Phil McGhee Fir Park
Motherwell’s new era without Stuart McCall commenced with a narrow but thoroughly deserved 1-0 victory over Dundee United.
After losing five consecutive games and their manager, little was expected of the home side against the league leaders and a team that hasn’t lost at Fir Park since April 2011.
That all changed though in a dramatic and action packed ninety minutes
Interim boss Kenny Black made only two changes to the side which lost at Perth, Mark O’Brien replacing the injured Stevie Hamill and Craig Reid returning at the expense of Zaine Francis-Angol. With Reid covering at left back, Simon Ramsden was deployed in front of the back four and his presence helped to blunt the free scoring Tannadice side.
The Motherwell players looked determined from the start and might have been in front after just five minutes. In a quick move upfield Keith Lasley sent Lionel Ainsworth scurrying down the right hand side and after his cross was partially blocked Henrik Ojamma’s drive towards goal was booted clear by John Soutar.
The first threat from United forced a wonderful block from Stephen McManus to deny Ryan Dow.
The visitors had most of the ball but the Motherwell players made their presence felt although O’Brien’s robust tackle on Stuart Armstrong earned him a yellow card.
It was McManus to the rescue again after 25 minutes when he stretched to deflect Armstong’s powerful strike on goal.
‘Well looked lively in attack and Lasley set up Ojamma at the endge of the box but the Estonian’s effort flew past on the wrong side of Radoslaw Cierzniak’s left hand post.
A powerful run from Ojamma carried him into the United box but when the ball broke to Iain Vigurs he lifted the ball over the crossbar – but the home side’s determined play lifted the home crowd.
At the other end, in 37 minutes and after a few close calls, Dan Twardzik made his first save diving full length to beat away Chris Erskine’s thumping drive.
A minute later the ‘Well ‘keeper produced a more spectacular save rising and twisting to palm over an Aidan Connolly shot which took a wicked defelction on its way to goal.
The first half ended with the ‘Well players and fans optimistic after a decent forty five minutes of action.
And things got even better at the start of the second.
In the 49th cruel luck denied ‘Well the opener. Cierzniak dived to push away Reid’s low drive but with ‘keeper grounded Ainsworth, from a tight angle, rattled the ball against the post.
The goal was only delayed two minutes as Motherwell netted their first against United in five home games. Lasley was again the provider slipping the ball in front of Vigurs and his low drive skimmed past the ‘diving ‘keeper and inside the post.
‘Well thought they had made it 2-0 when Ainsworth raced onto Vigurs through ball to nudge it past the ‘keeper only to have the celebrations curtailed due to a belated offside flag.
United looked stunned and after 58 minutes Jackie McNamara boosted his attack bringing on Gary Mackay-Steven and Nadir Cifti. But the home defence remained strong.
It was the home side who came close again in 69th minute when a trademark run saw Ojamma drag the ball across the box before rifling a shot just beyond the far post.
As the visitors chased an equaliser the ‘Well players threw themselves into blocks and tackles all over the park at both ends of the park. And while they defended in numbers to preserve their lead it was the home side who came closest to scoring in the closing stages.
Keith Lasley, who played a true captain’s role, set up yet another chance, this time Vigurs drilling his shot just wide.
Then after Conor Townsend nodded the chance of an equaliser over the bar Ojamma was denied a deserved goal with the last kick of the ball which forced Cierzniak into a great save.
As well as collecting a long overdue three points it also sets up ‘Well for the return of United in the Scottish Cup in three weeks time.
[tab:As it happened]
Ally Reilly at Fir Park
A ground-out win for ‘Well against their bogey team. 1-0 to the Steelmen! #MFCvDUFC
FT: Motherwell 1 – 0 Dundee Utd #MFCvDUFC
A minute left to play…
91mins; Paton booked for kicking the ball away #MFCvDUFC
Three minutes added on #MFCvDUFC
89mins: Townsend wins a front post header but yet again can’t get in on target. Good chance wasted #MFCvDUFC
88mins: Good chance for Vigurs abouot 20 yards out but this time he slices it just past the post #MFCvDUFC
86mins: Twardzik awkwardly takes an Erskine cross. Almost palmed it into his own net :O #MFCvDUFC
83mins: Kerr takes no chances and heads out for a corner at the backpost. From the corner, ref spots a foul and gives ‘Well a free-kick
Kids, vote for your Match Attax Man of the Match by tweeting his name and the hashtag, #MatchAttaxMOTM
79mins: ‘Well fans breathe a sigh of relief as the ball just won’t break for Any Utd striker after Ciftci went around Twardzik. Still 1-0
And a Utd sub, Souttar off for Morris #MFCvDUFC
77mins: Motherwell sub, Ainsworth makes way for Law #MFCvDUFC
75mins; Townsend heads past the post from Ciftci’s deep ball in #MFCvDUFC
70mins: Great stuff from Ojamaa! Cut in from the left and arrowed a shot towards the top corner but it whistles just inches wide! #MFCvDUFC
69mins: great chance for Erskine as Paton clipped a nice cross in but he can’t head is goalwards #MFCvDUFC
62mins: Fojut and Ojamaa booked. Fojut with 4 pushes on Ojamaa, Ojamaa with….nothing? Strange booking. #MFCvDUFC
58mins: Dundee Utd subs, Spittal and Connolly off for Mackay-Steven and Ciftci #MFCvDUFC
56mins: ‘Well have a goal WRONGLY disallowed! Ainsworth well onside and should have been 2!
51mins: Vigurs slots home from 20 yards!! Good work by Lasley to set him up! 1-0 to the Steelmen #MFCvDUFC
49mins: Ainsworth strikes the post! Reid’s shot is palmed out to him and from 6 yards out he can only find the inside of the post. So close!
Second half is underway #MFCvDUFC
HT: Motherwell 0 – 0 Dundee utd #MFCvDUFC
41mins: McManus is booked for hacking down Dow on the half-way line. #MFCvDUFC
39mins: It’s another fine save from Twardzik! This time he tips Connolly’s deflected looping shot over the bar! #MFCvDUFC
38mins: Twardzik has to react sharply to beat away Erskine’s left footed shot from 20 yards. Good stop #MFCvDUFC
35mins: Great chance for Spittal. Slid through 1 on 1 but opts for the toe-poke and sees it fly just wide of the post #MFCvDUFC
33mins: Utd have a free-kick, wide on the right, Paton delivers to the back post where ‘Well sweep it clear #MFCvDUFC
30mins: Great chance! ‘Well counter and space opend up for Ojamaa who then tees up Vigurs. He was leaning back though and shoots well over
28mins: Ojamaa is unlucky to see his long-range effort fly just past. #MFCvDUFC
24mins: Lasley clatters Townsend on the edge of the box. Dangerous free-kick….which Spittal harmlessly curls well over #MFCvDUFC
17mins: Erskine picks up a loose ball on the edge of the box but is off balance and skews his left-footed shot well wide #MFCvDUFC
15mins: Great recovery challenge from McManus as he slid in on Dow. Looked like he was going to score #MFCvDUFC
14mins: O’Brien booked for a late challenge in Paton, deep in the Utd half #MFCvDUFC
13mins: Vigurs clips in a 30 yard free-kick which Sutton wins but he can’t divert it goalwards. Chance gone. #MFCvDUFC
11mins: Good combination play from Utd but Townsend’s cross from the left drifts well over the bar #MFCvDUFC
7mins: Lasley brings down Erskine on the edge of the box. Free-kick to Utd, which Connolly hooks well over #MFCvDUFC
Great low ball across goal by Ainsworth but Souttar gets to it first and manages to clear! #MFCvDUFC
Dow and Spittal get the action underway, COYW!! #MFCvDUFC
Ready for action after an impeccably observed minute’s silence….#MFCvDUFC
Out come the teams, ‘Well in claret and amber, Utd in Black and white. #MFCvDUFC
Motherwell caretaker manager Kenny Black:
“It finishes off a really difficult week for everybody, so I was delighted with that. We don’t have a game for a fortnight now so it gives everybody a chance to have a look and see what the situation is.
“I’m going to go back down south, see my family and we’ll take it from there. Forget me, I’m not particularly enjoying talking about me, it’s all about those players in there.
“They’ve had some difficult times and some difficult performances but they got their just rewards tonight. We had to try and compete. For too long now there’s been a lot of talk at this club that we need to get a result, but we did our talking for once on the pitch tonight.”
Dundee Utd manager Jackie McNamara:
“I thought we were excellent without finishing it off.
“We kept going and we kept chipping away at them, but it just wasn’t our night. We’ve actually played a lot worse this season and won. We’re frustrated, but if we continue to play like that we’ll win a lot more games than we’ll lose.”