Phil McGhee Fir Park
Motherwell slipped to their first home defeat in six games despite having the bulk of the play around the Ross County box.
It was an improved performance after the hammering by Hearts, but it took County’s opener through Jackson Irvine to spark ‘Well into action.
Then having created a host of openings, Brian Graham’s second midway through the second half appeared to have settled the game before Stephen Pearson pulled one back to ensure a grandstand finish.
However, despite peppering the County goal, Scott Fox was in no mood to conceded the second and ‘Well lost a home match to the Staggies for the first time ever.
With his men looking to make an immediate recovery from their Tynecastle trouncing, McGhee made three changes with Keith Lasley returning from suspension. Kieran Kennedy came in at right back and did well to restore the shape of the back four. But it was 19-year old Chris Cadden, on his first start, was deservedly man of the match with his tireless running and an eye for goal.
Although ‘Well’s early play was tidy in the middle of the park, it lacked a cutting edge in attack. Indeed neither ‘keeper was involved in the action until the first corner of the game arrived after 20 minutes and sadly from Motherwell’s point of view the opening goal.
Local lad Ian McShane whipped in the corner, which found Jackson Irvine unmarked at the back of the box and his shot across a packed six-yard area took a deflection sending the ball inside the post.
That sparked an immediate response from the home side as the County goal came under some sustained pressure.
A measured lob from Scott McDonald found Louis Moult in front of goal and his header sent the ball dipping under the bar until Scott Fox palmed it over. Then, from the other side, Marvin Johnson’s quick footwork created space to whip in a low cross, which Moult met with a diving header to send the ball inches wide of target.
Young Cadden, who did a power of work on the right latched onto a loose pass before unleashing a low drive which Fox, at full stretch, pushed round the post.
After Connor Ripley made his first save of the game, comfortably holding Alex Schalk’s low shot, the Steelmen passed up their best chance of the half. Stephen McManus nodded on Johnson’s in-swinging free kick, but both Kennedy and McDonald failed to nudge the ball over the line.
Just before the break and from yet another Johnson cross Cadden climbed above Andy Davies only to nod the ball down and beyond the post.
While Motherwell deserved to be level at the interval it took a smart save from Ripley at the start of the second half to beat out McShane’s back post header and prevent County from doubling their lead.
The action around the visitor’s goal was resumed with teasing crosses just begging to be converted. Another fine delivery from Johnson was completely missed by McDonald before the Aussie striker prodded Moult’s tempting cross into the side netting.
While the pressure on the County goal was immense, the Highlander’s were always threatening on the counter. And they came close to a second goal after 63 minutes when from another McShane corner Davies’ header was sailing home until Johnson popped up on the line to head the ball clear.
County sensed that a second decisive goal was on the cards and Michael Gardyne had plenty of space and time to finish but his drive from 12 yards was well blocked by Ripley.
After 66 minutes injury forced a change with Stevie Hammell being replaced by Joe Chalmers. Within two minutes, and before the fullback could settle, Stewart Murdoch’s cross from the right picked out Brian Graham who slammed the ball high into the net and virtually kill the game.
With 15 minutes remaining and in attempt to re-energise the side McGhee sent on Lionel Ainsworth and James McFadden.
It looked to have no effect as the game drifted towards a tame end until four minutes from time when ‘Well grabbed a lifeline.
Ainsworth’s corner found Kennedy beyond the back post and his nod setup Stephen Pearson who lashed the ball home to set up a tense finale.
Within a minute ‘Well were almost level when McFadden tried to lob the advancing ‘keeper but Fox stretched to claw the ball away.
As the crowd urged another goal the Fir Parkers were denied a stunning equaliser. With County hemmed in their own box Keith Lasley collected the ball 25 yards out and his terrific strike was destined for the top corner until Fox matched it, flying high to his right to palm the ball away.
Despite pressing towards the visitor’s goal for the additional four minutes County held out for the three points.
[tab:As it happened]
Ally Reilly at Fir Park:
FT: Motherwell 1 – 2 Ross County
92′ | 1-2
Curran booked for time wasting.
4 minutes added on…
87′ | 1-2
Fox with a spectacular save to deny Lasley who shot from 25 yards!!
86′ | 1-2
Pearson hammers it home from Kennedy’s knock back. Come on!!
81′ | 0-2
County sub, Schalk off for Morrison
76′ | 0-2
Motherwell subs, Cadden and McDonald off for McFadden and Ainsworth
70′ | 0-2
County sub, Curran on for Graham
69′ | 0-2
Goal – Graham doubles County’s lead, firing home from Murdoch’s cut-back.
66′ | 0-1
Motherwell sub, Hammell limps off for Chalmers
65′ | 0-1
Cadden whips in a great ball which Fox misses. It cannons off Boyd’s head and goes over for a corner.
64′ | 0-1
County on a rare break into the ‘Well half and win a corner. From that, Davies’ header is cleared off the line by Johnson!
63′ | 0-1
Ross County sub, Franks off for Murdoch
54′ | 0-1
Another cross and another good chance! This time it is Moult to the front post but McDonald gets too much on it and puts it wide
52′ | 0-1
Johnson gets into the box and drills in a low cross which McDonald can’t quite react to and the ball runs out of play.
50′ | 0-1
Good chance for Franks after County break and Gardyne clips a ball to the back post but Ripley makes the stop.
Second half is underway. COYW!!
HT: Motherwell 0 – 1 Ross County #MFCvRCFC
37′ | 0-1
Moult clips in a cross to the front post. Cadden rises well but can’t get his header on target, under pressure from Boyd.
34′ | 0-1
CHANCE! Johnson swings in a great free-kick, is McManus flicked on and just missed McDonald by an inch at the back post.
26′ | 0-1
Cadden tries his luck from outside the box and Fox has to dive low to his left to makes the stop. Corner to ‘Well.
24′ | 0-1
Johnson does well down the left and fires in a great cross which Moult gets his head on but can’t direct goalwards.
23′ | 0-1
Fox pulls off a great save, tipping Moult’s looping header over the bar for a corner.
19′ | 0-1
First corner of the game for County….Goal! Irvine fires in at the far post. Really poor goal to conceded.
18′ | 0-0
Moult and Johnson work the ball down the left but Fraser gets enough on the cross to take the sting out it and Fox gathers.
12′ | 0-0
Foster collects a loose ball and whips in a great ball from deep which thankfully had no takers.
11′ | 0-0
Cadden intercepts and slides in Johnson whose shot from outside the box is fired straight at Moult and it deflects wide.
9′ | 0-0
Johnson twists and turns, getting past Fraser but Gardyne gets back and makes a vital covering interception.
County get the game underway. COYW!!!!
Motherwell manager Mark McGhee:
Ross County manager Jim McIntyre: