Graham Barnstaple at Fir Park
Motherwell rounded off their home season with a comfortable win over Ross County thanks to first half goals from James McFadden and Chris Humphrey.
It was an emotional day with at least two players making their last appearance at Fir Park before leaving in the summer and to mark the occasion, Darren Randolph was handed the captain’s armband.
Ross County knew only a win would keep them in with a chance of Europa League qualification ahead of a final game encounter against their local rivals Inverness at Victoria Park.
Motherwell knew they were assured of second place after Inverness’s loss to Dundee Unite on Saturday.
This appeared to have a bearing on the early stages with County looking the more assured side. Despite their early dominance, they fell behind to a classic counter attack goal in the ninth minute. Jamaican International Humphrey intercepted a loose pass in midfield by Richard Brittain and skipped past Grant Munro before squaring across the six yard line for McFadden to side foot past ex-Motherwell keeper Michael Fraser.
The visitors tried to bounce back immediately but all they could show for their possession was a twenty-yard shot from Brittain which fizzed just inches wide of Randolph’s right hand post with the Republic of Ireland stopper happy to watch it behind.
The game then developed into a bit of a midfield scrap with neither side really looking like scoring. Symptomatic of County’s afternoon was a chance on the break for Ivan Sproule but his first touch was too heavy allowing Randolph to save easily.
Just before the break, Motherwell struck on the counter attack once again. Humphrey picked up a clearance from a Ross County corner 70 yards from the visitor’s goal, got his head down and out paced Ian Vigurs. No other defender reacted and the winger was allowed a clear run on Fraser and he kept his composure to side foot under the keeper to double the lead with what turned out to be the last kick of the half.
Not surprisingly County came out all guns blazing at the start of the second half, but their finishing really let them down. Martin Scott stabbed a shot over and then Greek full-back Evangelos Ikonomou shot straight at Randolph.
At the other end McFadden spotted Fraser off his line and tried to chip him from about 30 yards out, but his effort was just a few feet off target with the keeper beaten.
Motherwell could have made it three half way through the half, once again Humphrey was the provider and his cross to the far post was somehow headed over by McFadden from close range.
The Scotland International appeared to be pushed by André Hainault just before connecting with the cross but referee Craig Thomson was having none of it, despite the former Everton man’s protestations. Television replays would show he had a fairly strong case.
County threw everyone forward in a last ditch effort to get something from the game and keep their Europa League hopes alive. Their closest effort came when Sproule’s cross-cum-shot evaded Randolph but bounced clear off the cross bar.
In the end Motherwell held on comfortably enough to seal a memorable season with a home win in the last game of the season at Fir Park, and sparked scenes of celebration in the Stands around the ground.
[tab:As it happened]
Alastair Reilly at Fir Park
FT: Motherwell 2 – 0 Ross County
92mins: Motherwell sub – Randolph off to a standing ovation, replaced by Ross Stewart.
90mins: 5 minutes added on here.
89mins: Sproule can’t quite get enough on Wolfarth’s shot to divert it into the back of the net.
80mins: Motherwell subs – Law and Higdon off for Higginbotham and McHugh
79mins: Sproule clips the top of the bar with a good effort on a tight angle 18 yards out.
76mins: Great chance as McFadden heads Humphreys great cross over the bar from 3 yards out!. Hainault did enough to put him off.
74mins: Ross County sub – Cooper on for Lawson
68mins: Hammell heads clear and out for a Ross County corner. Munro heads the delivery well wide.
66mins: Fortheringham tries his luck from 20 yards on his left foot. It’s just over the bar!
65mins: Ross County sub -Scott off for Glen
64mins: Lawson’s 20 yard strike looked goal-bound until it struck Scott and deflected away to safety.
57mins: Cheeky chip from McFadden there after he spotted Fraser off his line. Drifts well past in the end.
56mins: Ross County sub – Fotheringham on for Brittain.
54mins: Looks like a sore one for Brittain. He slid in on Humphrey but caught his trailing leg on the turf and twisted his knee. Now being stretchered off. Looked a bad one.
52mins: Corner to Motherwell….Oikonomou does enough to put off Carswell at the front post.
48mins: County starting this half on top. Oikonomou stings the palms of Randolph with a left footed shot outside the box.
46mins: Second half underway. Scott volleys Kovacevic’s cross just over the bar from 12 yards
HT: Strange first half! Only two shots on goal and we find ourselves 2-0 up.
HT: Motherwell 2 – 0 Ross County
45mins: GOOOAALLL!! Humphrey makes it 2-0! Runs the entire half with the ball and cool as you like slots it past Fraser
37mins: Captain for the day Randolph races off his line to collect at the feet of Sproule as he raced through on goal.
35mins: Half-chance there for Sproule. Shot from just inside the box…never going to beat Randolph from that angle though.
32mins: Corner to Motherwell now….County eventually clear from a Hateley/Law combo
30mins: Corner to Ross County…..Law blocks twice to clear the danger.
25mins: Free-kick in a dangerous position for Ross County….. Brittain blasts over.
22mins: YELLOW CARD – Brittain booked for a tug on Carswell’s shirt.
19mins: Oikonomou skins Hateley on the wing and delivers a good left footed cross which marginally evades the waiting Wolfarth.
16mins: Brittain combines with Vigurs on the edge of the box but his left footed shot drifts just past Randolph’s post
8mins: GOAAALLL!! McFadden and Humphrey make it look easy! Humphs rolls it across the face of goal and Faddy slots home! 1-0
5mins: A quiet start. Just a few niggly midfield challenges to speak of.
1min: Ross County get the game underway…..by promptly punting the ball out the park.
Here come the teams! New kit looking lovely, too. Pity it’s not brilliant sunshine to add a little to the party atmosphere
Kick-off just minutes away here at a rainy Fir Park.
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“It’s nice to finish with a home win; although that’s probably the least impressive we’ve been at home since Christmas.
“We’ve broken the points record from last year and the players deserve it for the whole season.
“We’ve got pace on the break, although we missed Henrik [Ojamaa] a little bit – the front two – Faddy and Higgy [Michael Higdon] – I could probably give them both a race!
“As with all wingers, Chris can be a bit hit and miss at times but he was the difference between the teams today.”
Ross County manager Derek Adams:
“We’ve had a fabulous season and now we want to try and finish in fourth position.
“Today was about trying to finish in third and we haven’t been able to do that.
“At the start of the season our main aim was to finish in 11th position and we’ve done a lot better than that.
“Take nothing away from Motherwell. They’ve had a fantastic season and deserve to be second in the league.”