Gavin McCafferty at Tannadice
Lionel Ainsworth struck a glorious first goal for Motherwell to earn a 2-2 draw against Dundee United at Tannadice.
The on-loan Rotherham winger hit a superb long-range strike in the 76th minute, on his second appearance off the bench, after Dundee United had cancelled out Henri Anier’s opener with two goals in four minutes early in the second half.
Anier’s well-executed volley had given the visitors a deserved lead on the half-hour mark but United, who were without Gary Mackay-Steven, got going soon after following a slow start and Nadir Çiftçi and Andrew Robertson both exploited space down Motherwell’s right-hand side.
Each team had come into the match on form with Motherwell on a three-match winning streak and United having hit eleven goals in their previous four games and they both pushed for a winner in an exciting finale.
Motherwell started well and their first real chance came inside eight minutes when Stephen McManus met Iain Vigurs’ corner with a diving header, but the defender sent it wide of the far post from 10 yards.
Anier’s strength and movement was causing problems for United’s defence and he got his first sight of goal when he ran on to Vigurs’ pass and struck a vicious left-footed effort on the run, which just cleared the bar.
The breakthrough came as a result of a powerful run down the left wing by Zaine Francis-Angol. The Antiguan International got away from Ryan Dow just inside United’s half and got to the penalty box before cutting across John Rankin to cut the ball back.
The delivery was far from easy for Anier to take but the on-loan Viking Stavanger forward chested the ball down and repositioned his body perfectly to fire a powerful left-footed volley beyond Radoslaw Cierzniak’s outstretched hand from around the penalty spot.
Motherwell went on the hunt for more goals and John Sutton met Ramsden’s cross before the near post but could not steer the ball on target.
United, who barely got a kick in the first forty-five, responded in the latter stages of the half as Çiftçi set up two chances.
The first fell for Dow but the midfielder never looked confident and volleyed well over and Stuart Armstrong then dragged a left-footed shot wide of the far post from 15 yards after getting in front of Ramsden.
United stepped up a gear after half-time and equalised in the 53rd minute after Motherwell had defended a series of corners.
With Ramsden breaking down the right, Keith Lasley and then Shaun Hutchinson saw balls forward cut out. Ciftci peeled into the space on the left and collected the pass from John Rankin to fire an angled drive underneath Lee Hollis and into the net.
Motherwell were playing without a wide-right midfielder and United exploited the same space to take the lead. Robertson picked the ball up midway inside his own half and ran unchallenged before unleashing a 25-yard strike that nestled inside the far corner.
Well boss Stuart McCall rectified that situation by bringing on Ainsworth for Vigurs and Lasley came so close to equalising on 65 minutes when he curled a 30-yard free-kick off the inside of the post.
Çiftçi set up another chance but Hollis held after Armstrong slid in to stab the ball towards goal.
Anier had a 20-yard curler held before making way for McFadden, but it was the other substitute who immediately stole the show.
Ainsworth controlled a second ball from a Hollis goal kick and fired a powerful 25-yard strike inside Cierzniak’s near top corner.
United manager Jackie McNamara made an ambitious double switch as he brought on strikers David Goodwillie and Brian Graham for Dow and Ryan Gauld, while moving Çiftçi to wide right.
But Motherwell were not satisfied with a point either and Sutton headed just wide following an up-and-under in the 89th minute before Goodwillie elected to head the ball back to a team-mate when presented with a stoppage-time chance.
[tab:As it happened]
Ally Reilly at Tannadice
FT: Dundee Utd 2 – 2 Motherwell. Entertaining game!
90mins: Lasley booked for crunching down Goodwillie
90mins: 3 minutes added on.
88mins: Sutton inches away from winning it for ‘Well! Ball fell to him 10 yards out and he headed just wide.
87mins: Utd sub, Ciftci off for Oyenuga
85mins: Utd charge up the pitch and win a corner of their own. Great header from Hutcinson to divert the danger
83mins: Free-kick in Lasley territory…. ends with a corner.
80mins: Utd subs: Goodwillie and Graham on for Gauld and Dow
77mins: Ciftci booked for leaving a boot in on Hollis
75mins: Lionel has absolutely pinged one in from 30 yards! A screamer!
75mins: GOOOOAAALLLL!! WHAT A GOAL FROM LIONEL AINSWORTH!!!!
74mins: Motherwell sub, McFadden on for Anier
73mins: Motherwell coming back into the game a little as they search for the equaliser. ….
69mins: Todays attendance is 5808
67mins: Great chance again for Utd! This time it is Armstrong on the end of Ciftci’s cross. Thankfully it’s straight at Hollis.
65mins: Free-kick won by Sutton about 35 yards out. ….Lasley thumps it off the post! Great effort!
62mins: Motherwell sub, Ainsworth on for Vigurs
56mins: GOAL!: Utd make it two through Robertson! Far too easy again to get forward and get his shot away. Good finish though
52mins: GOAL! Utd equalise through Ciftci! Seemed to have far too much space to move into and rifled his shot past the helpless Hollis
47mins: Utd start the half with a succession of corners. ‘Well defence holds strong!
Back underway here for the second half. #COYW
HT: Dundee Utd 0 – 1 Motherwell
43mins: Bit of a let off there just before half-time as Rankin powers into the box but can only drag his shot wide.
38mins: Dow should really have done better after Ciftci’s header down to him in the box. Volleys well over from 10 yards
36mins:Ramsden goes on a run up front, eventually getting the ball across to Sutton. The big striker can only volley wide from a tight angle
30mins: 1-0 to Motherwell
GOAALL!! Stunning goal from Motherwell Absolutely superb run from Francis-Angol to get into the box,. He cuts it back to Anier who finishes in style!
17mins:Lively looking start for ‘Well! Anier goes very close again with a left footed shot on the edge of the box after Vigurs sent him clear
14mins: Patient build-up play from Vigurs and Lasley eventually releases Anier. His cross is deflected into the arms of Cierzniak
11mins: Good play from Anier to win ‘Well a corner…..Utd clear the danger.
8mins: Big Sutty almost hits the corner flag with his shot from 25 yards. He’ll know he can do better.
7mins: McManus’ diving header from 10 yards flashes just past from Vigurs’ corner!
5mins: Not a lot to speak of so far! As I type, Lasley see’s his effort from 25 yards sail well over
1min: Underway here at Tannadice. Internet seems slow but will do our best! Motherwell playing in their black away top with white shorts and socks, Utd in their usual Orange and black.
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“There were four great goals, but the two goals we lost were so disappointing. The second one we let the kid run 50 yards. In fairness to him it’s a good finish but we have got to close the ball.
“I’m disappointed with the way we let them get back into it, although they deserved it with the way they played. We certainly deserved the equaliser and then both teams just went for it.
“(Ryan) Gauld needed looking after in the pockets so we had to play one extra in the middle of the park. But I just don’t like playing one up on their own. We had to go lopsided and play without a natural right-sider.
“We knew the left-back would be an outlet, hence my anger at letting him come so far down the park because we had been warned about that.
“I have left Zaine Francis-Angol out twice now after two good performances and I thought he was our best player against St Mirren and deserved to keep his place. It was nothing detrimental against James.”
Dundee Utd manager Jackie McNamara:
“In the first half, they dominated us. It took us 40 minutes to win our first header in the centre of defence.
“I’m delighted with the spirit in the second half, to come back like that.”
“I think in the end, it’s two points lost. I thought we were terrific in the second half and [Stuart] Armstrong could have put the game to bed to go 3-1 up, but unfortunately he side-footed into the keeper.
“The lads battled well to go 2-1 up. I thought it was a good match, a lot of energy throughout the match. Motherwell started the game well with good energy.”