A last-minute winner from substitute Dale Shirkie gave ‘Well all three points against Ross County in the final U20s match of the season.
The Steelmen had created numerous chances throughout the ninety minutes, including having the ball in the net on three separate occasions only to be thwarted by the assistant’s flag.
And just when it seemed Jonatan Johansson’s men would have to settle for a share of the spoils, Shirkie got on the end of a lovely Lee Erwin pass before slotting under Sean McCarthy.
It means the youths finish the season six games unbeaten, taking fourteen points from the last eighteen available.
Johansson made four changes to the side that drew 1-1 with Falkirk on Tuesday night. Stewart, Saunders, McNulty and Shirkie dropped out, replaced by Hollis, Ferguson, Cadden and Higgins.
Motherwell thought they had made the best possible start when Steven Higgins put the ball past McCarthy in the visitors goal. Chris Cadden and Dom Thomas combined to set-up the Scotland youth forward but the assistant’s flag was up and it wouldn’t count.
‘Well continued to create and a couple of Morgyn Neill headers, a scuffed Higgins shot and a bullet Euan Murray header all didn’t provide the opening goal.
It took County until the 13th minute to really make Lee Hollis work, a stinging Ryan Ross effort from just outside the box forcing the ‘Well stopper tip over.
That strike did little to alter the flow of the match, which was predominately towards the Highlanders’ goal.
Thomas forced McCarthy into two decent saves, the first was a shot from just outside the box after a long Hollis kick-out, the other created by a barnstorming run from young Cadden, was turned round at the expense of a corner.
The half continued in the same manner. Lee Erwin forced McCarthy into a decent block at his near post after a neat one-two with McCafferty. Then, shortly after, a Jack Leitch free kick from the touchline fell kindly for Higgins inside the box but he could only fire over from close range.
As the game got closer to the interval, Motherwell chances continued to come and go. Erwin fired over after a tantalising McCafferty cross from the left. The little winger then had a pop of his own shortly after, his strike from the left side of the penalty spot forced McCarthy into a smart, one-handed save. The rebound fell for Cadden inside the area but his shot hit the side netting.
After being out of things for the majority of the half, the Staggies could and perhaps should have got their noses in front just before the half-time interval. Ross McKillop headed a corner inches wide of the post before skipper Steven Ross sent a fizzing strike just off target.
Seconds before the whistle, County had a penalty claim turned down when Gary Glen fired a stinging shot into a ruck of players. Whilst the ball may well have hit an arm, it would have been difficult for any of them to get out the way of the ball given how close they were to the former Hearts man.
The second half started in the same vein as the majority of the first, with Motherwell creating chances.
Frazer Johnstone sent a beauty of a half volley just wide of target sixty seconds in. A minute later, Jack Leitch had the ball in the net again but yet another goal was ruled out, the referee having blown for a foul by Cadden on Hutchinson in the build-up.
Johansson’s side continued to push and a County survived a couple of fizzing balls across the face of goal.
Both teams made a number of substitutions that certainly slowed down the tempo of the match. indeed, it was ten minutes to go before either side were to create again.
Ryan Ross brought out a good save from Hollis low to his left hand side. Down the other end, Erwin forced McCarthy into another decent block with a strike from twenty yards.
With two minutes left to play, Motherwell thought they had grabbed the winner but for third time in the match, the officials would rule it out; Lee Erwin the unlucky players this time.
However, substitute Dale Shirkie would have the final say. Lee Erwin slid him clear of the last defender and the youngster showed terrific composure to blast it through the legs of McCarthy for all three points.
Motherwell: Hollis, Ferguson, Neill, Murray, Johnstone (McCall – 75mins), Cadden, McCafferty, Erwin, Higgins (Anderson – 66mins), Leitch, Thomas (Shirkie – 75mins)
Subs Not Used: Stewart