45 and a wonderful bit of individual skill by Higdon ended with the striker hooking a shot just over the top.
They noisy visiting supporters did not have to wait much longer for a second goal however, Keith Lasley’s cross found Law who sent a header looping over the helpless Simonsen. It was the perfect end to an excellent move and it knocked the stuffing out the hosts.
Higdon should have doubled his tally for the day with a great opportunity from twelve yards out. Ojamaa was again the creator, hitting the by-line before pulling it back. The ball took a bobble and it was enough to distract the normally lethal front man as the ball ended up over the bar and into the stand.
Law’s afternoon got even better with eleven minutes remaining when a fantastically worked corner found him at the edge of the penalty area and the midfielder took a touch before unleashing a wonderful effort into the top corner.
Bob McHugh, Kallum Higginbotham and Stuart Carswell were all introduced for the final stages and there were further chances for Ojamaa and Higdon as the ‘Well saw out the match in a comfortable fashion.
[tab:As it happened]
Ally Reilly at Dens Park
FT: Dundee 0 – 3 Motherwell
90mins: 2 minutes added on
87mins: Motherwell sub – Lasley off for Carswell
84mins: Motherwell sub – Higdon off for McHugh
80mins: Motherwell sub – Higginbotham on for Humphrey
79mins: Dundee sub – Cowan on for Baird
78mins: GOOALLLL!! It’s a cracker again from Lawsy! Set-piece delivery finds him unmarked at the edge of the. One touch, then a delightful curler into the top corner!
76mins: Corner to Motherwell……dealt with by Easton
69mins: Should have been three after Hammell and Ojamaa combined to put it on a plate for Higdon. Well over from the big man though!
67mins: Dundee sub – Conroy off for Finnigan
61mins: GOOAALLL! It’s beautiful as Lasley curls the ball to Law who flicks it past Simonsen with his head. 0 – 2
55mins: Good mazy run from Ojamaa free’s up some space in the to get a cross in. Drills in across goal and Humphrey is only inches away
51mins: Succession of corners for Motherwell. Just can’t find the final touch on the delivery.
49mins: Thunderous volley from Higdon just inside the box flashes just over!
46mins: Good early chance for Dundee. Randolph with the block at the feet of Baird and Davidson firing the follow-up well past.
46mins: Teams back out for the second half. The Steelmen shooting towards the ‘Well support.
HT: Dundee 0 – 1 Motherwell. Higdon’s header enough to put ‘Well in one up at the break but Dundee looking dangerous in spells.
45mins: Higdon shoots over from just inside the box after a one-two with Ojamaa.
40mins: Benedictus does enough to take the sting out of McFadden’s header leaving an easy gather for Simonsen
38mins: McAlister tries his luck from 25 yards, Straight at Randolph.
30mins: Harkins forces a good save from Randolph then Baird fires the rebound inches past.
27mins: Superb defending from Ramsden as he slides in to deflect Conroy’s shot out for a corner.Dundee on the front foot now
22mins: Hutchinson booked for mistiming his header and blocking Riley. Was maybe a goal scoring opportunity too…..
20mins: Free header for Grassi there! Well wide though thankfully.
17mins: Great chance for ‘Well! Humphrey sells Easton a dummy and squares to Ojamaa. From 10 yards he fires straight at Simonsen
16mins: McFadden cuts in off the left wing and attempts an outside of the foot curler. Simonsen does well to tip around the post.
14mins: Great deep delivery from Conroy has Randolph racing off his line to punch clear. Deals with the corner too.
9mins: GOAALLL!! Higdon nods Motherwell in front from close range! Was a deep ball in from Humphrey and Higdon leapt to head past Simonsen with ease. 0-1
6mins: Mazy run from McFadden who slides in Humphrey. The winger’s cross is high and out the pitch
5mins: Conroy wins Dundee their first corner via Hammell. Grassi attemped to prod is goalward but sails past the post.
3mins: Good one-two between Higdon and Ojamaa. The Estonian judged to be a fraction offside as he goes through on goal
1min: Early chance as Baird can only succeed at heading the ball away from goal as he gets on the end of Riley’s cross
1min: Baird and Davidson get the game underway
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“Inverness have had a good result [beating Hibernian] and they’re hot on our heels.
“We’ve just got to keep at it and hopefully keep playing the football we’re playing, scoring the goals and putting smiles on faces.
“The goals were exceptional. The pitch is in good condition for this time year so it allowed us to get it down and play football.
“In the end, it’s a terrific result.We’re fortunate to have lads with really good ability and we’ve got to enjoy them while they’re here.
“We’ve got six games to go and we just insisting on the lads not to take their foot off the pedal now.”
Dundee manager John Brown:
“We didn’t help ourselves with the goals we lost.
“I’ve got to say, Motherwell have caused every team in the division problems this season so we’ve got to work at certain areas, tighten up at the back and take the opportunities when they come our way.
“It’s a steep learning curve. We have to do better in defence and that’s the first time we’ve been guilty of that since I took over.
“But we’ll keep battling on and won’t give up on anything.”