Phil McGhee at the Energy Assets Arena
Although the scoreline might suggest otherwise, Motherwell comfortably overcame Livingston to make the draw for the League Cup Quarter Finals.
An early Bob McHugh goal should have removed thoughts of a another cup shock but it took a second goal from James McFadden, and after Livi were reduced to 10 men, to kill off the well organised Championship side.
And although Danny Denholm pulled a goal back for the home team in the final minute, it was literally their first attempt on target and too late to unsettle ‘Well.
While it was patchy performance, the Fir Park side will be happy to notch up a cup win after failed attempts at the first hurdle last season.
Stuart McCall took the opportunity to rest five players from Sunday’s starting eleven at Tannadice. Gunnar Neilson took over in goal in an otherwise unchanged defence. Paul Lawson and Bob McHugh also made a start with James McFadden and Lionel Ainsworth retaining their places after coming on as substitutes against Dundee United.
After what would have been a quiet opening first 15 minutes, had it not been for the huge and noisy travelling support, ‘Well opened the scoring. Ainsworth curled in a corner which Simon Ramsden headed towards the back post where Bob McHugh gladly nodded home his first goal of the season.
The early goal settled the Steelmen, but while the rearranged side tried to develop a patient passing game, there was little to worry Darren Jamieson in the home goal.
Ainsworth, after his stunning goal on Sunday, tried to emulate that strike with a run and shot from 25 yards which had the ‘keeper at full stretch as the ball whizzed past the post.
Three minutes from the break ‘Well had strong appeals for a penalty when Coll Donaldson came through McFadden leaving him grounded and the referee thinking long and hard before waving play on.
Neilson, untroubled for 45 minutes, faced his first shot just before half-time interval but Marc McNulty’s wild effort posed more of a threat to the ‘Well fans in the corner of the Energy Assets Arena.
Despite some periods of untidy play from Motherwell, a second goal would have killed the tie and it was almost gifted six minutes after the break.
Some erratic defending from Donaldson in front of his own goal presented the ball to McHugh, but his cut back to McFadden was smothered by the ‘keeper.
McHugh then tried the direct route with a drive from the edge of the box but his effort drifted a couple of yards wide of goal.
McNulty then did likewise at the other end as John McGlynn’s men tried to get themselves back into the tie. A glancing header from Andy Barrowman came even closer to forcing a first save from Neilsen.
However, just as the home side looked to be gaining some confidence and posing a threat, they were reduced to 10 men when Jason Talbot was shown a straight red card after a two-footed tackle on Stevie Hammell.
After 70 minutes John Sutton replaced McHugh and the impact was immediate.
Ainsworth drilled a ball across the six-yard box and McFadden with a cheeky back-healer directed it past Jamieson to make it 2-0.
The ‘keeper then produced a stunning triple save to block shots from Sutton, Ramsden and McFadden.
Ainsworth almost made it three with a low left foot drive but Jamieson at full stretch palmed the ball away to retrict the lead to two goals.
And in the final minute that lead was reduced when Denholm scrambled home Martin Scott’s corner, as Neilsen without a single save, passed up the chance to claim a clean sheet.
[tab:As it happened]
Ally Reilly at the Energy Assets Arena
FT: Livingston 1 – 2 Motherwell. Comfortable night for the Steelmen.
90mins: That’s Livi’s first and only shot on target all night and it leads to a goal. That will disappoint Stuart McCall…
GOAL Livingston! Danny Denholm. Hopeful corner bounced through, hit the sub before bouncing in. Goal from nothing there…
87mins: Lovely interplay between Ainsworth and Sutton. Little winger fires a half-volley wayyyy over the bar. Still 2-0 ‘Well..
85mins: Offft, almost gets another belter. Poor kick from the GK – incredible touch but 25 yard shot goes inches over.
84mins: Lovely cut back from Moore lands at Ainsworth. His shot is well saved by Jamieson.
81mins: Last sub for Livi – Barrowman off, replaced by Burchill.
80mins: Hammell comes off and us replaced by Moore. Big Gunnar gets the armband!
79mins: How on earth did that not go in. Sutton just missed shot, Ramsden’s rebound palmed away, McFadden’s attempt deflected over. Crazy!
76mins: Scougall off, replaced by Denholm as Livi make their second sub of the match.
75mins: Carswell booked for a cynical trip.
70mins: 2-0 for the ‘Well… Majestic back-heel flick by the Scotland International. Almost like Paulinho’s for Spurs last Saturday! Magnificent!
69mins: Livi sub… Jacobs off, replaced by McDonald. Well also change… Sutton on for goalscorer McHugh.
65mins: Livi down to 10 men after Jason Talbot is sent off for a bad lunge on Stevie Hammell who is left in a heap! Ouch!
61mins: Livi’s best chance… Barrowman heads inches wide of target at the near post. Close from the hosts. Still 1-0 ‘Well
58mins: Livi’s McNulty winds up a shot from the edge of the box but it zips way wide of post. Ohhhh from the home fans, but it was well wide
55mims: ‘Well collect loose ball. Lawson to McHugh. Faddy wanted the slide ball but McHigh took shot on, blasting over the bar.
52mins: Livi all over the place at the back. Donaldson gets into all sorts of trouble. McHugh pulls back for Faddy but he can’t convert.
46mins: Motherwell get the second half going
HT: Livingston 0 – 1 Motherwell (McHugh)
41mins: Wee penalty shout there. McFadden downed in the box by Donaldson but nothing doing from referee Colvin.
31mins: Offtt! Another Ainsworth screamer. This one is just tipped wide of the post by Jamieson. Still 1-0 ‘Well.
29mins: There has been precious little to talk about folks. Few corners either side but that’s about it.
15mins: Corner from Lionel Ainsworth flicked on by Ramsden for Bob who heads home from a yard out. 1-0 ‘Well!
GOAL!! Bob McHugh
13mins: Still nothing major to report at all folks. ‘Well Bois in great voice again. Good to have them back after a quieter Tannadice!
4mins: Bob McHugh has the first effort of the game which is comfortably held by Jamieson.
3mins gone so far… Nothing much happening, including a decent wifi or 3G connection…
Livingston are going to kick-off…!
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“I have to say, I thought Livingston were terrific and it was only really when they went down to 10 men that we had chances to kill it off.
“I think we did enough to win the game. I’m disappointed to lose the goal but overall we’re in the next round and that’s the main thing.
“The park was really wet and it was skidding off and things weren’t coming off in the final third for both teams, but I’m pleased James got on the scoresheet and got a full 90 minutes.
“He is desperate to do well, he puts everything into training and games.
“Both strikers scored so that was great.”
Livingston manager John McGlynn:
“I would need to see it again but I don’t think you need to go in as aggressively in that position on the pitch. Away up there, what danger is anyone doing to you?
“It cost us because we were well in the game.
“I thought we played some really good football and controlled large chunks of the game. Credit to the lads, we even got a goal back at the end.”