Lewis Irons at Stair Park
The Steelmen secured a spot in the knockout stages of the Betfred League Cup with a 3-0 win over Stranraer.
That result saw the Fir Parkers finish second place in the group as one of the four best second placed sides.
Mark McGhee named just one change to the side which saw off East Stirlingshire during the week, as Lionel Ainsworth replaced Dom Thomas in the starting eleven.
Trialist Craig Clay kept his place in the side as he vies to impress the manager.
Carl McHugh, who returned from his one match suspension, took his place on the bench alongside Joe Chalmers, who impressed when coming off the bench on Tuesday night.
After the crowd showed their respects with a minutes applause, Stranraer got the game underway but it was the Fir Parkers who looked the livelier, winning a corner after less than a minute of play. The resulting cross ran through the crowd and away from the danger area.
The home side started the game with a number of long balls that posed no threat for Mark McGhee’s men.
The first real chance for the ‘Well came after four minutes, as a long ball from Hammell was well knocked down and then collected by McDonald, who fed in Ainsworth but instead of slipping it further wide, the forward attempted a delicate lob that didn’t trouble Belford.
The home side were on the backfoot as they struggled to get out of their own half in the opening ten minutes thanks to some neat passing and movement from the Fir Parkers.
Ainsworth looked lively early on, getting involved in every attack but struggling to make his mark and in the eleventh minute dribbled past the Stranraer defence but ran it out of play.
Stranraer’s first opportunity arrived in the form of an ambitious strike from all of 25 yards, but it trickled wide of Samson’s left post and caused no problems.
Another opportunity fell the home-sides way on the fifteenth minute, as Scott Agnew latched on to a loose ball and curled a right-footed effort towards the far post, but it was high and wide.
Ainsworth was involved yet again on 21 minutes, when a deep cross fell to the ‘Well number seven’s feet, whose quick feet fooled Scott Robertson and slipped in Chris Cadden, but his curling effort went wide of the mark.
Two minutes later and somehow Ainsworth didn’t score. Stranraer keeper Belford took far too long on the ball and his attempted long ball was cut short by McDonald, dropping to Ainsworth who just had ‘keeper to beat who was on the edge of his box, but the midfielder didn’t lift his strike and it was saved by the Blues stopper.
A minute later and it was McDonald’s turn to have a go; the Aussie forward turned the defence inside out and his low shot at goal was met by a weak hand from Belford, but it took the pace off the ‘Well forwards shot and it was cleared away from danger.
Motherwell continued to dominate with ten minutes remaining in the half.
Clay and McDonald linked up superbly on the edge of the Stranraer box, but the trialist was a yard or so short of getting on the end of the flicked ball and Belford collected.
Skippy was enjoying himself; twisting and turning and drawing about a late foul, but Robertson decided to keep his cards in his pocket.
One of the best chances of the half fell to Ainsworth, who was fed the ball early on the break. Charging forward from the halfway line, the Englishman broke in to the box, cut back to beat his man and hit a low effort on target from eight yards, but it was saved.
In the 41st minute, the Steelmen went close again as they continued to dominate their League One opponents.
A quick tackle to press the ever-slowing Stranraer back line allowed McDonald to work some space on the left and whip an inch perfect cross into the box, but it wasn’t met with the touch it needed and it flashed past Belford’s goal.
After a quiet first half, the second period got going a lot faster, with Chris Cadden opening the scoring after 50 minutes.
The midfielder checked inside and struck a low drive at Belford’s near post – the Stranraer stopper couldn’t get a strong hand on it and it passed him easily to give the Fir Parkers that vital lead.
Two minutes later, it could have been another goal for the ‘Well. Johnson was fed clean through but his right-footed low shot was saved.
McGhee’s side started toying with Stranraer, enjoying long spells of possession on their opponent’s doorstep. Eventually, McManus had a crack from about 30 yards that wasn’t too far wide of the mark.
On the hour mark, Lionel Ainsworth made way for Joe Chalmers.
Cadden nearly had his second goal of the day as the midfielder worked tirelessly to win the ball in Stranraer’s half – he worked his way in to the box and from a very narrow angle forced an incredible save from Belford and it remained 1-0 after 66 minutes.
A minute later, Stranraer made a couple of changes, bringing off McGuigan and Turner for Nade and Kemp.
Samson was called in to action in the 68th minute, rising well to punch clear a good Stranraer cross.
Just before the 70th minute, Marvin Johnson was fed the ball down the right flank and some trickery allowed the winger to put in a deep cross, but McDonald’s effort didn’t dip in time and landed on the roof of the net.
Marvin Johnson hadn’t quite hit the heights of his man of the match winning performances against Annan and East Stirlingshire, but the Englishman almost produced a bit of magic in the 75th minute, turning past Robertson and blasting a strike on goal, but it rose just over.
Two minutes later, strong hold-up play to work himself some space allowed Cadden to slip in Chalmers, but his left-footed shot was held by Belford.
With thirteen minutes to go, Stranraer made another change, with Morena replacing Malcolm.
The Fir Parkers were playing some brilliant passing football, and McDonald was denied by a good block after some intricate passing inside the Blues box.
With just seven minutes left, Motherwell made it two.
Chris Cadden’s continued hard work paid off again, as he won the ball deep in the Stranraer half, dribbled in to the box, kept his composure and squared it to Johnson, who passed it in for his third goal in as many games.
The flood-gates opened for the home-side, and a minute later it was 3-0. Marvin Johnson raced to the by-line and lofted a cross over the keeper onto the head of Scott McDonald, who couldn’t miss.
Mark McGhee made two changes to see out the game, bringing off two of his goalscorers Cadden and McDonald, and replaced them with MacLean and Mackin.
And it was a comfortable end to the game and a brilliant result for the ‘Well, who progressed from Group F.
Motherwell: Samson, Tait, Hammell, Heneghan, McManus, Lasley, Clay, Cadden (MacLean ‘88), Johnson, Ainsworth (Chalmers ‘61), McDonald (Mackin ‘88)
Subs: Brill, Laing, McHugh, Thomas
Stranraer: Belford, Robertson, Dick, McKeown, Bell, Agnew, Turner (Kemp ’67), Thomson, Gibson, Malcolm (Morena ’77), McGuigan (Nade ’67)
[tab:As it happened]
Lewis Irons at Stair Park
FT: Stranraer 0 – 3 Motherwell
88′ | 0-3
Double Motherwell sub, MacLean on for Cadden and Mackin on for McDonald
86′ | 0-3
Johnson races clear and chips in a lovely ball to McDonald who nods into an empty net. 0-3 to the Steelmen!!
83′ | 0-2
Cadden dispossesses his man and with plenty of time squares it to Johnson who easily slots home. 0-2!
79′ | 0-1
Johnson finds himself up alone and opts for a shot from a difficult angle. Not a bad effort, which goes just wide.
78′ | 0-1
Stranraer sub, Moreno on for Malcolm
75′ | 0-1
Cadden works his way forward and plays in Chalmers who gets away a stinging shot which Belford gathers at second attempt.
65′ | 0-1
Double Stranraer change, McGuigan and Turner off for Nade and Kemp.
63′ | 0-1
Belford with a great save to deny Cadden a second. Was a cross/shot from a narrow angle which was tipped over the bar
58′ | 0-1
Motherwell sub, Ainsworth off for Chalmers
55′ | 0-1
Ainsworth stings Belford’s palms with a shot then McManus almost scores a spectacular goal from 40 yards but just wide
53′ | 0-1
Quick counter attack sets Johnson away but his low shot with his right foot is easily saved.
51′ | 0-1
CADDEN cuts in off the left and powerfully fires beyond Belford. 0-1 to Motherwell!!
Second half underway. COYW!!
HT: Stranraer 0 – 0 Motherwell
40′ | 0-0
Close again! A deep cross from McDonald swerves away from the head of Clay and bounces just wide of the post.
37′ | 0-0
Chance! Ainsworth is set clear down the right. He cuts in a shoots but Belford gets a foot on it and its out for a corner.
24′ | 0-0
Ainsworth clips a great ball over the top to McDonald who turns his man and gets a low shot off which is well saved by Belford!
21′ | 0-0
Belford’s clearance is charged down by McDonald and it falls to Ainsworth but he cant get enough power in his shot. Saved.
19′ | 0-0
Ainsworth drifts in off the left and sets up Cadden who tries to place it into the bottom corner but it goes wide of the post.
14′ | 0-0
Agnew again with a shot and again not far wide from the edge of the box
10′ | 0-0
Turner cuts in from the right and sets up Agnew whose left footed shot form 20 yards is just wide.
4′ | 0-0
First shot on goal for ‘Well. Ainsworth with a curling effort from 25 yards but it is straight at Belford.
Stranraer get game underway. COYW!!
Both teams come out the tunnel at a sunny Stair Park. COYW!!
Motherwell manager Mark McGhee:
Stranraer Manager :