‘Well returned to winning ways with a thumping 4-1 win over table-toppers Partick Thistle at the Excelsior Stadium this evening.
The Jags were already behind courtesy of Paul McCafferty’s first goal of the season when they were reduced to ten men after seventeen minutes.
Steven Higgins added a second before the break before Dale Shirkie netted a third twenty-five minutes from time.
Thistle reduced the arrears four minutes later but substitute Liam Anderson secured the win with a neat strike late in the game.
Jonatan Johansson made three changes to the side that lost at Rugby Park on Sunday. Ben Hall, Craig Moore and Lee Erwin all dropped out, replaced by Adam Cummins, Jack Leitch and Steven Higgins.
Motherwell made the best possible start, opening the scoring after just four minutes.
Jack Leitch spread the ball wide for Dom Thomas on the left flank and he wasted no time whipping a cross towards the six-yard box. Keeper Waters came out to collect but spilled it, allowing Paul McCafferty to prod home into an empty net from a few yards out.
It was the only noteworthy action of the opening stages, before the game exploded to life on the seventeen-minute mark.
Steven Higgins managed to wriggle clear of former ‘Well youngster Darren Brownlie, only to be tripped inches outside the area. Referee Colin Steven was up with play and quickly brandished the red card for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity with Brownlie the last defender.
Jack Leitch took the resulting free kick, but it smashed off the wall before the rebound was fired wide.
Despite going down to ten men, the visitors still look threatening in attack and Ross Stewart had to look smart to deny David Wilson, who had got in behind the ‘Well rearguard.
However, it was the Steelmen who were doing most of the attacking and Higgins was denied twice inside sixty seconds. The first was a weak effort from the edge of the box after a quick counter; the second was a good save by the Thistle keeper who was quick to narrow the angle.
However, Higgins wouldn’t be denied shortly after as he grabbed Motherwell’s second. Thomas was the creator again, skipping past a couple of challenges before weighting a slide rule pass perfectly for the 17-year old hitman who took a touch before firing it low into the corner.
Dale Shirkie almost made it three a few minutes later, collecting a lovely through pass and deftly dinking it over Waters, only to watch it bounce into the side net.
At the other end, Thistle could only manage two long-range efforts from Gary Fraser, both of which flew high and wide.
The second forty-five took a while to get going – seventeen minutes had been and gone before McDaid lashed a thirty-yard effort high over the bar, when he had better options right and left.
Motherwell’s first real effort at goal in the half ended up in the net and effectively killed the match as a contest.
Ferguson played Cadden in on the right flank with a terrifically weighted ball. The marauding fullback hung up a cross to the back post where Shirkie was lurking. He took a touch, turned his marker and poke home from close range.
To Thistle’s credit, they didn’t throw in the towel and indeed, scored a terrific goal four minutes later courtesy of Declan McDaid, who lashed a fizzing strike high past Stewart into the top corner.
The last twenty minutes may have been a little more uncomfortable for Johansson’s men had McDaid’s low effort crept in as opposed to the inches wide just two minutes later as Thistle stepped up their efforts.
But the game’s final goal came with eight minutes left on the clock, substitute Liam Anderson collecting on the left flank and turning in the park with a lovely first touch. As space opened up in front of him, he took the invitation to shoot, smashing it low under Waters to complete the scoring.
The win will go some way to banishing memories of disappointing performances against Celtic and Kilmarnock in recent weeks. The Under 20s return to action next Tuesday night when they have an early shot at revenge when Killie travel to Fir Park.
Motherwell: Stewart, Cadden, Ferguson (McCall – 72mins), Murray, Neill (Hall – 86mins), Cummins, McCafferty, Leitch, Higgins, Thomas (Anderson – 72mins), Shirkie
Unused Subs: Currie, Watt