10-man Motherwell U20s crash to a disappointing home defeat at the hands of Aberdeen this afternoon.
The Dons took the lead from the penalty spot through Nicky Low before Declan McManus headed home a second before the interval.
Motherwell’s job was made even more difficult when ADAM CUMMINS was sent off for dissent towards the match official minutes after the break.
The Dons took full advantage of the extra man to add a third through Low again and a fourth via Cammy Smith.
Jonatan Johansson made a massive eight changes from the side that lost to St Mirren last Thursday. Only PAUL McCAFFERTY, LEE ERWIN and JACK LEITCH were involved from the team that faced the Saints. The eight drafted in all had first-team experience and included LEE HOLLIS, FRASER KERR, ZAINE FRANCIS-ANGOL, STEVEN SAUNDERS, Adam Cummins, STUART CARSWELL, KALLUM HIGGINBOTHAM and U20s top scorer BOB McHUGH.
The Steelmen made a bright start and on-loan Huddersfield Town front man Higginbotham was the first to have an effort at goal, striking a shot from the edge of the area that forced one time Motherwell target Dan Twardzik into a good save low to his right hand side.
The Dons would take the lead on the ninth minute though and it was in controversial circumstances. Peter Pawlett collected the ball on the edge of the area and, after flicking the ball over Cummins, bounced off the defender who was doing his best to turn.
Inexplicably, referee Alan Frame pointed to the spot. Nicky Low was in no mood for mercy, slamming home in to the bottom corner despite Hollis going the right way.
Motherwell missed several chances to get themselves level.
Saunders headed wide from a free-kick and McCafferty fired straight at Twardzik after working good space for himself on the edge of the area.
Bob McHugh then hit the post, the striker seeing his shot deflect off both Scott Rumsby and the face of Craig Duguid before striking the woodwork and landing fortuitously in the hands of Twardzik. It would be Duguid’s last involvement; Kieran Gibbons replaced him.
Motherwell looked as if they were gaining the upper hand and Erwin almost grabbed the leveler, nipping between Dons defenders Stephen O’Neill and Craig Murray but his fizzing shot flashed a yard past Twardzik’s left hand post.
With ‘Well looking the more likely, it was the Dons who would extended their lead against the run of play and in bizarre circumstances.
McManus, who had made a good near post run, headed a Murray cross from the right flank high into the air. It looked comfortable for Hollis to claim but in doing so, was adjudged to have carried the ball over the line.
Replays from behind the goal show the assistant referee got the decision correct.
Motherwell’s chances of getting back into the match were dealt a huge blow when Adam Cummins was ordered off. The defender gave away a fairly routine free kick on the edge of the area. After what looked like some chat with the match official, he was dismissed for dissent, although it is unclear if any card was flashed.
Aberdeen seized on the man advantage and dominated for most of the second-half. They should have made it three when McManus got on the end of a teasing Murray cross but he screwed his effort Fraser Kerr doing well to narrow the space.
Low fired a shot from distance that was well held by Hollis but he wouldn’t be denied shortly after as he grabbed his second of the afternoon to kill to game.
The left-sider made a great run between Saunders and Kerr to collect a pinpoint Jamie Masson pass over the top. Through one-on-one with Hollis, the midfielder’s first effort was well blocked by the ‘Well stopper, but he kept his composure to lift the rebound over the keeper and into the net, despite the best efforts of the recovering Kerr on the line.
The Dons went in search of more and they got it when Cammy Smith added a fourth, and thankfully final, goal for his side. The busy forward robbed Saunders on the edge of his own box, held off the defender and coolly slotted it through Hollis and into the net.
Motherwell did have one effort almost on full-time when Erwin capitalised on some slack Dons defending at a free-kick. Higginbotham’s ball found the Scotland youth International in bags of space but his volley was straight at Twardzik who cleared with his feet from point-blank range.
It brought to an end what was a miserable Motherwell performance. The watching Stuart McCall will have plenty to ponder ahead of Saturday’s match with St Mirren.
Motherwell: Hollis, Kerr, Francis-Angol, Cummins, Saunders, Carswell, McCafferty, Erwin, McHugh, Higginbotham, Leitch
Subs Not Used: Stewart, Neill, Thomas, Shirkie, Higgins