Despite fighting back from two goals down, Motherwell U20s lost 3-2 to Dundee United at the Excelsior Stadium this afternoon.
United raced into a two goal first-half lead courtesy of goals from Scott Smith and Scott Fraser but Dale Shirkie reduced the arrears minutes before interval.
Shirkie grabbed the equaliser from the penalty spot eighteen minutes into the second half but Fraser won the match for United with a long-range strike just three minutes from time.
Jonatan Johansson made two changes to the side that beat Falkirk seven days ago.
Ross Stewart and Dom Thomas were training with the first-team ahead of tomorrow’s match with Inverness. They were replaced in the starting eleven by Brett Long, making his first ever appearance for the Under 20s, and Frazer Johnstone.
It was a somewhat subdued opening to the match, which only exploded to life after twelve minutes when United striker Reghan Tumilty had the ball in the net, but the assistant had flagged him offside for starting his run a second too early.
Then ‘Well had Long to thank for an excellent treble save to keep it level. The Northern Irishman palmed out Scott Smith’s initial shot from the edge of the box then sprung up to deny Tumilty from the rebound. When it spun out to Jamie Mongomery, he again did well to block his low shot.
It took Motherwell nineteen minutes to test home goalkeeper Phil Anderson. Frazer Johnstone robbed Cammy Ballantyne, strode forward before powering a low shot that forced the United ‘keeper to turn around low to his right.
However, it was the Terrors who took the lead two minutes later. Montgomery found acres of space on the left flank. When eventually closed down, he laid it back for the supporting Smith who curled a sweet strike high over Long and into the far corner from the edge of the box.
It stayed that way until the 32nd minute when the Tangerines doubled their advantage. Adam Harwood’s long diagonal ball played in the impressive Scott Fraser. He cut inside David Ferguson before picking his spot low into the right hand corner.
After giving themselves a mountain to climb, Motherwell gradually worked themselves back into the match and finished the half stronger. Dale Shirkie finished a nice move with a shot blocked by Souttar at the expense of a corner. The resulting kick from the quadrant fell for the striker, and his raking shot forced Anderson to tip over.
Then, with a minute left to the break, Shirkie did reduce the arrears. Indecision in the United rearguard allowed the Irvine-born youngster space on the edge, and he drilled it low into the corner to put a different complexion on the scorline going in at the interval.
‘Well made a good start to the second, but it was the hosts who would threaten first, Aiden Connolly getting in behind only for his shot to be well saved by Long again.
Down the other end, Anderson made another terrific block to stop David Ferguson, who had got on the end of a Cadden corner, but the keeper spread himself well.
Then, thirty seconds later, ‘Well were awarded a penalty for what looked like handball. Shirkie placed it on the spot before drilling it high and hard into the roof of the net.
‘Well had two quick-fire chances to get ahead; McCafferty firing over from the edge of the box and Higgins putting a shot wide after haring clear of the United rearguard.
At the other end, Montgomery got in behind young Luke Watt and substitute Danny McNulty but found Brett Long in stubborn form again, the 17-year old racing off his line to make another good save.
Then, with three minutes left to play, Scott Fraser (the best player on the park) scored the winner with another excellent hit. ‘Well had chances to clear and could have closed him down quicker, but take nothing away from the strike, a 25-yard screamer high into the top corner.
It was a sore one for the Steelmen to take but United just about edged it over the ninety minutes. ‘Well have a week’s break before returning to action against Inverness CT on Wednesday 2nd April.
Motherwell: Long, Watt, Ferguson, Hall, Neill, McCall (McNulty – 74mins), McCafferty, Cadden, Shirkie, Higgins, Johnstone (Mackin – 83mins)
Subs Not Used: Currie, McMillan, Leitch, McLean, Clarke