Motherwell U20s crashed out the SFA Youth Cup at Kilmarnock to complete an utterly miserable weekend for the club.
After the first-team’s desperate defeat to Albion Rovers yesterday, the youngsters were hoping to restore a bit of pride but lost 3-1 to an in-form Killie who have now won six on the bounce.
The Rugby Park side took the lead early on through left-back Dempster only for Lee Erwin to level matters ten minutes before the break.
Muirhead restored Killie’s lead just four minutes later before Greg Kiltie assured Kilmarnock’s progression to the Quarter Final’s with a third on the hour mark.
Johnasson made four changes to the side that lost to Celtic twelve days ago. Cummins, Lawson, Leitch and McHugh all dropped out, replaced by Hall, Thomas, Moore and Erwin.
Motherwell made a positive start and almost took the lead inside sixty seconds when Thomas’ shot forced Brennan into a low save with Moore unable to turn home the rebound.
But it was the home side that took the lead almost out of nothing after just eight minutes. Dempster collected a pass on the left flank, cut inside both Hall and McCafferty before unleashing a stunning effort high past Stewart into the top right corner.
It was a shock to the system for the young Steelmen but, to their credit, the reaction was first class, led by Dom Thomas who was excellent on the wing.
He stung the palms of Brennan with a low shot before watching a cross-cum-shot come back off the underside of the bar as ‘Well pushed for a leveler.
Erwin them almost poked home an equaliser but was stopped by a super last-ditch sliding challenge from goalscorer Dempster.
It was all Motherwell by the thirty-minute mark as the Claret and Amber men forced numerous corners and free kicks in dangerous areas but Killie held firm.
The leveler did eventually come on the 35th minute.
Craig Moore quickly turned a clearance back into an attack as Lee Erwin split the Killie centre backs. Racing in on Brennan, he kept his composure and calmly slotted the ball into the far corner.
Incredibly, after being dominated for thirty minutes, Killie restored their lead just four minutes later with a swift counter-attack.
Breaking quickly from a Motherwell corner, Kiltie stepped away from two challenges before sliding in the supporting Muirhead with a lovely pass. The striker raced clear of the ‘Well rearguard, rounded Stewart before smashing it high into the unguarded net.
Seconds before the half-time whistle, Killie keeper Brennan had to acrobatically turn a Moore header over the bar to keep his side ahead.
At that point, there was little to suggest ‘Well wouldn’t have more chances to score in the second forty-five but, in truth, Johansson’s men never really got going.
It took almost ten minutes before there was anything of note; a cross from substitute Luke Watt, introduced at the break for Ben Hall, flew over the head of Moore and almost found Thomas, but the winger couldn’t control his shot at the far post.
A minute later, there was a huge shout for a penalty when O’Hara handled a Thomas free-kick but, despite prolonged and loud Motherwell protests, there was nothing doing from the referee.
That would prove to be a significant decision as the home side extended their lead shortly after.
Kiltie collected a pass some thirty yards from goal and despite David Ferguson for company; he drilled a stinging effort high past Stewart to all but seal the game for the hosts.
To complete a thoroughly miserable afternoon, Lee Erwin had to be carried off with what looked like a serious injury, replaced by Liam Anderson with ten minutes left to go.
‘Well had a few half-chances at the death, but never forced Brennan into any save of note.
After encouraging wins in the previous two rounds, it was a disappointing and sad end to Motherwell’s participation in this season’s Youth Cup. The side only a few days before they are back in action against Partick Thistle.
Motherwell: Stewart, Hall (Watt – 46mins), Ferguson, Murray, Neill, Cadden, McCafferty (Higgins – 71mins), Shirkie, Moore, Thomas, Erwin (Anderson – 78mins)
Subs Not Used: Currie, McCall