Phil McGhee Fir Park
Motherwell played out an end of season no scoring draw with Partick Thistle to extend their unbeaten home run to seven games.
But in a side which started with nine changes, the game provided little indication of the selection and tactics that Ian Baraclough will deploy in the two Premiership play-off games against Rangers over the next eight days.
For the first time in recent years Motherwell fans had nothing to celebrate after the final game of the league season.
Clearly with a view to resting players ahead of the double header against Rangers, Baraclough made sweeping changes. retaining only two players, Simon Ramsden and Conor Grant, from the side which lost
The changes also gave some recalled players like Dan Twardzik, Louis Laing, Stuart Carswell, Lionel Ainsworth and John Sutton an opportunity to claim a starting place at Ibrox on Thursday evening.
And it was Twardzik, in his first game since January, who caught the eye over the 90 minutes. Twice in the opening 15 minutes the ‘keeper was a forced into low diving saves to push long range drives from Stephen O’Donnell and Gary Fraser away from his goal.
At the other end ‘Well played with a bit more freedom and created a couple of half chances but Scott Fox had to wait until the 22nd minute for his first save, smothering a low cross-cum-shot from Dom Thomas.
There was little to enthuse either set of fans as the game had a genuine end of season feel about it.
Five minutes from half-time home hopes were raised when Craig Moore sprinted towards the Thistle goal but by the time the striker had reached the penalty area, O’Donnell had recovered to make a blocking tackle.
Then just before the end of an uneventful first half, and with almost identical efforts, former Fir Park player Kallum Higginbotham curled a free kick over Twardzik’s goal before Moore did likewise at the other end, the Motherwell striker’s curler clipping the top of the bar on the way over.
Jack Leitch replaced Ainsoworth at half time but it was Higginbotham who had another strike at goal this time down the centre which Twardzik did well to hold the ball at the first attempt.
After 57 minutes Ramsden was replaced by Mark O’Brien, just before Twardzik produced a stunning save twisting in the air to touch a dipping volley from Fraser over his crossbar.
Motherwell were making little impression on the visitor’s goal, but the manager’s intentions were clear when, having completed 62 minutes on his return from injury, Laing was withdrawn from the action and replaced by Josh Law.
After a ‘Well corner was only cleared to the edge of the box Thomas did well to keep his volley on target but it was a comfortable save for Fox.
The Thistle ‘keeper was fully tested, though, in the 65th minute when he dived to his left hand post to palm out Sutton’s low free kick and deny the striker his 13th goal of the season.
Higginbotham then sped into the ‘Well box but his intended cut back for the unmarked Lyle Taylor was cut out by the back tracking Straker.
With 15 minutes remaining ‘Well passed up a great chance to open the scoring. Sutton’s subtle touch released Moore in behind the Thistle defence but after holding off O’Donnell the striker dragged his shot across goal and beyond the post.
Five minutes later the home side scorned an even better chance. This time Moore was the provider and having nicked the ball off Ben Richards-Everton at the corner of the box, he played the ball to Sutton in the centre of the area. But after swivelling on the penalty spot, he screwed his shot wide of a begging target.
Thomas then wriggled along the bye-line before his attempt to pick out Moore was blocked. From the resultant corner Straker found Sutton rising high six yards out but his header was straight at the ‘keeper as ‘Well’s determined push in the second part of the half failed to produce a winner.
[tab:As it happened]
Ally Reilly at Fir Park
FT | 0-0 | #MFCvPTFC
Motherwell 0 – 0 Partick Thistle
86′ | 0-0 | #MFCvPTFC
Straker floats in a great ball to the head of Sutton but it’s easy for Fox. Straight at him from 9 yards.
81′ | 0-0 | #MFCvPTFC
Thistle sub, McLaughlin on for Higginbotham.
80′ | 0-0 | #MFCvPTFC
Great chance for Sutton as Moore squares it to him but with the goal gaping, he gets the finish all wrong.
76′ | 0-0 | #MFCvPTFC
Partick sub, Craigen on for Wilson.
75′ | 0-0 | #MFCvPTFC
Great ball from Sutton sets Moore clear but under pressure from the defender, fires just wide of the post.
69′ | 0-0 | #MFCvPTFC
Higginbotham races through on goal and opts to cut it back to Taylor but Straker is there and somehow intercepts!
66′ | 0-0 | #MFCvPTFC
Thistle sub, Doolan off for Lyle.
65′ | 0-0 | #MFCvPTFC
Moore wins a free-kick, 25 yards out. Ideal position….Sutton shoots low and forces a good save from Fox.
62′ | 0-0 | #MFCvPTFC
Final Motherwell sub, Law on for Laing.
58′ | 0-0 | #MFCvPTFC
Great effort from Fraser from 30 yards out which forces a spectacular stop from Twardzik!
55′ | 0-0 | #MFCvPTFC
Motherwell sub, O’Brien on for Ramsden.
52′ | 0-0 | #MFCvPTFC
Chance for Thistle, again it’s from range. This time Higginbotham shoots straight at Twardzik.
45′ | 0-0 | #MFCvPTFC
Partick get the second 45 underway.
HT | #MFCvPTFC
Half-time sub for Motherwell, Jack Leitch is on for Lionel Ainsworth
HT | 0-0 | #MFCvPTFC
Both sides back out for the second half…
HT | 0-0 | #MFCvPTFC
Motherwell 0 – 0 Partick Thistle
44′ | 0-0 | #MFCvPTFC
Free-kick to Motherwell in a good area, 20 yards out….Moore fires just wide of the post.
43′ | 0-0 | #MFCvPTFC
Higginbotham strikes a free-kick from 25 yards just over the bar.
41′ | 0-0 | #MFCvPTFC
Moore almost bursts clear through by O’Donnell gets back and is eventually bowled over by the striker. Free-kick.
40′ | 0-0 | #MFCvPTFC
Very, very little in the way of chances here.
38′ | 0-0 | #MFCvPTFC
Sutton gets down the side of the Thistle defence and squares to Moore who can’t get the ball under control. Cleared.
22′ | 0-0 | #MFCvPTFC
Quick feet from Thomas gets him past O’Donnell but his low cross/shot is easily gathered by Fox.
14′ | 0-0 | #MFCvPTFC
Twardzik called into action again, this time Fraser lets fly with a powerful shot from 25 yards. ‘Keeper did well!
9′ | 0-0 | #MFCvPTFC
O’Donnell daws the first save of the game with a long-range drive which looked awkward for Twardzik.
7′ | 0-0 | #MFCvPTFC
Another Motherwell, corner after a good spell of possession. Fox punches Ainsworth’s delivery clear though.
2′ | 0-0 | #MFCvPTFC
Moore wins an early ‘Well corner…..Sutton wins the header but there’s a Thistle body in the way and they clear
Kick-off | #MFCvPTFC
Moore and Carswell get the game underway. COYW!
Motherwell manager Ian Baraclough:
“I wanted players to step out and make a claim to be involved in the shake-up on Thursday and the following Sunday. The game itself had a real end-of-season feel to it.
“There were one or two stand-outs. Luke Watt, for a young lad coming in, did really well. He looked composed at full-back and, for the last half an hour, had to go in at centre-back. He can take a lot of good things from that.
“We got a clean sheet for Dan (Twardzik, goalkeeper) and his back four, and the rest of the team.”
Partick Thistle manager Alan Archibald:
“We had a changed team as well, three guys making their starting debuts, so that was pleasing from our point of view.
“We were really, really pleased with them. We have lost a few boys so it lets us know there are a few boys coming through.”