Motherwell’s hopes of an historic Scottish Cup win at Ibrox were wiped out when a Kenny Miller double in the last six minutes shattered ‘Well’s cup dreams after Louis Moult had headed them in front with just 16 minutes remaining.
And having contained and frustrated Rangers for over 80 minutes, it was a hammer blow when Gers’ winning goal came as a result of a defensive lapse a minute from time.
Until then Motherwell’s tactics, discipline and hard work had looked to earn them at least a replay from this all Premiership tie.
Mark McGhee made four changes from the team’s last outing on Hogmanay. Stevie Hammell returned at full back with the injured trio of Keith Lasley, Chris Cadden and Joe Chalmers, coming back in to a five-man midfield. That left Louis Moult up front on his own with Scott McDonald on the bench.
With ‘Well set up to be organised and tight, they were happy to concede possession to the Ibrox side. But with Rangers intent on weaving intricate passes across the middle of the park there was little threat on Craig Samson’s goal.
In truth in the first half hour it amounted to a couple of floating headers from Miller, the first bouncing off the top of the bar and the second effort easily caught by the ‘Well ‘keeper.
After 36 minutes, the subdued home fans were on their feet demanding a penalty when Michael O’Halloran, after jinking past a couple of challenges in the box, fell to the ground.
A minute later the Fir Park men conjured up their best chance of a dull first half. Cadden was hauled back by Lee Wallace at the corner of the box and Hammell’s free kick was only cleared to Chalmers who drilled his shot low and hard but wide of goal.
Having comfortably contained Rangers in the first half, ‘Well played further forward after the break and Wes Foderingham had to look lively to deal with a couple of efforts including a glancing header from Louis Moult.
When Cadden earned another free kick at Wallace’s expense the Ger’s ‘keeper was forced into his first real save smothering Ben Heneghan’s header on his goal line as Lasley hovered waiting for a slip.
With 62 minutes played and sensing that the tie was there to be won Scott McDonald, to a chorus of boos from the home fans, came on for Chalmers.
And within three minutes the striker came close to silencing the Ibrox faithful when he dragged the ball across the penalty box before firing a left foot shot which Foderingham saved high to his left.
As Motherwell gained possession and Rangers and their fans grew more frustrated, it felt like the visitors might nick the opening goal – and they duly did in the 74th minute. Lasley sent Cadden towards the corner flag before firing a cross into the box where Moult outmuscled Rob Kieran to bullet a superb header high into the corner of the net and put ‘Well ahead.
As Rangers pushed for an equaliser, Samson brilliantly denied Martyn Waghorn as the striker rounded him inside the six yard box only for the ‘keeper to perfectly time his dive and intervention to push the ball away.
The equaliser was only delayed a couple of minutes though, when Waghorn’s inswinging cross found Miller who guided his header beyond the stretching Samson.
As the home crowd roared for a winner it almost came at the other end when a series of passes set up Carl McHugh and from 22 yards his fierce drive was brilliantly palmed away by Foderingham at full stretch.
Moult then flashed a header across the face of goal as Motherwell looked to win the tie.
In the most cruel fashion, though, the tie was lost at the other end in the 89th minute.
Stephen McManus, as the last man, was short with a pass through the middle and when Miller was released the veteran striker calmly whipped the ball behind the helpless Samson to end Motherwell’s cup hopes for another season.
[tab:As it happened]
Alastair Reilly at Ibrox
FT: Rangers 2 – 1 Motherwell #RFCvMFC
90′ | 2-1
Four minutes added on.
89′ | 2-1
Goal – Miller is played clean through and makes no mistake with the finish. 2-1 to Rangers.
85′ | 1-1
Chance!! McHugh forces a great save from Foderingham and McDonald can’t convert the rebound.
85′ | 1-1
Goal – Rangers equalise from a Miller diving header
83′ | 0-1
Superb save from Samson as he races off his line and clears at the feet of Miller who looked sure to score.
81′ | 0-1
Motherwell sub, Cadden off for McMillan
78′ | 0-1
McDonald booked for time wasting
77′ | 0-1
McDonald’s cross is deflected wide for a corner…..again Rangers deal with the delivery.
75′ | 0-1
The Steelmen take the lead!! Cadden curls the ball in to MOULT who powers his header home!!!
72′ | 0-0
Rangers make their final sub, Hyndman on for Holt.
72′ | 0-0
‘Well win a corner but McHugh cant quite get on the end of Hammell’s delivery.
71′ | 0-0
Rangers sub, Waghorn on for O’Halloran
70′ | 0-0
Windass gets the break of the ball as he powers forward and from the edge of the box he fires wide of the post
69′ | 0-0
McKay cuts inside and fires a shot at goal. Thankfully it goes wide of the far post
66′ | 0-0
McDonald drifts in off the left and tries his luck with a curling left-footed shot which forces Foderingham into action
63′ | 0-0
Motherwell also make a change, McDonald on for Chalmers
63′ | 0-0
Rangers sub, Toral makes way for Windass
60′ | 0-0
Hammell and Chalmers combine down the left, the cross finds Lasley but as he tries to slide in Cadden, Wallace intercepts
59′ | 0-0
Chalmers booked for pulling back O’Halloran as he broke clear.
Hammell whips the free-kick in which finds Clay but his knock down is gathered by Foderingham.
57′ | 0-0
Cadden dispossesses his man and wins a free-kick wide on the right.
53′ | 0-0
McKay gets around the outside of Tait but Heneghan covers well and concedes the corner.
52′ | 0-0
Tait curls in a ball to the head of Chalmers but he can’t get enough power in his header and it loops straight to Foderingham
46′ | 0-0
Close! Great ball in from the left by Chalmers but Moult can’t quite get on the end of it.
46′ | 0-0
Moult collects a loose ball but sees his effort from 20 yards sail well over the bar.
Lasley gets the second 45 underway. COYW!!!!
Both sides are back out, as we get ready for the second half.
HT: Rangers 0 – 0 Motherwell #RFCvMFC
39′ | 0-0
It’s a great ball in from Hammell but its headed clear as far as Chalmers who drags his shot just wide of the post.
38′ | 0-0
Cadden wins a free-kick just outside the box on the right hand side,,,,
37′ | 0-0
O’Halloran goes down in the box after a Hammell tackle but ref waves it away. Hard to tell on first look.
From the free-kick, McKay drills it straight into the wall.
31′ | 0-0
Miller goes down under a challenge from McHugh giving Rangers a dangerous free-kick about 25 yards from goal
28′ | 0-0
Hodson’s ball in is knocked out for a corner by Chalmers, then ‘Well deal with the delivery.
…from the free-kick Miller heads goalwards and it clips the top of the bar on the way over.
19′ | 0-0
Hodson gets past Chalmers and the Motherwell man pulls him down. Free-kick wide on the right for Gers…
14′ | 0-0
Decent break there. Tait gets down the right, cuts in on his left and swings in a superb ball which Hill rises to head clear.
12′ | 0-0
McHugh brings down O’Halloran about 25 yards out…..Toral clips it in but the linesman’s flag goes up for offside
6′ | 0-0
Loose ball falls to Wallace on the edge of the box…he shoots but it’s deflected wide for a corner.
Rangers get the action underway. COYW!!
Both sides emerge from the tunnel, ‘Well in their full white third kit, Rangers in their usual blue
Motherwell manager Mark McGhee:
Rangers manager Mark Warburton: