Motherwell U20s fought back from going 0-2 down to earn a deserved share of the spoils against Hibs this evening.
Lewis Allan and Taylor Hendry had the visitors in the driving seat, but Dylan Mackin reduced the deficit before a last-second penalty from Dom Thomas earned his side a point.
Jonatan Johansson made four changes to the team that drew 2-2 with Dunfermline last week. Brett Long, Adam Cummins, Craig McCall and Craig Moore all dropped out, replaced by Ross Stewart, Danny McNulty, trialist Paul George and Dylan Mackin.
Both teams had early shots at goal, Hendry firing a shot over the bar from distance for the visitors before George saw his low shot comfortably held by former Hamilton stopper Tomáš Černý.
The first half really failed to get going though and it took until 26 minutes for the first shot on target; Hibs’ Connor Duthie stinging low effort forcing Ross Stewart to save low to his left.
‘Well did flash a terrific ball across the six-yard back but there were no takers and that would be significant as the Greens would take the lead with their next attack on 32 minutes.
The Steelmen didn’t win a loose ball in midfield and when Aaron Dunsmore got free on the right, he picked out Allan with a neat cut back and the striker’s close-range shot beat Stewart despite the ‘Well stopper getting a good hand to it.
Both sides traded long-range efforts, Duthie again for Hibs and Cadden for the Fir Parkers, but neither troubled the goalkeepers. Allan’s turn and shot on the stroke of half time was the only other effort in a fairly timid, low-key first half.
Hibs certainly started the second half much brighter though and almost took the lead through sub Sam Stanton, who managed to beat the grounded Stewart only to watch David Ferguson hook his shot off the goal line.
Allan had another swivel and shot saved by Stewart before Hibs did eventually double their advantage. Stanton sent a terrific ball over the top of the defence, allowing Hendry a run at goal. Despite the angle being acute and Stewart dashing off his line, the forward finished with some aplomb to make it 0-2.
To their credit, Motherwell summoned a spirit and character and led by Dom Thomas, they forced their way back into the match. The winger really stepped it up a notch and almost reduced the arrears with a curling effort that forced Černý into an acrobatic save at the expense of a corner.
Ten minutes later, the Hibs keeper was at it again, denying Cadden from distance and then Ross MacLean, who had been set-up by the trickery of Thomas. It was a hat trick of quick saves when the Czech stopper blocked another Cadden shot from 25 yards.
The resistance was finally broken on the 72nd minute though and it was that man Thomas who was right at the heart of it again. With four Hibs defenders close to him, he managed to hare away and into the box before squaring it for Mackin. A ricochet off Forster spun the ball onto the bar, only for Mackin to follow up and head home from close range.
That gave the Claret and Amber men hope and they threw everything at it in search of a leveler. Danny McNulty can within inches of doing just that, but his cross-cum-shot hit the underside of Černý’s crossbar and spun out to safety.
With Johansson’s men throwing bodies forward in numbers, they were getting picked off on the counter and Stanton should’ve made the game safe with a chance six minutes from time, but his shot, after a neat cut back from Scott, was well blocked by Stewart.
‘Well may have thought their chance of a draw had gone when they passed up an unbelievable chance for a second. Thomas was again the man, leading his team forward before teeing up Higgins. The little striker was crowded out, but still managed to poke it square for the supporting George, but with the goal at his mercy, Hibs somehow managed to scramble back and block the shot for a corner.
However, ‘Well wouldn’t be denied when McNulty won a penalty with a piece of quick feet, following a patient build-up move from the hosts. Despite it being virtually the last kick of the game and coming up against an experienced stopper, the 18-year old strode forward and comfortably slotted it home to earn a point for his team.
Motherwell: Stewart, McNulty, McMillan, Hall, Ferguson, MacLean, Mackin, Cadden (R.Leitch – 85mins), Higgins, D.Thomas, George
Subs Not Used: Currie, Campbell, McCall, Anderson, Watters