Alan Burrows at the Caledonian Stadium
Despite a stirring comeback, ten-man Motherwell lost 4-3 to Inverness Caley Thistle at the Caledonian Stadium this afternoon.
The Steelmen were poor in the first forty-five and found themselves 3-0 down inside the opening half hour, goals coming courtesy of Andrew Shinnie and a Billy McKay double.
James McFadden pulled one back shortly before the interval and that gave the Fir Parkers something to build on at the break.
And, three minutes after the restart, Henrik Ojamaa won his side a penalty, which Michael Higdon converted for his 27th of the season.
Unbelievably, fifteen minutes later, McFadden drew his side level with a well-taken strike from just inside the box.
The game would turn on the red card to Ojamaa, the Estonian sent for an early bath for a second bookable offence.
The sting in the tail was still to come, McKay latching on to a rebound to poke beyond Randolph for all three points.
Understandably, Stuart McCall opted to go with the same starting eleven that beat Celtic last week. Inverness, with Chris Hogg making his comeback after 18 months out with a knee injury and Owain Tudur Jones benched, had an unseasonably strong wind at their backs from kick-off and took just over three minutes to exploit their advantage.
Graeme Shinnie’s 20-yard free-kick hit the wall but Aaron Doran retrieved the ball and lifted it over to Josh Meekings, who was in yards of space as the Motherwell defence looked in vain for an offside flag.
Meekings sent a low cross into the six-yard box and McKay got there first to stab home.
Motherwell soon had a penalty claim turned down by Willie Collum after Nicky Law went down under the close attention of Danny Devine after beating Inverness goalkeeper Antonio Reguero to Keith Lasley’s through-ball.
But the home side were soon back on the front foot and Richie Foran hit the post after winning the ball and playing a one-two with Andrew Shinnie.
Caley Thistle were pressing Motherwell aggressively high up the park and the visitors survived some more nervous moments amid a succession of blocked shots. Inverness doubled their lead in the 25th minute after Motherwell failed to cope with a long free-kick from Meekings.
McKay held the ball up before Andrew Shinnie pounced on the loose ball 12 yards and guided a left-footed shot into the bottom corner.
The front pair combined again two minutes later. Shinnie ran clear on to Foran’s ball down the right wing and had all the time he needed to pick out McKay who supplied another sliding near-post finish.
It almost got worse before it got better for Motherwell as Doran was soon sent clean through but he hesitated after taking the ball round Randolph.
A stunned Motherwell got a goal back in the 36th minute when McFadden collected the ball from Ojamaa 20 yards out and swerved a powerful low drive with the outside of his boot into the bottom corner.
Motherwell almost pulled another one back inside the first minute of the restart when Higdon volleyed Tom Hateley’s high cross inches wide.
They only had three more minutes to wait. Ojamaa ran on to Higdon’s and got in front of Hogg, who was too close and took him down. Higdon sent Antonio Reguero.
Ojamaa got in front of Hogg moments later and went down again, this time just outside the box, but Collum booked him for simulation.
The Estonian was soon played through twice in quick succession but Reguero was out sharply to foil him both times.
Motherwell were on top at this stage but they were caught on the break and Humphrey pushed Nick Ross inside the box for the second penalty of the afternoon., McKay hit the resulting penalty too straight and Randolph saved.
Motherwell were level 60 seconds later after Inverness failed to defend a set-piece. Ojamaa stabbed the ball through for the unmarked McFadden and he finished in off the post.
Both sides soon had chances. Shaun Hutchinson and Randolph combined to deny McKay after Shinnie had played him in over the top and Law fired just over from 12 yards after Ojamaa had got in behind.
Yet another flashpoint came in the 73rd minute when Ojamaa stretched to tackle Andrew Shinnie after a heavy touch and was shown a second yellow card after getting there too late.
Motherwell appeared to be coping well with ten men but McKay struck again in the 84th minute after Randolph had parried a powerful long-range strike by Meekings.
The visitors were not finished and piled bodies forward in the closing stages but the hosts survived.
[tab:As it happened]
Ally Reilly at the Caledonian Stadium
FT: Inverness CT 4 -3 Motherwell
90mins: 3 minutes added on
89mins: ICT sub, Shinnie off for Jones
85mins: Motherwell sub – Ramsden off for McHugh
84mins: GOAL! – ICT 4-3 up, McKay hat-trick.
82mins: Motherwell sub – Humphrey off for Fraser Kerr.
72mins: RED CARD – Ojamaa receives his second booking and his marching orders.
71mins: Great play from Ojamaa to get a cross in for Law. Somehow he blazes over from 12 yards!
68mins: What a game this is! Great save by Randolph to deny McKay 1 v 1!!
64mins: GOOOOAALLL!! Faddy makes it 3-3 with a superb finish on his right foot inside the box!!!
62mins: Saved by RANDOLPH!!!!!!!
61mins: Penalty to ICT!
58mins: Fantastic block from Ramsden there to deny Shinnie!! Foran blasts the rebound well over.
56mins: YELLOW CARDS – Law and Draper booked after some handbags
54mins: Should have been 3-3! Ojamaa with a great chance but Reguero gets enough on it to block from close range!
52mins: Some great pressure from Motherwell. 2 corners in a row and then Hateley delivers a great cross which unfortunately has no takers
50mins: Ojamaa bursts through on goal and hits the deck again. Ref says it was a dive!
48mins: GOAAALLLLL!!! 3-2 Higdon slots the Penalty home!
48mins: PENALTY! Ojamaa hauled down and the ref points to the spot.
46mins: Almost a good start there! Hateley looped in a cross which was met by Higdon. His volley looked like it bounced fractionally past!
45mins: Second half underway.
HT: Players are back out. No changes for either team. ‘Well with the wind behind their backs and in need of goals, goals, goals.
HT: Inverness CT 3 – 1 Motherwell
41mins: YELLOW CARD – Hammell booked for a tug on Doran’s shirt
35mins: GOAALLL!! Faddy gives ‘Well some hope! Left footed strike from 20 yards into bottom corner 3-1
32mins: Better. Humphrey and Hateley combine to set up Higdon. Reguero blocks at his near post then stops Humphrey’s header on rebound.
30mins: Could easily have been four there! Doran was through 1 on 1 but thankfully Randolph did enough to narrow the angle and help clear.
27mins: GOAL! – Somehow it’s 3-0 to Caley! McKay bundling home Shinnie’s cross
25mins: GOAL – Shinnie makes it 2 for Caley with a left footed strike just inside the box.
16mins: Fantastic sliding challenge from Hutchinson there to deny Draper inside the box. ICT turning the screw bit now….
9mins: Foran strikes the ball off the post from the angle inside the box. Looking a bit slack here, wind not helping though
7mins: Well, Law goes past Reguero and looks to be hauled down in the Caley box. No pen!
5mins: YELLOW CARD – Foran booked for a wreckless challenge on Lasley
3mins: GOAL! McKay puts Inverness 1 up! Motherwell failed to deal with the FK and he slotted home Meeking’s cross
2mins: Free-kick right on the edge of the ‘Well box. Ramsden ruled to have hauled down Shinnie.
1mins: Just seconds in and The Steelmen break into the box. Lasley fires McFadden’s cut-back well over form 18 yards
Teams just coming out. Usual colours for both sides, Lasley and Foran captains. ‘Well shooting away from the ‘Well fans in the first half
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“I’m hugely disappointed on a few aspects and obviously because we lost the game. The first half performance was really poor, not just in a defending sense about how we lost the goals but also in an attacking sense where we created very little.
“We were really poor on the ball and although the pitch and conditions wasn’t conducive to good football, too often we made the wrong decisions.
“You’ve got to give Inverness credit. McKay works the front line very well and Shinnie was on form today
“At half time there was no ranting and raving.
“They knew they had let each other down and at I expected them to come out and win the game; I genuinely believed we would do that because I think when we get our attacking game going we’re a match for anyone, and we almost did.”
Inverness manager Terry Butcher:
“Twenty-three goals is phenomenal from a player from Northampton. His season has been absolutely spectacular.
“You look at his work rate as well. Him and Andy Shinnie worked their socks off, it’s our first line of defence.
“He is a pest, he is a wasp, he gave their two centre-halves a hard time and chased everything. He is a lovely kid and just wants to work hard.
“But I must praise Chris Hogg especially. The boys wanted to win it for Chris because it’s his first game in 18 months. His experience and voice helped a lot. He gave away a penalty right enough, I’ll speak to him about that.
“But the players wanted to win it for him, it was a special ambition for the players.
“We’ve had a great chance at 3-0 to make it four and I was thinking: ‘I hope we don’t have to rue that and end up losing 4-3’.
“At 3-3 I was thinking that might just happen. It was a great comeback by Motherwell in the second half. They have got quality, they have a four-man attack which is tremendous.
“Obviously the sending-off helped but in the end I think we did deserve it with the chances we made. But it was a wonderful game of football, both teams hammer and tongs at each other and end-to-end stuff.”