Despite an impressive performance, ‘Well went down 1-2 to Preston in their last game before the SPFL Premiership kick-off.
After being the better team for the opening twenty-five, Preston hit a quick-fire double against the run of play through Joe Garner and Neil Kilkenny.
Preston stopper Jamie Jones pulled off numerous impressive saves before summer recruit Louis Moult scored his first for the Steelmen with a neat finish with 90 seconds left on the clock.
Although the match ended in defeat, Ian Baraclough would head back along the M8 Motorway to Motherwell with plenty of positives from the sixth and final pre-season fixture of the summer.
The ‘Well boss named Dan Twardzik in goal with the recognised back four of Josh Law, Louis Laing, Stephen McManus and Stevie Hammell. A midfield five of Marvin Johnson, Keith Lasley, Stephen Pearson, Joe Chalmers and Scott McDonald supported Wes Fletcher in attack.
The Fir Parkers started the match in positive fashion and Johnson fired an early shot over the crossbar.
The former Kidderminster man was causing the Lillywhites all sorts of problems and a marauding run and shot forced Jones into the first save of the evening.
It was Johnson again on sixteen minutes, bursting at pace from deep, but his low shot hit a deflection and spun wide of target for a corner.
Preston managed to settle it and skipper Tom Clarke almost got his side in front with a back post header that the home defence had to scramble clear. Two minutes later, Jermaine Beckford had the ball in the net but the assistant’s flag was up for offside.
Forty seconds later Motherwell burst clear and almost got ahead when Law’s tantalising near post cross fell for Fletcher but it was scrambled behind at the expense of a corner.
For all Motherwell looked the more threatening, it was Simon Grayson’s side that took the lead with their first shot on target. And it was Scotsman Paul Gallagher who was the creator, sending over a teasing cross from the right that allowed Joe Garner to get across his man to head home from close range
Just over two minutes later, Preston extended their lead further. A long diagonal ball allowed left fullback Calum Woods to collect in an advanced position. His squad pass inside was perfect for Neil Kilkenny who unleashed a devastating 25-yard dart into the top corner.
‘Well lost their way for five minutes but a low stinging drive from Chalmers brought about the first of numerous excellent saves from Jones, who tipped the effort around the post.
The second half kicked off with both teams flashing shots off target, Chalmers for the Steelmen and Garner for the Lancashire side.
On loan Man Utd striker Will Keane came close with a header after a good cross from the right before Jones again denied Motherwell with a super stop to deny Johnson, who had found himself in acres of space after a nice Chalmers pass.
Then, four minutes later, Jones was at it again, making another superb stop to deny Scott McDonald from close range, pushing the Aussie striker’s shot onto the frame of the goal.
To be fair, down the other end, Dan Twardzik was keen not to be outdone and despite having little to do, he was sharp off his line to deny Beckford who had spring the ‘Well offside trap.
However, it wasn’t long before Jones was again in the spotlight, denying sub Lionel Ainsworth’s stinging drive at full stretch as the ball was heading for the top corner.
Motherwell continued to push, showed some excellent passing movement and attacking presence and finally got the goal their play deserved on the 89th minute. Jack Leitch’s clever ball over the top picked out Moult’s intelligent run, allowing the former Wrexham man to take and touch and finish beyond the seemingly unbeaten Jones.
It was the very least ‘Well deserved, but sadly there wasn’t enough time to get level as John Beaton soon brought the game to an end.
Motherwell: Twardzik, Hammell, Laing, McManus (Watt – 64mins), Pearson, Fletcher (Moult – 73mins), Johnson (Ainsworth – 68mins), Lasley (Clarkson – 73mins), Chalmers (Moore – 78mins), Law, McDonald (Leitch – 60mins)