Despite taking the lead and dominating for large spells, Motherwell Under 20s lost 1-2 to Aberdeen at Excelsior Stadium this afternoon.
The Fir Parkers took the lead when David Clarkson made up for an earlier penalty miss by drilling a stinging shot high into the roof of the net.
Despite being out the game for large spells, the Dons got level on the stroke of half-time when Lawrence Shankland tucked home from the penalty spot after Allan Campbell had brought down Frank Ross.
‘Well continued to take the game to last year’s Champions, but fell behind in controversial circumstances when Kieran Kennedy was adjudged to have fouled Craig Storie. A penalty and an ordering off for the defender; Shankland duly obliged from the spot to make it 1-2.
‘Well huffed and puffed in the closing 25 minutes, creating numerous chances but couldn’t get level.
Stephen Craigan named several first-team players in his squad but it was Aberdeen who had the game’s first real chance when winger Ross outmuscled Campbell but Dan Twardzik was off his line well to make the block.
‘Well’s reply was a Jack Leitch effort that hit a deflection on it’s way inches wide of Robert Mutch’s right hand post.
It was end-to-end stuff as the Twardzik was again called into action on the thirteenth minute, this time blocking a Cammy Smith shot after the forward had got on the end of a neat Ross cutback.
It would prove a vital block as within two minutes, Craigan’s men had got themselves in front. It could have been much easier though as referee Duncan Williams awarded a penalty when Leitch’s shot struck Jamie Henry. It looked like a harsh call given the closeness of the defender to the shot; a caution was even more strict on the young Don.
However, Mutch was there to make sure it stayed level, diving to his left to save fantastically well from Clarkson’s blasted effort.
Clarkson wouldn’t be denied for long though as from the resulting corner, the former Bristol City man picked up on the right hand side before smashing it high past the Dons keeper to make it 1-0.
The home side went on to dominate most of the half with a Chalmers free-kick cannoning the wall, a Chris Cadden effort bouncing into the arms of Mutch and a Dom Thomas shot that flew high over the crossbar.
Dons left-back Liam Lambert almost scored a cracking own goal when his tackle on Clarkson inadvertently turned into a shot, but Mutch bailed him when he got good hands to beat it away.
However, despite being dominated for the majority of the half, the Reds drew level with virtually the last kick of the half. Campbell stretched for the ball but wiped out Ross inside the area, leading to a penalty kick. Lawrence Shankland, the Under 20s league’s top scorer last term, kept his cool to score his second consecutive penalty of the season.
The second half began with an early Aberdeen half chance, Shankland getting on the end of a Wright cross but his header was straight at Twardzik.
However, it was ‘Well who continued to create the best chances and Leitch thought he had scored when he flicked home a Cadden drive, but he was flagged offside by the assistant. Television replays would show the player was onside.
‘Well continued to set the agenda and the Dons’ Dylan Thomas had to hook off the line to deny namesake Dom, whose curling corner almost went straight into the net. Clarkson also took on an ambitious shot from distance, but his dipping volley went high over the bar.
As the hosts were edging closer and closer to a league, against the run of play, Aberdeen got themselves in front. Craig Storie picked up the ball in advanced position, but was quickly marshalled by Kieran Kennedy. The former Man City defender prodded the ball behind as Storie was in flow, with the attacker kicking the back of the defenders leg.
Incredibly, referee Williams not only pointed to the spot, but flashed a red card at the Englishman. ‘Well players surrounded the official, but he was adamant. Shankland was in no mood to show mercy, and he again drilled the ball past Twardzik.
Despite going down to ten men, it was the Fir Parkers who were setting the agenda, opening up the Dons at will. Thomas twice got in behind, but twice Aberdeen somehow scrambled it clear from under their own bar.
The Dons did offer some resistance by way of a Ross counter, but his low effort was palmed away well by Twardzik.
However, the closing stages, much like most of the game, were pretty much one-way traffic towards the vistor’s goal.
After turning his marker inside the box, Thomas could only drag a low shot well wide. A minute later, the winger was in again but his teasing low pass across the six-yard box somehow had no takers.
The chances were still coming though. Jack McMillan could only watch as Mutch turned his low shot away and Thomas had virtually the last kick of the ball, trundling a low effort straight at Mutch from fifteen yards.
It was a hugely frustrating afternoon for ‘Well, who not only played well throughout, but were on the end of a few tough calls.
Motherwell: Twardzik, McMillan, Ferguson, Hall, Kennedy, Campbell (Watt – 69mins), Cadden, Chalmers (Livingstone – 80mins), Clarkson, Thomas, J.Leitch (R.Leitch – 82mins)
Subs Not Used: Long, Hastie, Maguire, Mackin
Goals: Clarkson (18)
Red Card: Kennedy (67)