Gavin McCafferty at Firhill
Motherwell signed off 2013 in style with a clinical 5-1 win over Partick Thistle at Firhill this afternoon.
Former Steelmen winger Steven Lawless opened the scoring, but any hope Thistle had of claiming their first Premiership win at Firhill was extinguished before an end-to-end first half finished.
Keith Lasley quickly equalised before Zaine Francis-Angol scored an excellent solo goal and McFadden lobbed home before the break. Lionel Ainsworth and substitute John Sutton added to the scoring to secure an impressive victory for Stuart McCall’s side.
The recalled McFadden also hit the bar as Motherwell again showed they have put their William Hill Scottish Cup defeat by Albion firmly behind them.
With Shaun Hutchinson suspended and Fraser Kerr missing with a tight hamstring, McCall had to reshuffle his back four with Stuart Carswell at right-back.
And the makeshift defence was cut open in the eighth minute as Thistle worked their way forward after Gabriel Piccolo had cut out Simon Ramsden’s ball forward.
Kris Doolan played in James Craigen in the left channel and he cut the ball back for Lawless to steer into the bottom corner.
Both sets of fans joined in applause for Phil O’Donnell, who died exactly six years ago while playing for Motherwell against Dundee United.
Thistle kept up the pressure and Lawless almost doubled his tally with a 25-yard strike that Dan Twardzik pushed wide before Piccolo headed not far away from the corner.
But Motherwell were level in the 15th minute. McFadden took the ball in from a throw-in, turned his man and slipped the ball into the path of Lasley, who placed the ball inside the far corner.
The goalmouth action was relentless. Lawless played in Kallum Higginbotham but Twardzik raced off his line to block, and seconds later a Francis-Angol cross fell for Iain Vigurs but the midfielder could not head on target.
Francis-Angol soon caused even more damage in the 21st minute after some sharp build-up play down the left with Steven Hammell at its heart. The former Tottenham trainee cut inside Stephen O’Donnell and squeezed a right-footed shot inside the near post – his first senior goal.
Thistle made a change in the 27th minute when another former Motherwell player, Ross Forbes, came on for Christie Elliott with Higginbotham moving to the right.
Doolan came close with a curler but Motherwell extended their lead in the 36th minute.
There appeared little danger but Henri Anier pounced on a loose ball midway inside the Thistle half and lofted a pass forward for McFadden. The Scotland hero beat Piccolo for strength and skill and lobbed the ball over Scott Fox and into the corner of the net.
McFadden and Forbes had spectacular volleys tipped over at either end as the second half started in similarly action-packed fashion.
Thistle pressed but Motherwell moved further ahead in the 56th minute. Aaron Taylor-Sinclair appeared to have thwarted a Motherwell attack but he gifted possession to Lasley, who played in Ainsworth to slot the ball into the corner for his third goal in three games.
McFadden powered a header against the bar following a Vigurs cross just before Sutton netted in the 65th minute when he ran on to a long ball from Vigurs and steered the ball home.
McFadden played Ainsworth through two minutes later but Fox came off his line to block the shot and the former Everton player curled just wide from 25 yards as Motherwell threatened to embarrass the Jags.
Thistle came closer to a seventh goal though but Twardzik slid to clear to deny Doolan a consolation after Hammell’s short backpass.
It was an excellent day’s work for McCall’s men who now face a St Johnstone side full of confidence after a thumping win over Dundee United.
[tab:As it happened]
Alastair Reilly at Firhill
FT: A superb 3 points and a great team performance. Hard to pick a man of the match from that! #ptfcvmfc
FT: Partick Thistle 1 – 5 Motherwell
90mins: Lawson fires a shot away with his left foot from 25yards straught at Fox #ptfcvmfc
89mins: Late corner for The Jags….wasteful again #ptfcvmfc
86mins: Bannigan booked for a foul on Lawson #ptfcvmfc
83mins: Strange moment as Twardzik gets caught out but manages to slide in on Higginbotham to clear off the line #ptfcvmfc
81mins: Corner to Thistle….Ramsden deals with it. #ptfcvmfc
79mins: Motherwell sub, McFadden off for McHugh. Another great performer today! #ptfcvmfc
77mins: McManus with a Cruyff turn inside the Thistle box. Fires just past too! #ptfcvmfc
74mins: Motherwell sub, Carswell off for Lawson. Carswell absolutely outstanding at right back today! #ptfcvmfc
71mins: Just wide from McFadden! Did well to cut in from the right and his curling effort goes just past #ptfcvmfc
67mins: Should have been 6! Ainsworth through 1 on 1 but Fox does well to deny #ptfcvmfc
65mins: SUTTON makes it 5! Comical defending from Piccolo as the ball hits off him and Sutty finishes with style 1-5 #ptfcvmfc
64mins: Faddy see’s his header from Vigur’s ball in crash off the bar! #ptfcvmfc
63mins: Higginbotham booked for clattering down Lasley #ptfcvmfc
60mins: Partick sub, Lawless off for Baird #ptfcvmfc
57mins: Motherwell sub, Anier off for Sutton #ptfcvmfc
56mins: Ainsworth slots home from a narrow angle after Lasley slid him in! 1-4 #ptfcvmfc
54mins: Great chance for Anier as he raced onto a slack backpass. Not direct enough and Thistle get back to clear #ptfcvmfc
52mins: Twardzik has to react quickly to tip over a great Forbes effort from 30 yards #ptfcvmfc
48mins: Good defending from Hammell to deny Forbes at the back post. From the corner, Twardzik gathers with ease #ptfcvmfc
46mins: McFadden almost bursts the net with a volley from 20 yards. Good save from Fox #ptfcvmfc
46mins: Partick get the second half underway #ptfcvmfc
HT: Teams are back out for the second half #ptfcvmfc
HT: Partick Thistle 1 – 3 Motherwell
41mins: Great chance for Craigen as he gets on the end of Lawless’ superb ball in. Heads wide though! #ptfcvmfc
35mins: A moment of magic from McFadden as he latches on to Anier’s pass and clips it over Fox from just inside the box! 1-3 #ptfcvmfc
34mins: Corner to Thistle now…headed well wide by Balatoni #ptfcvmfc
32mins: Forbes fires it straight off Lasley #ptfcvmfc
32mins: Free-kick in a dangerous position just 18 yards out for Thistle. #ptfcvmfc
31mins: Corner to Motherwell after Fox very nearly claws it into his own net. Thistle clear the danger #ptfcvmfc
30mins: Decent effort from Doolan as Jags hunt for an equaliser. His effort always looked like going over though #ptfcvmfc
26mins: Partick sub, Elliot off for Forbes #ptfcvmfc
21mins: Francis-Angol does well to cut inside on the left and when he finds himself inside the box, he cooly slots past Fox. 1-2 #ptfcvmfc
19mins: Twardzik with another fine save to deny Higginbotham, ‘Well counter and from Francis-Angol’s cross, Vigs heads wide #ptfcvmfc
15mins: Lovely reverse ball from McFadden to find LASLEY inside the box and he fires it below Fox to make it 1-1 #ptfcvmfc
14mins: Another corner to ‘Well….finds the head of McFadden but his header is blocked #ptfcvmfc
11mins: Stunning save from Twardzik to deny Lawless a second from all of 25 yards #ptfcvmfc
10mins: “One Phil O’Donnell”
7mins: GOAL – Lawless opens the scoring from 10 yards from a cutback. #ptfcvmfc
6mins: Ainsworth wins ‘Well a corner which Balatoni heads clear. #ptfcvmfc
3mins: Vigurs booked already for a wild challenge on Higginbotham. Piccolo heads wide from the free-kick #ptfcvmfc
1min: Early corner for Thistle….acrobatics inside the box from Piccolo but misses the ball. #ptfcvmfc
1min: Lasley and McFadden kick off #ptfcvmfc
The teams emerge from the tunnel…. Handshakes over, it’s time for the action!#ptfcvmfc
Partick Thistle manager Alan Archibald:
“The second-half performance was unacceptable. We had a go in the second half and left ourselves wide open.
“We started the game very well, made a number of chances and got the goal, but I thought Motherwell were more professional and precise, and individual errors cost us.
“It’s probably naivety, after we scored the one we kept on trying to get more. We probably should have got another one but Motherwell went up the park and capitalised on our mistakes.
“They didn’t have to work hard for their goals whereas we had to cut them open to get our chances.”
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“I thought we were a bit fortunate to go in at half-time 3-1. Thistle started the game really well, wee Lawless got a terrific goal for them and I thought he was coming back to haunt us.
“But we got some really good footballing goals. It’s a big park, they like to play, so I thought it would be an open game, which it was. And we were just clinical.
“The second half was difficult for Thistle, they had to come at us and we defended strongly and picked them off on the break. We could have had more after that but they certainly played their part in the first half.”