A hard-working Motherwell picked up a well-deserved three points at home to Partick Thistle this afternoon.
Goals from Louis Moult and Scott McDonald gave the Fir Parkers a comfortable half-time lead and a resilient showing in the second 45 secured the victory and confirmed the clean sheet.
A slight change of shape brought about a change in fortunes for the Steelmen as Mark McGhee’s side bounced back to winning ways.
David Ferguson and Jack McMillan came in to the starting eleven in place of Stevie Hammell and Lionel Ainsworth and the side switched to a 3-5-2 formation. That directly matched the shape of Thistle, who arrived at Fir Park on the back of a decent run of form.
As things got underway, neither side really got a hold of the game as the opening exchanges were equally scrappy and quiet in terms of chances.
However, after 14 minutes Motherwell opened the scoring after Thistle stopper Thorsten Stuckmann spilled the ball and Moult capitalised to guide home from McDonald’s cross.
Moments later, Richard Tait should have added Motherwell’s second. The full-back connected with a deep cross to lob the keeper with a header, only for the ball to sail inches wide of the post.
There were a couple of penalty shouts for Motherwell after the opening goal.
The first would have been harsh on Thistle as Craig Clay’s powerful effort collided with a Jags defender in the area. Referee Andrew Dallas correctly waved play on.
However the second incident was far more clear cut, as Scott McDonald was hurled to the floor by Partick captain Abdul Osman. The match official refused to blow for a foul and the shouts around Fir Park were ignored.
However, just minutes later McDonald, who was incorrectly denied a goal in the reverse fixture with Thistle earlier this season, got himself his sixth goal of the season to add to Moult’s opener.
Motherwell’s number nine turned provider for McDonald as he squared for the former Aussie International to curl neatly past Stuckmann in the 38th minute.
At the half-time break, Thistle boss Alan Archibald made a change – bringing off Ryan Edwards for Kris Doolan.
The ‘Well continued to press for a third and Richard Tait almost replicated his goal against Ross County when he surged forward after 52 minutes, but his fizzing low effort deflected wide.
Just two minutes later and it was so nearly a third – Chris Cadden, picking up the ball in the middle of the park, drove forward and struck a fantastic effort towards goal, but it clipped the crossbar as it flew past the helpless Stuckmann.
Thistle made all three changes across the period of the second half as they chased a way back in to the match, but a sturdy Steelmen defence kept the advancing Glaswegian side at bay.
Stephen McManus in particular won everything that was thrown his way, as Ben Heneghan and David Ferguson slotted in and mopped up around the experienced centre-back.
Ade Azeez was afforded a few chances in front of goal, but Samson was rarely tested throughout the match and the stopper was rewarded with a clean sheet.
There was added reward for the Fir Parkers as they surged in to the top six, and while it is still early doors, the spirit will certainly be high among the squad.
[tab:As it happened]
Alastair Reilly at Fir Park
FT | Motherwell 2 – 0 Partick Thistle.
Clean sheet and three points, not a bad afternoon’s work!
91′ | 2-0
Bookings for Booth and Tait. Bit of handbags in the corner as the Thistle player got frustrated and hacked away at Moult.
90′ | 2-0
Two minutes added on.
85′ | 2-0
Booking for Osman. Clattered through the back of Cadden and rightly shown the yellow.
82′ | 2-0
Moult slides in McDonald who, as the defence recover, opts to square to Cadden but the pass is cut out.
MATCH ATTAX | Young ‘Well fans can vote now for their Man of the Match. Simply tweet your name, age, choice and #MatchAttaxMOTM now.
79′ | 2-0
Lawless tries his luck with a left-footed shot from 30 yards but again it is routine for Samson
76′ | 2-0
Clay gets into the box but Devine pokes it wide for a corner.
75′ | 2-0
Another Thistle change, this time Amoo is on for Elliot.
72′ | 2-0
Azeez spins his man well but again his end product is missing. Fires well over from 12 yards
69′ | 2-0
Free header for Azeez 8 yards out but his effort loops harmlessly over the bar
68′ | 2-0
Thistle sub, Erskine makes way for Lawless
61′ | 2-0
Slack pas in midfield allows Doolan with a bit of space. He opts for a shot from range but its easy for Samson.
56′ | 2-0
Barton with a ridiculous swandive which ref doesnt buy. ‘Well take quick throw but Clay’s shot is blocked by his own man.
54′ | 2-0
So close! Loose ball is picked up by Cadden, he drives forward and fires a shot from 25 yards which hits the top of the bar!
52′ | 2-0
Very similar to his goal against Ross County, Tait gets forward but this time his shot deflects wide for a corner
48′ | 2-0
Lindsay again gets forward and gets a good shot away which is inches wide of Samson’s left post.
Thistle get the second 45 underway.
One change at the break for Thistle, Doolan on for Edwards.
HT’ | Motherwell 2 – 0 Partick Thistle #MFCvPTFC
45′ | 2-0
Welsh booked for hacking down McDonald.
Two minutes added on…
44′ | 2-0
Ferguson down with an injury. Looked like a bad tackle as he got sandwiched between two Thistle players. Ref disagrees.
38′ | 2-0
Moult gets down the right, puts it on a place for McDONALD who fires superbly past Stuckmann! 2-0 to Motherwell!!!
37′ | 1-0
Strong claims for a penalty as McDonald gets past his man and is hauled down but nothing given!
31′ | 1-0
Moult outpaces Devine and his deflected shot is palmed out to Clay whose shot is drilled at Lindsay. Claims of handball waved away
26′ | 1-0
CLOSE! Moult has a shot blocked and on the second attempt, forces a good close-range save from Stuckmann!
16′ | 1-0
So close to 2! Tait sneaks in between two defenders and gets a heeader away but it drifts inches past the post!
14′ | 1-0
It’s that man @louismoult who capitalises on a poor attempted punch from Stuckmann, allowing him to volley into the empty net!!
…clips it toward Moult but Devine sweeps it clear.
11′ | 0-0
Free-kick to ‘Well, as Clay goes down under pressure from Edwards. 20 yards out, McDonald to take….
7′ | 0-0
Lindsay advances forward and the centre back gets a good low shot on target which forces Samson to dive low and save
5′ | 0-0
Moult wins the first corner of the game…….6 foot 5′ Stuckmann comes out and punches clear, but ref says he is fouled
Lasley gets the game underway for the Steelmen. COYW!
Motherwell manager Mark McGhee:
Partick Thistle manager Alan Archibald: