Gavin McCafferty at Pittodrie
Motherwell snatched second place in the SPFL Premiership in the most dramatic circumstances after Craig Reid scrambled an injury-time winner against Aberdeen at Pittodrie.
The visitors had rarely threatened to get the win they needed in a cagey encounter but they stole a 1-0 victory with almost the last kick of the ball after Keith Lasley’s free-kick from just inside his own half caused chaos in the Dons box.
Aberdeen goalkeeper Jamie Langfield appeared to be impeded by Motherwell striker John Sutton, and the ball bounced over him and off the crossbar. An almighty scramble ensued with Fraser Kerr denied on the line but Reid followed up to force the ball home.
The goal punctured the anticipated celebrations for the majority of the 17,016 crowd but sparked wild celebrations among the Motherwell players and their 1,500 fans.
Both teams had already qualified for Europe but there was plenty at stake other than the prestige of runners-up spot. The difference in prize money is £240,000 while there was extra time off available for the players, with a third-place finish meaning a July 3 start in the Europa League rather than July 17 for second spot.
Despite their need for a win, Motherwell manager Stuart McCall brought in defender Kerr for forward James McFadden and played with a 3-5-2 formation rather than the more typical 4-4-2.
Lionel Ainsworth, who scored the only goal when the clubs last met at Pittodrie on Boxing Day, was employed in a central role alongside Sutton to provide pace on the counter-attack but he lasted only 17 minutes before being replaced by Henri Anier after taking an early kick from Jonny Hayes.
Ainsworth had been controversially flagged offside after being sent through but Motherwell otherwise sat back for most of the first half-hour, surviving without major scare.
Hayes caused problems with an early run and cross which Lee Hollis pushed away but the goalkeeper was otherwise untroubled, saving a deflected Niall McGinn shot. Barry Robson had a free-kick blocked by the wall and Scott Vernon just missed a Ryan Jack cross.
Motherwell did not really threaten on the break although Anier got their first shot on target in the 42nd minute after Lasley played the ball into the left channel, Langfield making a comfortable save at his near post.
Motherwell were the first on the attack after half-time and Jack tripped Lasley right on the edge of the box, but Iain Vigurs hit a weak free-kick straight at the wall.
Mark Reynolds glanced a Robson free-kick wide at the other end and Shaun Hutchinson made two goal-saving tackles on McGinn, the second after the Motherwell defence expected a flag following Shaleum Logan’s ball forward.
Hollis then prevented Russell Anderson heading home when he punched clear following a corner and saved Reynolds’ headed follow-up.
Aberdeen were continuing to push Motherwell back and, although McCall made a change in the 72nd minute, it was an enforced one which did not affect their tactics. Jack Leitch replaced Vigurs, who was struggling with a hamstring strain.
The tactical switch came with 14 minutes left as McFadden replaced Stephen McManus and Motherwell pushed the play up, but they were almost caught on the break with only a contentious offside decision stopping Peter Pawlett finishing off Vernon’s through-ball.
A goal continued to look unlikely until the sensational finale, which sealed a second consecutive second-place finish for the visitors.
[tab:As it happened]
Ally Reilly at Pittodrie
Unbelievable scenes here at Pittodrie as ‘Well nick second place with the last kick of the ball!!
FT: Aberdeen 0 – 1 Motherwell!!!!
REID MAKES IT 1-0!!!
Only 1 minute added on
88mins: Just two minutes left and still 0-0.
83mins: Pawlett is a yard onside there but the linesman’s flag goes up! A real let-off as he was through 1v1 #AFCvMFC
76mins: Motherwell sub, McManus off for McFadden #AFCvMFC
75mins: Jack whips in another dangerous ball but thankfully it’s too high for Vernon and it drifts wide #AFCvMFC
70mins: Motherwell sub, Vigurs hobbles off for Leitch. #AFCvMFC
From the corner, a bit of a scramble ensues, but Hollis gathers eventually #AFCvMFC
61mins: Another superb last-ditch tackle from Hutchy, again to deny McGinn #AFCvMFC
58mins: Corner to Aberdeen swung in by Robson, punched clear by Hollis #AFCvMFC
54mins: Superb last-ditch slide tackle from Hutchinson to deny McGinn an easy scoring oppportunity #AFCvMFC
53mins: Reynolds’s header loops just wide of the post from Robson’s inswinging free-kick #AFCvMFC
50mins: Danger averted as Hayes bursts into the box however Reid does enough to put him off and it rolls out for a goal kick #AFCvMFC
47mins: Free-kick to ‘Well right on the edge of the box…Vigurs fires it straight into the wall #AFCvMFC
Lasley and Vigurs get the second half underway. #AFCvMFC
Players back out for the final 45 minutes of the season. Second place still on a tightrope. #AFCvMFC
HT: Aberdeen 0 – 0 Motherwell #AFCvMFC
1 minute added on
41mins: ‘Well get their first shot on target. An Anier snap shot from just inside the box on his left foot. Gives Langfield a test.
40mins: Vigurs booked for a clumsy challenge on Flood. #AFCvMFC
39mins: Decent bit of build-up play from ‘Well but as Anier backheels it to Kerr, Anderson gets in ahead of him to clear. #AFCvMFC
36mins: Bizarrely, Hayes’ deep ball into the box deceives everyone and comes back out off the post :O #AFCvMFC
32mins: Lasley dispossesses Robson on the edge of the box but as it falls to Vigurs, he shoots high and wide #AFCvMFC
30mins: Aberdeen have been on top in the opening half hour. ‘Well struggling to even test Langfield. #AFCvMFC
19mins: Vital interception from Hammell to stop Hayes’ cross to McGinn who was free inside the box #AFCvMFC
17mins: Motherwell sub, Ainsworth off for Anier. Lionel looked to have picked up a knock. #AFCvMFC
16mins: Bit of a defensive mix-up allows Jack some space to cross for Vernon who is inches away from connecting with his head. A let off.
13mins: McManus penalised for a foul on Jack on the edge of the box. Dangerous position…..phew, the wall does it’s job! #AFCvMFC
10mins: Reid gets enough on Pawlett’s 25 yard shot to take the sting out of it. Hollis gathers with ease #AFCvMFC
7mins: Ainsworth is an inch or so offside, otherwise he was clean through on goal! #AFCvMFC
4mins: Hayes drills in a low ball across goal which Hollis does well to get a hand to, to clear the danger #AFCvMFC
Pawlett and McGinn get the game underway! #AFCvMFC
Out come the teams at a packed and noisy Pittodrie….
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“I’ll be honest, I’ve only seen it once and not from a good angle, and it’s possibly a free-kick but whatever we’ve got today, Sutty’s goal a yard onside in the League Cup would have made a massive difference, the goal Russell Anderson scored in the last kick of the game at Fir Park, when he forearm-smashes it over and takes Leitchy out on the line.
“They say swings and roundabouts, and it evens itself out, and whatever we got here we more than merited it.”
Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes:
“There were a couple of mistakes I feel from the officials that led to it. I think he was right to call the foul back, because he had tried to play on. I’ve no complaints about that.
“It may well seem a small thing, but in the context of what happened, it’s a big thing – there was a considerable distance from where the foul was committed and where it was taken.
“And then there is a foul on Jamie Langfield. I’ve seen it several times and Sutton barges into him and doesn’t get any connection on the ball and takes Jamie Langfield out, and they have scored on the back of it. It’s a decision we feel has cost us the game.
“But I need to say congratulations to Motherwell because over the course of the season they have done well. I don’t want to sound as if it’s sour grapes because I have to recognise the effort from them.”