Phil McGhee Fir Park
For the second consecutive Saturday, Motherwell were left empty handed after defensive lapses cost them dearly.
Similar to the Dundee United game, ‘Well’s performance merited a point. But after Marvin Johnson’s fifth minute goal gave them the perfect start, two cheap goals for Niall McGinn and Ash Taylor gifted Aberdeen a win they scarcely deserved.
Ian Baraclough stood by the same starting eleven which failed to make an impression at Tynecastle on Wednesday.
That allowed Reading’s on loan midfielder Taylor to make his home debut, leaving McDonald to play further forward and support the former Wrexham striker Moult on his first home start.
With only one goal to their credit so far and facing an Aberdeen side yet to concede a league goal, the Fir Park fans didn’t anticipate a dramatic change to those statistics.
However within five minutes the Dons defence had been breached as ‘Well made the ideal start after their midweek miseries.
Connor Ripley had a comfortable save from Shay Logan as Aberdeen probed the home goal.
Play immediately moved to the other end as McDonald released Lionel Ainsworth who sped towards the visitor’s box.
He then laid the ball back for the Aussie striker who watched his thumping drive palmed away by Danny Ward. But before the Dons’ ‘keeper could react Johnson had latched onto the bouncing ball at the edge of the six yard box and volley it past the helpless ‘keeper.
That opened up the game and Niall McGinn curled a shot beyond Ripley before Moult drilled a left foot drive just wide of Ward’s left hand post.
Although the Dons had more possession, Motherwell looked comfortable until the visitors equalised with a fluked effort after 24 minutes.
Wide on the left McGinn curled a low ball into the six-yard box aimed at David Goodwillie. Having positioned himself for a shot, Ripley was left sprawling as the ball was missed by everyone rebounding off the far post and over the goal line to make it 1-1.
That should have been a sickening blow for the home side but they responded well. With Moult’s strong running and aggression unsettling the Dons’ defence more chances fell ‘Well’s way.
Slack play from Kenny McLean just inside his own box set the ball up for Taylor but his well struck volley dipped narrowly over the bar. McDonald then had another thumping drive blocked at the edge of the box.
Five minutes from half-time Logan brought down Johnson as he powered towards the penalty area. From the resultant free-kick Josh Law’s curler was sneaking inside the post until Ward got across his goal to save.
Derek McInnes responded to his side’s lack of threat by bringing on last season’s top scorer Adam Rooney. But it was his strike partner Goodwillie who had the first chance of the half but from eight-yards he powered his head straight at Ripley.
Although the substitution improved Dons’ attacking threat their defence remained vulnerable.
In the 52nd minute a poor clearance from Taylor gave possession to Johnson who immediately whipped a cross towards the unmarked McDonald but Ward reacted to smother the danger.
Five minutes later Johnson’s cross did reach McDonald but his downward header bounced just past the post.
Moult and McDonald were forming an understanding up front and a slick exchange between them ended with McDonald rifling a low shot from fifteen yards, which Ward held at full stretch.
After 62 minutes ‘Well had another opportunity to put the visitor’s goal under pressure but Stevie Hammell’s free-kick was cleared from the edge of the box. That sent McGinn racing down the touch line to be halted by Law.
McGinn floated the resultant free kick just outside the six-yard box and although Ripley appeared to be impeded as he came to collect the cross, there were no home protests as Taylor headed the ball past the grounded ‘keeper to put the Dons’ ahead.
Baraclough then sent on Dom Thomas for Johnson while Aberdeen’s response was to withdraw Goodwillie and send on former ‘Well defender Paul Quinn as they looked to hold on to their lead.
The introduction of Thomas provided a lively finish and his in-swinging cross after 75 minutes found Moult six yards out but his brave diving header sent the ball wide. Four minutes later Thomas went it alone with a low 20 yard drive which Ward at full stretch palmed round his post.
As ‘Well pushed for a deserved equaliser McGinn’s angled drive bounced off the post but despite pressing the Dons’ goal until the final whistle there was no breakthrough.
[tab:As it happened]
Ally Reilly at Fir Park
Motherwell manager Ian Baraclough:
“I’m sick of coming in having lost a game on what really is a set piece. We’ve got to realise that set plays are a big part of the game and, for all our good play, you switch off for a second and you can lose a game.
“Having said that, we’ve matched them shot for shot. We’ve had just as many attempts on goal, we’ve played a very, very good side there and come away feeling sorry for ourselves and licking our wounds.”
Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes:
To go behind was really disappointing. We lost a really poor goal and at times our defensive work as a team was a bit too open – and it gave Motherwell encouragement. Going forward, I thought some of our play box to box was outstanding in the first half – the movement, dominating possession, getting into good areas.”