Phil McGhee at Fir Park
Two early second half goals gave ‘Well a 2-1 win over Ross County at Fir Park this afternoon.
A good second half performance and early goals from James McFadden and John Sutton, his 19th of the season, set ‘Well up for another home win and three points to keep them tied with Aberdeen in second top spot.
And although County pulled one back to make it a rather nervous finish, Stuart McCall’s men thoroughly deserved the three points.
Prior to the game County boss Derek Adam had highlighted defensive weaknesses in the ‘Well set-up but the former Fir Park player seemed more intent in denying the home side space in the visitors penalty area with a pretty defensive game plan.
In the first half that left the Motherwell players with plenty of time in possession in their own half but a bit restricted as they approached a packed County defence.
For their part, the Dingwall side seldom tested Gunnar Nielsen’s goal until the final ten minutes – although amazingly Derek Adams claimed they had the best of the first half chances when Jordan Slew fired a shot wide of the post.
In reality the best chances came at the other end the first after 30 minutes when Shaun Hutchison launched a long free kick into the penalty area. And when Iain Vigurs nod down fell in front of James McFadden he looked certain to score but his cute left foot lob found Mark Brown’s outstretched right hand to make a fine stop.
The former Motherwell ‘keeper again denied McFadden the opener eight minutes later when the ‘Well striker tried to force Stevie Hammel’s cross inside the post but Brown spread himself to block the shot.
Keith Lasley then came close with a flashing header from an Ainsworth cross but the County defence stood solid.
That all changed in the second half, when within three minutes the Fir Park side grabbed the lead to finally open up the game.
Stuart Carswell carried the ball across the box before laying it back to Vigurs who fired in a thundering 25 yard drive. Although Brown did well to beat the ball out, McFadden was following up to stroke the ball past the grounded ‘keeper to make it 1-0.
Brown then prevented it becoming two nil pushing away another stinging drive from Vigurs after Hutchison had raced 50 yards upfield with the ball to set up the midfielder.
The County ‘keeper looked less convincing when he spilled McFadden’s low shot from a well worked free kick. That was the last piece of action for Faddy as he was replaced by Craig Moore after 55 minutes.
And the 19 year old striker made an immediate impact when he set up ‘Well’s second goal on the hour.
Although his shot from the area swerved, Brown palmed it out to the waiting Sutton who couldn’t miss from 6 yards, although he did manage to find the net via the underside of the bar.
Motherwell looked in control at that stage and the more likely to add another goal but in the 78th minute Ritchie Brittain came within inches of getting his side back into the game when he side stepped a couple of defenders before drilling his angled shot off the foot of the post with Nielsen beaten.
The home side ignored that warning and with eight minutes remaining County pulled one back when Yann Songo’o wonderfully volleyed home Carey’s corner to set up a nervous end.
As County pressed for an equaliser Slew and Arquin missed a couple of half chances but the game ended without Nielsen having to make a save and ‘Well playing it out for a sixth home win from their last 7 games.
[tab:As it happened]
Alastair Reilly at Fir Park
FT: Motherwell 2 – 1 Ross County #MFCvRCFC
90+2mins: Vigurs’ does superbly to keep the ball in the County half and win a corner #MFCvRCFC
3 minutes added on #MFCvRCFC
88mins: Songo’o fires just past from Saunders’s delivery into the box #MFCvRCFC
85mins: Ttat goal has now set up a nerve shredding final 5 minutes, despite being comfortable the whole game #MFCvRCFC
82mins: GOAL! Songo’o pulls one back, tapping in from a corner at the front post . 2-1 #MFCvRCFC
79mins: Great chance for Francis-Angol to make it 3 but he scuffs his shot well wide from a good position #MFCvRCFC
78mins: Ross County sub, Saunders on for Cikos #MFCvRCFC
77mins: Brittain strikes the base of the post with a strike from 15 yards on the angle. #MFCvRCFC
76mins: Motherwell sub, Ainsworth off for Francis-Angol #MFCvRCFC
74mins: Bit of a lull in proceedings here. McManus booked for dangerous play #MFCvRCFC
71mins: Ross County sub, De Leeuw off for Glen #MFCvRCFC
67mins: Tidser booked for throwing the ball down after disagreeing with Brines’ decision #MFCvRCFC
63mins: Moore booked for a late challenge on Cikos #MFCvRCFC
60mins: It’s 2-0 to ‘Well!! SUTTON on hand to tap-in after Brown struggled to deal with Moore’s shot. Similar to the first goal! #MFCvRCFC
56mins: Motherwell sub, Moore on for McFadden #MFCvRCFC
54mins: McFadden and Vigurs work one off the training ground but Faddy’s shot is easily taken by Brown #MFCvRCFC
54mins: Free-kick to ‘Well in a great position, 20 yards out on the right #MFCvRCFC
52mins: An adventurous run from Hutchinson sets up Vigurs whose powerful shot is beaten away by Brown #MFCvRCFC
49mins: Ross County sub, Kiss limps off for Carey #MFCvRCFC
47mins: McFADDEN follows up Brown’s save from Vigurs’ long range cracker and taps it in! 1-0 #MFCvRCFC
Second half underway. It’s been pouring it down over the interval #MFCvRCFC
HT: Motherwell 0 – 0 Ross County #MFCvRCFC
44mins: Good opportunity for County but Arquin’s cross can’t find Slew who was waiting to tap it home #MFCvRCFC
39mins: 2 great chances for ‘Well! First McFadden is denied from close range by Brown then Sutton curls a shot just past #MFCvRCFC
33mins: Carswell darts forward and Vigurs sets him up just inside the box. On his weaker foot, hooks it well over #MFCvRCFC
31mins: Best chance of the game there! McFadden gets a toe on the end of Sutton’s knockdown but Brown does well to deny him! #MFCvRCFC
29mins: ‘Well win a corner but Hutchinson can’t get his header at the front post on target #MFCvRCFC
28mins: Ball drops kindly to Slew who drives his shot inches wide of Nielsen’s left post from 16 yards #MFCvRCFC
24mins: Corner to County, headed clear at the front post by Lasley #MFCvRCFC
22mins: Free-kick to County wide on the left. Nielsen does well to gather Brittain’s delivery #MFCvRCFC
17mins: Ainsworth”s delivery into the box is a little too long for McFadden who stretches to head it but see’s it go well wide #MFCvRCFC
15mins: Free-kick to ‘Well about 35 yards out on the left wing.Vigur’s delivery is gathered by Brown #MFCvRCFC
13mins: Decent effort by Sutton on his left foot but had a better option in McFadden just waiting to be slid in. Chance gone #MFCvRCFC
8mins: Corner for ‘Well but McManus’ header at the front post is blocked #MFCvRCFC
Tidser and Brittain get the game underway #MFCvRCFC
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“It was a more nervous finish than it should have been.
“We have been clinical in front of goal this season and if we had been in the first half the game would have been over sooner.
“To be fair James McFadden has come in at half-time and admitted he should have been more clinical with his chances but he has grabbed the opener.
“You always think it could come back and bite you when you don’t take your chances and it would have been a travesty if we hadn’t taken all three so we are delighted with the win.”
Ross County manager Derek Adams:
“Motherwell are a good side and flying high but it was two errors by our keeper that has given them their two goals. Mark Brown has taken responsibility and when your keeper plays the ball back straight to the opposition there is not much the other defenders can do.
“Although it didn’t cost us with all the terms around us also losing, we are only interested in looking after ourselves to get out of the relegation play-off position.”