A Marvin Johnson inspired ‘Well continued their Betfred Cup campaign with an impressive 3-1 away win over Annan Athletic.
The former Kidderminster winger was in inspired form and put the Fir Parkers ahead with a stunning strike after sixteen minutes. Annan levelled up just before half-time but a double from Louis Moult, passed fit enough to play before the match despite a clear up operation on Tuesday, both set-up by Johnson, was enough to take all three points.
Trialist Lee Lucas was named in midfield alongside the returning skipper Keith Lasley, in what was a strong starting eleven.
And it was a positive start for ‘Well, who immediately got into the swing of things in the opening minutes, keeping the ball comfortably and threatening early on.
But the story of the opening minutes was Annan’s desire to match up to the Steelmen all across the park, with a firm challenge on Louis Moult in the second minute resulting in a free-kick for the Fir Parkers in a good position, but the resulting delivery was cleared.
A minute later and Annan brought about another free-kick, this time a late, hard challenge on Carl McHugh forced Walsh to blow his whistle again and produce a yellow card for Krissian.
Annan’s Wright gave away another free-kick just outside the box, cheaply pulling back an accelerating Ainsworth, but again the ‘Well’s cross was cleared.
It looked like Annan’s willingness to foul McGhee’s men would bring about their downfall, as yet another foul, again from Wright, led to a free-kick.
And when the ball came across, Moult almost scored but the Englishman’s touch at goal was not made easy due to seeing it late, and the keeper saved comfortably.
Two minutes later and another glorious chance went begging for the Steelmen. Stevie Hammell guided a low ball across the face of goal, but the bounce was too high for Lucas at the back-post and it was steered inches over the bar from close range.
However, it wouldn’t be too long before the opening goal arrived and when it did, it was a piece of magic from marvellous Marvin Johnson. Hammell’s throw-in dropped to Johnson, who spun his man, let the ball bounce up and struck a stunning half-volley over Currie from a narrow angle.
The ‘Well enjoyed long spells of possession after going in front; spraying the ball across the park with ease and dominating the game.
And the excellent possession nearly led to what could’ve been one of the goals of the season already. Some neat passing among the whole side resulted in Johnson playing a lovely, neat one-two with Moult, who flicked the ball into the goal-scorers path, but his low, venomous shot from outside the box was well saved by Currie.
An incredible, searching ball from trialist Lucas nearly fell into the path of Moult, but an important flicked header put it out for a corner. But unfortunately, that would be his last contribution as his day was cut short when he limped off the park to be replaced by Chris Cadden – the trialist impressing in the 35 minutes he was on the pitch.
Moult had an ambitious effort on 40 minutes, but the forwards strike was unlucky as it flew wide after catching a deflection.
Despite his injury concerns the Englishman looked active and hungry all half. From the resulting corner, the ‘Well were a matter of centimetres from being two-up when McManus rose up and headed towards goal, crashing off the under-side of the crossbar.
Incredibly, despite being camped in their own half for the whole half, a minute before the break though and Annan levelled. A testing cross from Riberio was met by Rabin Omar, who headed past Samson from close range.
The two sides went into the break level, despite the Steelmen’s gulf in terms of both possession and chances.
Motherwell were off to a flyer at the start of the second half, winning another free-kick in a dangerous area. The whipped ball in was tipped away by Currie, and a goal-mouth scramble somehow led to the ball being hooked clear by the home side who were somehow still level.
Marvin Johnson continued to be the Fir Parkers most exciting player going forward on the day, spinning his marker brilliantly and striking low and hard on goal, but it was well blocked.
Lionel Ainsworth worked the ball brilliantly in to the box, playing a dinked one-two with Moult, but his half volley was closed down.
The opening ten minutes of the second half was all Motherwell and Ainsworth rolled the ball to Hammell, whose early cross fell to Tait at the back post, but the full-backs effort clipped an Annan defender en route to goal and went behind for a goal-kick.
Marvin Johnson was at it again two minutes later, dancing his way past numerous challenges as he drove through the middle of the park before Rabin Omar clipped his heels – Walsh blew for another Motherwell free-kick.
Louis Moult was agonisingly denied a goal by a defender on the line, as Motherwell’s number 9 rose up to head the ball at goal from a corner.
He went close just a minute later too, when Tait clipped a ball in to the striker. Moult flicked it over Currie who retreated towards his goal to collect the dipping header on his line.
Just two minutes later and it finally paid off for Moult, who chested the ball brilliantly past Currie in the 61st minute. But it was the build-up play between Moult and Johnson on the lead up to the goal that was perhaps more impressive.
A long ball was superbly flicked beyond the defence by Moult into the path of Johnson down the right flank. The attacker held it up and swung a brilliant ball into the path of Moult who had continued his run to prod home from close range.
Just two minutes later and Moult had a brace.
The striker was slipped in behind the defence by Johnson and with just the keeper to beat, made no mistake from inside the box, passing the ball neatly in to the bottom corner to put the game beyond Annan with just over 25 minutes left.
With 12 minutes to go, ‘Well boss McGhee made a double substitution, with Thomas replacing Ainsworth and Mackin replacing Johnson.
And immediately Mackin made an impact, collecting the ball near the by-line and holding it up well, forcing a foul and winning the Fir Parkers a free-kick in a dangerous position, but the following set piece was defended well by the hosts.
The game settled for the final ten minutes as the Steelmen controlled the ball and saw out the 3-1 victory to seal all three points.
[tab:As it happened]
Alastair Reilly at Galabank Stadium
FT: Annan Athletic 1 – 3 Motherwell #AAFCvMFC
78′ | 1-3
Motherwell subs, Thomas on for Ainsworth and Mackin on for Johnson
69′ | 1-3
McHugh booked for pulling down Dachnowicz about 30 yards from goal.
66′ | 1-3
Annan sub, Dachnowicz on for Riberio
65′ | 1-3
McKenna is booked for a clumsy tackle just outside the Motherwell technical area.
62′ | 1-3
MOULT spins his man 40 yards out, bears down and goal and cooly slots it past Currie to give the Steelmen a 1-3 lead
61′ | 1-2
Motherwell are back in front. A superb ball in from Johnson leaves MOULT 2 yards out and able to chest it in past Currie! 1-2
56′ | 1-1
Moult’s header is cleared off the line by Black! Corner after corner but no way through for the Steelmen.
55′ | 1-1
Omar is booked for hauling down Johnson as he broke away.
53′ | 1-1
Tait’s volley from just outside the box is deflected over for a corner but Motherwell can’t capitalise.
…then Ainsworth is penalised for attempting an overhead kick. Deemed to be dangerous.
47′ | 1-1
Free-kick for Motherwell right on the edge of the box. From a narrow angle, Johnson forces a save from Currie….
McKenna gets the second half underway.
HT : Annan Athletic 1 – 1 Motherwell #AAFCvMFC
44′ | 1-1
Goal – Annan are back on level terms, Omar heading home from 8 yards
42′ | 0-1
Off the bar from McManus! Corner was whipped into the front post area and the big defender crashes a header off the woodwork!
40′ | 0-1
Long-range shot from Moult and it isn’t far wide! Good effort.
34′ | 0-1
Motherwell make a change, Lucas limps off and is replaced by Cadden.
31′ | 0-1
Whipped in ball from Deep by Lucas forces Watson to head it wide for a corner.
30′ | 0-1
Annan sub, Cuddihy makes way for Park
24′ | 0-1
Lovely passage of passing before Johnson combines with Moult on the edge of the box and the winger’s shot stings Currie’s palms
16′ | 0-1
Hammell with a throw-in to JOHNSON who spins and volleys it past Currie. 0-1 to Motherwell!
13′ | 0-0
Glorious chance for Lucas at the back post but Hammell’s cross takes an awkward bounce and he steers it over from 5 yards!
11′ | 0-0
Great ball in from Ainsworth finds Moult 5 yards out but he can’t adjust his body quick enough to trouble Currie.
9′ | 0-0
Black takes no chances and sweeps Johnson’s flick-on out for a corner….Currie does enough to clear the delivery.
5′ | 0-0
Half chance there for Annan as Wright rises for meet a deep Omar ball but it is well wide.
3′ | 0-0
Krissian enters the ref’s book, for a rash challenge on McHugh.
2′ | 0-0
Motherwell have a free-kick, on the left hand side. Ainsworth delivers but it is headed clear by Swinglehurst
Lasley gets the action underway. COYW!
Both teams emerge from the tunnel, Motherwell in their white third strip and Annan in black and yellow….
Motherwell manager Mark McGhee:
“The result against Rangers was disappointing but we created the better chances.
“Today we’ve played well and got the three points and obviously we want to win the Cup, so the points are important.”
Annan Athletic Manager Jim Chapman