Phil McGhee at the Caledonian Stadium
Motherwell kicked off the new 2015/16 campaign with an impressive 0-1 win over Inverness at the Caledonian Stadium.
Although the game finished 0-1, courtesy of a fourth minute Wes Fletcher goal, the Steelmen were the better side, created far more chances (including a penalty miss) and on another day could have made their way back down the A9 with a far more convincing victory.
Ian Baraclough named the same side that started against Preston in the final pre-season match of the campaign, with the exception of new goalkeeper Connor Ripley, who replaced Dan Twardzik between the sticks.
Interestingly, only two players – Stephen McManus and Keith Lasley – were in the starting line-up last time the Steelmen were in the Highland Capital last November, with boss Baraclough having revamped the squad over the last nine months.
And it was one of his summer recruits, Wes Fletcher, who opened the scoring after four minutes with ‘Well’s first meaningful attack.
Stephen Pearson pressed to win the ball before combining with the former York City striker. Pearson’s low shot forced Owain Fôn Williams to palm out allowing Fletcher to slot home from close range for his first ever Motherwell goal.
The visitors were dominating the opening encounters and almost doubled their lead after nineteen minutes when Fletcher again came close after nice set-up play from Johnson, only for his 18-yard shot to go just wide of target.
Johnson had a half chance shortly after, but saw his shot deflect wide for a corner, before he won the Steelmen a spot kick after 27 minutes. It was some great play from the former Kidderminster Harries winger, whose “Zidane turn” bamboozled Danny Devine before the defender tugged her jersey to conceded the kick.
Sadly, Scott McDonald’s saw his shot saved, Fôn Williams guessing the right way to hold.
Inverness boss John Hughes, obviously concerned his team had barely made a dent in the opening thirty minutes, replaced Nat Wedderburn off for Andréa Mbuyi-Mutombo.
However, it was ‘Well who could and should have added to their tally on the stroke of half time. Inverness had knocked the ball out to make a substitute, but because it wasn’t for a player receiving treatment, ‘Well played on. With no Inverness players moving, Johnson was in on goal but could only stroke it wide of target.
‘Well were forced into a change at the break, with Pearson, who had been involved in a clash with Gary Warren five minutes before the interval, failing to return for the second half, replaced by Jack Leitch.
However, it didn’t stem the flow of play with the vast majority of chances and play going towards the home goal. Johnson kicked off the efforts with a low shot from twenty-five yards that forced Fôn Williams to tip wide.
Two minutes later and the Steelmen were then, somehow, denied a second.
Johnson again had the effort, controlling a ball dropping out the air only for Fôn Williams to again block. The ball spun out to McDonald whose ball across the box looked perfect for Joe Chalmers but Devine made an incredible saving tackle, somehow getting his outstretched leg to the ball to knock it over his own bar from one yard.
The Fir Parkers continued to push – Fletcher had curling effort straight at Fôn Williams before being replaced by another summer recruit, Louis Moult.
Louis Laing, who was superb throughout, had an audacious forty-five yard effort and Johnson again came close, sending a curler inches wide of target.
As the game went into the latter stages, Josh Law almost got on the scoresheet too. The fullback collected from Johnson, played a neat one-two with Moult but fired his shot straight at Fôn Williams who blocked. Moult was first to the rebound but his shot was blocked over for a corner.
The game soon came to an end, with the Fir Parkers picking up a deserved three points, restricting the hosts to zero shots on target.
Motherwell: Ripley, Hammell, Laing, McManus, Pearson (Leitch – 46mins), Fletcher (Moult – 67mins), Johnson, Lasley, Chalmers, Law, McDonald (Clarkson – 83mins)
[tab:As it happened]
Ally Reilly at the Caledonian Stadium
A convincing opening day victory for ‘Well. Could have been more but a very welcome three points to start the new season,
FT | 0-1 | #ICTFCvMFC
FULL TIME! Inverness CT 0 – 1 Motherwel
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Two minutes added on.
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Great chance for Law as he combines with Moult but he can’t get enough power to test Fon Williams from close range.
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Lopez picks the ball up in a decent area but seems caught in two minds as his effort is neither a cross nor a pass.
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Motherwell sub, McDonald is replaced by Clarkson.
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ICT have a free-kick which Tansey takes. It’s in a great area but the wall stands strong and blocks his shot.
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Not far wide from Johnson who cut in from the right on his left foot and curled it just past. Still 1-0 to ‘Well.
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Motherwell sub, goalscorer Fletcher comes off for Moult.
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Fletcher has a bit of time on the left side of the box but can’t get enough power in his shot to test Fon Williams.
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What a tackle from Devine to somehow clear from Fletcher only 4 yards out. :O Incredible, really!
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Fon Williams takes no chances and dives low to beat away Johnson’s low drive.
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Half-time sub, Leitch is on for Pearson and for ICT, Meekings is off for Horner.
Wes Fletcher’s 4th minute strike separates the two teams although it could have been more. Motherwell on top so far.
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Half time: Inverness CT 0 – 1 Motherwell.
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Three minutes added on for injuries.
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ICT sub, Warren can’t continue and is replaced by Polworth.
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Pearson booked for a tackle on Warren.
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ICT sub, Wedderburn off for Mbuyi Mutombo
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Fon Williams saves the penalty! Guesses right to deny McDonald.
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PENALTY! Johnson jinks past 2 and gets hauled down by Devine!
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Johnson breaks away from the half-way line and shoots from 20 yards. Takes a deflection and goes out for a corner.
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CLOSE! Johnson slides it into Fletcher who drops his shoulder and gets a low shot from 18 yards away. Just past.
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Raven plays in a deep cross from the left but Ripley does well under pressure to gather Meekings’ looping header
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After an eventful opening five minutes, it’s gone a bit quiet here in Inverness. Still 1-0 to ‘Well.
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Pearson broke into the box, forced the ‘keeper into a save and FLETCHER was on hand to poke in the rebound!
1’ | 0-0 | #ICTFCvMFC
Warren booked almost straight away for a late and clumsy tackle on McDonald.
Kick-off | 0-0 | #ICTFCvMFC
Draper and Lopez get the 2015/16 campaign underway. COYW!
Motherwell manager Ian Baraclough:
“To get a clean sheet and three points away from home against a side that did really well last year, you can’t really ask for more.
“We could have won by more and made it easier for ourselves. Scott is disappointed but the keeper has guessed the right way. All you ask of a penalty taker is to get it on target and he did that.”
Inverness CT manager John Hughes:
“We need to roll our sleeves up and get that underdog mentality. I’ve just got that vibe since I’ve come back that one or two are thinking they’re better than they are,” he told BBC Scotland.
“I’ve said to them ‘football owes you nothing’. If you think you’re better than you are it’ll come and kick you up the backside.”