Extended highlights from Global Energy Stadium as goals from Scott McDonald and Louis Moult give ‘Well a 1-2 win over Ross County.
TV: Highlights from DingwallWednesday 01 February 2017
McGhee: Win tonight gives us beliefWednesday 01 February 2017
‘Well boss Mark McGhee believes tonights win against Ross County sets his side up to go in to a tough run of fixtures with a sense of optimism.
A composed finish from Scott McDonald in the first half and a header from Louis Moult was enough to oversee a difficult Ross County side at the Global Energy Stadium in Dingwall.
And after the match, McGhee revealed the positive impact it could have on the team going forward.
He said: “All round I’m pleased, apart from the equalising goal which was disappointing because at that stage I think we were comfortable and could’ve went on to win the game comfortably.
“As it was we had to slug it out a bit until the end and although I felt comfortable that we deserved the win, we had to perhaps work a little bit harder than we may have had to if we got the second goal instead of allowing them to equalise.
[pullquote]All round I’m pleased, apart from the equalising goal which was disappointing because at that stage I think we were comfortable and could’ve went on to win the game comfortably.[/pullquote]
“It was a great finish from Scott and I said in the changing room that, as a centre forward myself, I didn’t like that chance, there was too much time, too much to think about, too many options. It was a terrific finish and when he’s through on goal you fancy him to bury it.”
He added: “It’s an important win and we got a good win up here at Inverness too. Those are difficult matches and I don’t think we’ve always managed that, to come up here and win these games so it’s important that we’ve done that.
“Now we’ve got to put some sort of run together with a really difficult period coming up – Hearts, Aberdeen, Celtic – these are big games but a result like this kind of allows you to roll your sleeves up, go in to these matches and have a go.
“I don’t mean it takes the pressure off, but it gives you that belief that you can go in and compete with these top teams in the division.”
[pullquote]It’s an important win and we got a good win up here at Inverness too. Those are difficult matches and I don’t think we’ve always managed that, to come up here and win these games so it’s important that we’ve done that.[/pulquote]
The ‘Well boss has been boosted by a few new faces in the January transfer window, including Zak Jules who came off the bench tonight for the Steelmen.
McGhee believes that his side are in a strong position now in terms of depth, and with Hearts up next for the Fir Parkers on Saturday afternoon, the manager insists his side will go in to the game feeling ready.
He said: “I think we know where we are in it all, we know who the top sides in the league are at the moment and that it will be tough to beat them, but we’ve made a good fist of it so far.
“We play Hearts at home, that’s important and we’ll have a go at beating them on Saturday.”
He added: “I think with the way the squad is looking at the moment, the strength of the squad and the competition we have for places means we’ll only improve.”
Ross County 1 – 2 MotherwellWednesday 01 February 2017
Motherwell secured an important three points away to Ross County in the Ladbrokes Premiership tonight.
And the victory see’s the Steelmen move in to the top six thanks to goals from Scott McDonald and Louis Moult either side of a Jay McEveley header.
In truth, it was a fairly uneventful match, but for manager Mark McGhee, the three points is the crucial thing and he was rewarded by the combination of his clinical forwards and his sturdy defence.
McGhee named two changes to the side that lost 2-0 to Rangers at the weekend, giving Craig Clay what was perhaps a deserved rest after his tireless work in the two recent matches with Mark Warburton’s side.
Lee Lucas stepped in while skipper Keith Lasley returned to the starting line-up in place of Joe Chalmers.
And it was a fairly dull first half despite the fact there was two goals.
Neither side really got a hold of the game with the highlights for both sides perhaps the link up play of the forwards.
Scott McDonald, afforded a start after his red card from Saturday was appealed, combined terrifically with Louis Moult at points while Alex Schalk looked lively and was trying to link with Liam Boyce and Jim O’Brien either side of him and spin in behind the Motherwell defence, which stood strong.
However, it was an error from County defender Jay McEveley, not the link up with Moult, which afforded McDonald the chance to waltz through one-on-one and stroke past County stopper Scott Fox.
Motherwell looked likely to keep their lead going in to the break thanks to two tremendous saves from Craig Samson, who tipped a deflected cross over his bar and got down well to deny Boyce’s goal bound header.
However, he couldn’t keep out a rather unorthodox header from McEveley who stooped to get down to a Martin Woods corner and spun his header high in to the air. It eventually found it’s way in to the back of the net through a packed six yard box.
Neither side created too much following that goal and the game remained evenly poised going in to the half time break.
That forced Staggies boss Jim McIntyre to make a couple of changes to try and kick his side in to life as the Steelmen seemed to be in control of the match.
Milan Lalkovic and Jason Naismith came on for Chris Routis and goalscorer McEveley, forcing fullback Marcus Fraser to move in to a central position alongside skipper Paul Quinn.
The County fullback slotted in well, giving McDonald and Moult a tough challenge to try and find the all important second goal.
However, Moult took his chance when Hammell’s corner was met by the forward who was unmarked, and he powered his header beyond Fox for his tenth league goal of the season.
He went close again shortly after, striking a close range shot off the post after Fox spilled it in to his path, but the linesman had already flagged for offside.
McGhee brought off Lucas, who tired after working hard throughout the match, and replaced him with Clay.
County had a couple of half decent chances in the final 20 minutes, but a resolute ‘Well defence stood strong and the towering Stephen McManus in particular, stood up to win numerous headers and keep the travelling Steelmen in front for the remainder of the match.
The three points saw Motherwell leapfrog Ross County in the table and move in to the top six, and with a tough run of fixtures coming up for the Fir Parkers, it also arrives in timely fashion for Mark McGhee and his players.
[tab:As it happened]
Alastair Reilly at Global Energy Stadium
FT: Ross County 1 – 2 Motherwell
A superb three points to take home from the Highlands which pushes ‘Well into the top six
90+2′ | 1-2
Motherwell sub, Ainsworth on for Moult
90′ | 1-2
Three minutes added on….
83′ | 1-2
Lalkovic puts in a ball from the left which Schalk heads inches past the post. Up other end Cadden blasts well wide.
80′ | 1-2
McDonald spins 25 yards out and gets a shot away but it’s well over the bar.
79′ | 1-2
Again close for County but this time Heneghan gets his body in the way of Naismith’s volleyed shot.
77′ | 1-2
Motherwell sub, Zak Jules makes his debut, replacing Stevie Hammell.
74′ | 1-2
Great ball in from the left by Clay which finds the head of Moult but his effort is inches past the post.
73′ | 1-2
A let-off there as County look sure to score but Gardyne slices wide of the right post!
71′ | 1-2
Close for County! Deep ball in falls to Boyce but somehow the ‘Well defence block and sweep it away!
70′ | 1-2
Motherwell sub, Lee Lucas makes way for Craig Clay.
69′ | 1-2
Another fine save by Samson! Denies Schalk’s powerful left-footed shot from just inside the box.
66′ | 1-2
McManus booked for clattering Boyce on the half-way line
62′ | 1-2
Ross County sub, O’Brien off for Gardyne
60′ | 1-2
Chow booked for hauling down Moult as he broke.
60′ | 1-2
Samson called into action, denying Schalk with his feet as the striker burst clear.
53′ | 1-2
MOULT bullets home the header in off the bar to put the Steelmen back in front!!
52′ | 1-2
Cadden wins a corner on the right….GGGOOOAAALLLL!!!
50′ | 1-1
Chance!! Cadden gets a good low ball in but Fox dives low at Moult’s feet to divert his shot into the path of McDonald but offside
Second half is underway.
Two subs at the break for County, Lalkovic and Naismith on for McEveley and Routis
HT: Ross County 1 – 1 Motherwell #RCFCvMFC
34′ | 1-1
Good save by Samson! Dives low to his left to palm away a powerful Woods header.
Samson booked for his protests as he felt he was impeded.
34′ | 1-1
Goal – County draw level. McEveley stoops low to loop a header over Samson. All square in Dingwall.
31′ | 0-1
Van Der Weg wrestles Cadden to the ground. Free-kick wide on the right….Good ball in but it’s headed clear.
29′ | 0-1
Almost 2! McDonald skips past McEveley again but this time the ball bobbles slightly and he slices it wide of the post.
28′ | 0-1
Lucas fires a ball forward which McEveley misses setting McDONALD clean through and makes no mistake! 0-1!!!
26′ | 0-0
Chance! Cadden puts the ball back across goal but McEveley gets enough on it to take it away from Moult!
24′ | 0-0
Superb save be Samson! Fraser’s shot is deflected and it looked like it was looping in but for the hand of the diving Samson
22′ | 0-0
Speculative 35 yard volley from McHugh which never looks like testing Fox and sails well over the bar.
19′ | 0-0
Half chance as Moult gets in behind the County defence. Ball falls to Lucas whose goalbound shot is blocked by Quinn
17′ | 0-0
Lovely pass from Hammell to Moult who slides it into the net but the linesman’s flag goes up. Close.
14′ | 0-0
Couple of tantalising crosses there from Hammell but from both, ‘Well can’t finish it off.
12′ | 0-0
Tait’s ball into the box is headed wide for a corner by Quinn. From resulting corner, ref blows for a foul by McManus
9′ | 0-0
Good passing play from County there but Lasley reads it well and hooks it clear for a corner.
6′ | 0-0
Lasley gets some space on the left but his target, Moult, slips and the chance goes
We’re underway here in Dingwall. COYW!!!
Motherwell manager Mark McGhee:
Ross County manager Jim McIntyre:
Oliver Pain arrives / Watt departs on loanTuesday 31 January 2017
Motherwell FC can today confirm the arrival of young goalkeeper Oliver Pain from Sunderland on a loan deal until the end of the season.
The 19-year-old Aussie will play under Stephen Craigan for the Motherwell U20s as he makes the switch to Lanarkshire after it was confirmed PJ Morrison would require surgery on a wrist injury.
The youngster has come through the youth set up at the English Premier League side and will provide competition for Jordan Pettigrew and Jamie Stevenson in the ‘Well 20s side.
The club can also confirm the departure of Luke Watt to East Fife on a development loan until the end of the season.
The 19-year-old defender joins the Scottish League One outfit for the rest of the campaign to gain some valuable first-team experience after spending the first half of the campaign at Stranraer.
Everyone at Motherwell FC would like to welcome Oliver to the club and wish Luke all the best.
TV: Highlights from Excelsior StadiumMonday 30 January 2017
Extended highlights from Excelsior Stadium as Motherwell’s under 20s staged a remarkable comeback, beating Hamilton 4-3 in the Development League.
Craigan: Proud of the teamMonday 30 January 2017
U20s boss Stephen Craigan admitted just how proud he is of his youngsters after they clawed back a three goal deficit to win 4-3 tonight.
A Jake Hastie hattrick and a James Scott header sealed the three points for the Steelmen and speaking to MFC TV at full time, Craigan revealed he was not only proud, but relieved too.
He said: “I think there’s a sense of relief because we won the game but it was probably more pleasing in the second half because we had to work out how to play against ten men.
“It can be difficult playing against ten men sometimes because the way they then set up was like a 4-3-2 formation meaning our space was always on the other side of the pitch.”
He added: “It’s hard getting that message across and trying to enforce that so we had to get to half time and reaffirm the message that if we’re attacking down the left we probably need to play another pass and get down the other side.”
[pullquote]I think there’s a sense of relief because we won the game but it was probably more pleasing in the second half because we had to work out how to play against ten men.[/pullquote]
Despite being thrilled with the victory, Craigan admitted it was equally pleasing to see how his side adapted to the chaotic match at the Excelsior Stadium.
He said: “Of course it’s nice when you win but when you’re working with younger players you just want to see them take information on board and improve and try and work something out themselves on the pitch.
“We changed the shape at half time, we almost got an extra man in midfield because we felt that was where we could link up the play.”
He added: “In the first half it was three versus three so we almost made it four versus three and that just allowed Tom and David to play in gaps and spaces.
“When it goes to 3-0 I think anything can happen. We get the goal back quickly and then they go down to nine men and that makes it difficult for them.
The one thing Hamilton always do is they work hard, they’re resolute, they’ve got good quality in their team so the fact that we’ve won the game tonight is pleasing.”
[pullquote]I’m always proud of them and I don’t always tell them that because I like to keep them on their toes and working hard, but it’s pleasing about how they went about it.[/pullquote]
The 20s boss has seen his side nettle from behind twice already this year, something he admits is hugely pleasing for him as a manager.
He said: “I was going to say that it doesn’t surprise me that they came back like that but there’s moments when you think ‘do we have it in us?’ and I said it at half time that we had to go and rescue the situation.
“We’ve been asked questions over the season and it was another test of character for them – could they be brave, wrestle the game back?
“The fact that we go the goal back so quickly played a part and you could sense the belief among the players, the energy, they kept going.”
He added: “I’m always proud of them and I don’t always tell them that because I like to keep them on their toes and working hard, but it’s pleasing about how they went about it.”
Motherwell U20s 4 – 3 Hamilton U20sMonday 30 January 2017
A dramatic end to Motherwell’s derby clash with Hamilton saw the young Steelmen turn around a 3-0 setback to win 4-3 at the Excelsior Stadium tonight.
A perfect hattrick from winger Jake Hastie and a header from substitute James Scott brought Stephen Craigan’s side from behind to close the gap on Development League leaders Hibernian with a big win in the Lanarkshire derby.
Craigan named a young line-up for his sides clash with their local rivals – with 20-year-old David Ferguson the only over age player in the starting line-up.
And a poor start left the Steelmen chasing the game after just five minutes when Accies midfielder Ross Cunningham fired the visitors in front with a close range finish following a sweeping move down the right flank.
‘Well were afforded a terrific chance to draw level when Sean Want brought down Dylan Falconer in the area and was shown a straight red card.
However, from the spot, Luke Watt was denied by a strong save from Accies stopper Darren Jamieson and the away side stayed in front for the opening 15 minutes of the fast-paced match.
Five minutes later and Hamilton went close to a second despite being a man down and despite Motherwell starting to grow in to the match.
A pinpoint cross to the head of Jordan McGregor was turned goalward by the tall defender, but he put too much on it and it nestled on the top of the net.
In the 24th minute, Hughes struck Hamilton in to a two goal lead with a powerful finish from inside the Motherwell box. With his right foot the Accies midfielder made no mistake and Pettigrew had no chance.
The Fir Parkers started to get the ball on the deck and play some decent football, but it was a high, curled cross in to the box which so nearly resulted in a way back in to the match. Hastie’s ball in was just a little overhit for Mackin and the tall striker could only nod narrowly past the post.
The game calmed down somewhat in the final ten minutes of the half until Cunningham’s tremendous effort from a freekick from over 25-yards crashed the crossbar on the stroke of half time.
The first chance of the second half fell Motherwell’s way and to the prolific Mackin. Another deep cross from a freekick on the left was met by the forward but he headed wide.
After 55 minutes of play, the first ‘Well youngster went in to the book. Turnbull was deemed to have shown dissent to the official and was duly cautioned.
However, the young midfielder nearly played a hand in pulling the Fir Park side back in to the match when he got to the byline and fizzed a low ball across goal, but Accies defender McGregor hooked it clear.
Moments later, young Falconer nearly completed the spectacular – touching the ball up in to the air before striking it on the volley – but it flew high and wide.
And down the other end of the park, Motherwell were made to pay when Ryan Tierney worked his way past two challenges and rifled a shot high past Pettigrew from just outside the box. It was central, but it had power and was well finished.
The Steelmen got back in to the match almost immediately though, when Hamilton full back Breslin committed a sloppy foul and gave away a penalty. It could have been his second yellow too but the referee kept his cards in his pocket.
Hastie confidently stepped up and slammed the ball low and hard past Jamieson, sending him the wrong way in the process.
Shortly after that, Accies midfielder Ferguson was sent off after he lost his head with a reckless tackle that merited a red card every day of the week.
An inspired substitution in the shape of James Scott for Jordan Armstrong changed the game for Motherwell, and within five minutes of the youngster coming on he had a goal and Motherwell were just one behind.
An outstanding cross from Luke Watt was met by the head of the young forward before another ball from the full-back was played in minutes later and this time Hastie headed home – drawing the Steelmen level and grabbing his second of the game.
And then, in stunning fashion, Craigan’s side took the lead – and what a goal it was too.
Hastie, cutting inside on to his apparent weaker right foot, curled an absolutely unstoppable strike in to the far corner from distance and from a tough angle too to complete his hattrick – a perfect one too. Jamieson in the Accies net had no chance.
With just over five minutes left in the half, the Steelmen never looked under threat again and held out for the victory to keep the pressure on league leaders Hibs.
Moult receives award from fansMonday 30 January 2017
Louis Moult was presented his Motorpoint Player of the Month award by Mark Ross and son Joshua on Saturday.
The two ‘Well fans were the lucky winners to present the star with his trophy in front of the crowd at Fir Park ahead of kick off against Rangers on Saturday.
And that chance could be yours next month once the voting closes for the award for the month of January.
For your chance to win, follow us on twitter @motherwellfc and keep an eye out on the competition opening.
Ross County: A closer lookMonday 30 January 2017
Motherwell travel north to face Ross County tomorrow night in an important Premiership clash – the first of two league matches this week.
And after the Steelmen lost 2-0 to Rangers in a hard fought match at Fir Park on Saturday afternoon, the players and coaching staff will all be keen to get back in to action tomorrow.
It will be the third clash between the two sides this season following the 1-1 draw back in September and the dominant 4-1 victory in late October.
But the match will come with added importance for both sides due to the fact that a mere two points separates the teams in the Premiership table.
County, in seventh, will be hungry to find their first win of the season over the Fir Parkers, who occupy tenth.
And after a dramatic match with Kilmarnock, when a last minute winner from Sean Longstaff snatched all three points for Killie, the Northerners will also be keen to bounce back too.
‘Well assistant James McFadden knows it will be a difficult clash, and admitted that the players need to be ready for action tomorrow.
Speaking to the press this morning, he said: “We were bitterly disappointed with the outcome of the game on Saturday but we have another game tomorrow and we have to be ready and prepared properly to get it out our system.
“In that sense it’s probably a good thing that the game is so close after the last game.”
The assistant also revealed that the club plan to appeal Scott McDonald’s red card, following the Aussie’s foul on Gers forward Kenny Miller which led to Willie Collum sending the forward for an early shower.
McFadden said: “We’re going to appeal the decision so Scotty should be available tomorrow. He didn’t go in to harm Kenny Miller, he went in to win the ball and he actually pulled out a wee bit.
“The contact happens so fast because they were so close together that we feel it was undeserved and he shouldn’t have been sent off for it.”
He added: “Scotty is a big player for us, and if we look at the way we started the game on Saturday we started the game well and we had a couple of chances that funnily enough Scott should have taken.
“We feel that the team is better off with him in it but first and foremost we don’t believe it was a red card.”
[pullquote]We were bitterly disappointed with the outcome of the game on Saturday but we have another game tomorrow and we have to be ready and prepared properly to get it out our system.[/pullquote]
Mark McGhee and James McFadden will of course have new signings Elliott Frear, Zak Jules and Russell Griffiths available for selection from a squad which McGhee hailed as the strongest he’s had this season after Saturday’s match.
And on the new boys who arrived last week, McFadden said: “Elliott Frear trained on Friday then came on in a difficult game under difficult circumstances.
Russell and Zak trained yesterday and I got a little bit of a look at them then, they look good so time will tell because it’s difficult to tell so far cause it’s only been a short period of time that we’ve had them.
“We’re not bringing these boys in to carry them along – we’ve brought them in to challenge the boys that are here just now.”
He added: “We’re always looking to improve and if the boys coming in can improve us we’ll definitely play them.”
Looking at tomorrow’s opponents, McFadden said: “It’ll be tough, we know what Ross County are like and they’re similar every week so we know what we’re up against.”
The Fir Parkers will be without Ross MacLean, who has an injured shoulder, and Kieran Kennedy who is struggling for fitness.
Ross County will have a full strength squad to pick from, as manager Jim McIntyre looks to follow up from the weekend’s disappointment.
New signing Elliott Frear believes he’s up to the challenge of playing in the Premiership after getting a brief taste at the weekend.
After arriving from Forest Green Rovers last week, the winger was introduced to the action at Fir Park on Saturday.
Despite admitting the pace was something he hasn’t experienced yet, the 26-year-old insisted he was up to the challenge.
Speaking to the press this morning, Frear said: “It was a good experience and the pace of the game was a lot different from what I’m used to.
“Hopefully I can get a few weeks of training under my belt because I feel like I’m a little bit behind in terms of sharpness because I haven’t had a game in about three weeks now so I just want to get a few training sessions in me then I’ll be ready to go.”
He added: “I’m ready to step up to the challenge and I just think if I have a few more days of training to get up to speed I’ll be good to go.”
Louis Moult, Richard Tait and Craig Clay are just a few of the players who have made the jump from the English National League to the top flight of Scottish football, and the Englishman admitted he was encouraged by the success of both current and past stars who have come to Lanarkshire.
Elliott said: “The players that have come up from National League level have gone on to do really well, so that was a big part of the decision I made to come up here.
“I was interested in moving up to Scotland anyway, it seems like a nice place to be and while it’s a bit of a change I’m looking forward to it up here.”
He added: “I played with Louis Moult at England C level and I’ve obviously played against Marvin Johnson when he was at Kidderminster.
“Those players went on to do really well here of course and seeing that was part of the reason I made the decision to come up here.”
The close-knit spirit of the squad is something Elliott has found encouraging so far, and he admits he feels extremely welcome already.
[pullquote]I’m ready to step up to the challenge and I just think if I have a few more days of training to get up to speed I’ll be good to go.[/pullquote]
He said: “I want to get in with the group and start feeling more comfortable around the lads – the more I do that the better I’ll become I think.
“I nearly joined in the summer so I was always keeping an eye on the results and how the team were getting on. I watched the Aberdeen and Rangers games and I got an idea how the team set up and it was hugely encouraging and something I wanted to be a part of.”
He added: “I lived in Cheltenham when the potential move came about on deadline day in the summer, so it was a bit tough to get up to Glasgow in four hours and obviously Marvin Johnson’s move was a bit touch and go at that stage so it was all a bit too late.
“I’m a little bit different to Marvin – I’m a winger who likes to cross the ball really and I may be a bit of a replacement but I’m a different style.”
Ross County enjoyed a solid start to the 2016/17 season after winning two of their opening four games.
Results have become mixed since that encouraging start, but under manager Jim McIntyre, the Staggies find themselves level on points with sixth placed Partick Thistle and are just one spot off the top six.
Currently sitting on 23 points and three spots ahead of the Steelmen, the northerners will be hungry to follow up on last season’s terrific top six finish.
It makes for an interesting encounter tomorrow night, with both sides sharing the same aspirations of a top-half spot meaning there is added emphasis on the outcome up north.
When McGhee’s men travelled north to Dingwall in the fifth game of the Ladbrokes Premiership season, the two sides couldn’t be separated as Louis Moult cancelled out Liam Boyce’s opener.
That was followed up by a terrific performance from the Steelmen when McIntyre’s men came to Fir Park, with a resounding 4-1 victory the perfect response for Motherwell after a disappointing 3-0 loss earlier that week.
Before the season started, it was a big summer for the Staggies who looked to follow up on their brilliant season, highlighted by their League Cup triumph against Hibs at Hampden back in March.
Almost inevitably, star midfielder Jackson Irvine was snapped up by Championship side Burton Albion early in the window after impressing greatly for Ross County during his two-season stint.
Tim Chow was signed by Jim McIntyre and looked likely fill the void left by Irvine but was hit by injury after his arrival late in the summer window. Since then, the Englishman has recovered and has become a regular starter for the Staggies.
Right-back Erik Cikos signed on a free oin summer from Slovan Bratislava but departed in the January window after failing to impress.
The main threat the Steelmen face isn’t any of the new signings, but Northern Irish striker Liam Boyce, who opened the scoring earlier in the season in the 1-1 draw at the Global Energy Stadium and is currently the leagues joint top scorer.
At just 25-years of age, keeping hold of Boyce was a shrewd bit of business from the Staggies over the summer, after the forward scored 15 goals and provided 7 assists in the Premiership last season.
If he keeps going at this rate, he’ll improve on that tally significantly, making him an obvious threat to the Steelmen tomorrow night.
Ross County have not struggled for goals this term, but at the back, the club have found themselves leaking goals and have the second worst defence in the division.
The January arrivals of Jim O’Brien and Milan Lalkovic will further boost tomorrow’s opposition.
With the two sides playing out for an important three points tomorrow night at the Global Energy Stadium ahead of two important games at the weekend, it will be a massive game for both the Steelmen and the Staggies.
Ross County: Last time outMonday 30 January 2017
On a week for disguises, Motherwell were unrecognisable from the team that lost to Inverness CT just days before overcoming Ross County 4-1 earlier this season.
Two goals in each half and a couple of efforts off the cross bar earned ‘Well an emphatic victory over strugglers Ross County, who found themselves near the foot of the table before the match back in October.
And after the let down in midweek, the experienced players responded brilliantly. Scott McDonald and a rejuvenated Lionel Ainsworth were rewarded with a goal each, along with a first for the hard working Richard Tait. County full back Kenny Van Der Weg, who will have recurring nightmares of Chris Cadden powering past him, also had the misfortune of claiming an own goal.
Facing their second Highland visitors in four days Mark McGhee made three changes from the midweek defeat to Inverness. McDonald returned to partner Louis Moult with Ainsworth, in his first start since August, aiming to support the front two and claim a permanent place in the team.
Keith Lasley’s broken toe meant a league debut for Lee Lucas who had to wait patiently for a starting place after being injured in the cup tie at Annan in July. However, his partnership with Craig Clay in the middle of the park was impressive.
Following the disappointing performance and lack of fire power in midweek Motherwell set out to test a County side with the poorest goal difference in the league.
And it took Motherwell only seven minutes to breach the leaky Staggies defence.
Chris Cadden, who had the measure of Kenny Van Der Weg throughout the game, burst past the County fullback only to be tripped 10 yards from the goal-line. Ainsworth’s measured free kick was perfect for the unmarked McDonald to stoop and nod the ball home for his 3rd of the season.
Suddenly ‘Well’s passing was crisp and accurate as the visitors were left chasing the ball and the game.
Van Der Weg was still chasing Cadden and another burst from the ‘Well midfielder took him to the opposition box. His pass found Moult who laid the ball off for McDonald but he dragged his shot agonisingly beyond the post from 10 yards.
There was no respite for the over worked Dingwall defence and after stretching to reach Ainsworth’s cross, Moult’s touch carried the ball just over the bar.
Scott McDonald was next for a strike at goal, turning at the corner of the penalty box before driving the ball over the bar.
A second goal was overdue and it arrived on the half hour mark. McDonald fed in Moult and he cleverly worked his way along the goal line before cutting the ball back for the waiting Cadden only for Van Der Weg’s touch to deflect the ball over his own goal line.
Local lad Ian McShane gave notice that County weren’t out of it with a 20-yard drive that skimmed narrowly past with Craig Samson at full stretch.
The visitors were soon on the back foot again and Van Der Weg’s first half got worse when he was cautioned after yet again tripping Cadden.
On the stroke of half-time and with County gaining in possession around the home box, Ben Heneghan’s brave and timely block prevented Michael Gardyne’s shot hitting the target.
Jim McIntyre’s thoughts that his team might stage a second half fightback were erased seven minutes after the restart.
Richard Tait’s trademark race down the right carried him into the box but rather than cutting the ball back the full back elected to unleash a thumping drive which Scott Fox could only parry inside his left hand post.
It was then a question of whether Motherwell had an appetite for more goals and Ainsworth proved he was in the mood two minutes later with an audacious free kick from fully 35 yards, casually curling the ball off the top of the cross bar.
The ‘Well wide man was not to be denied though, and after 63 minutes claimed the goal his performance earned. McDonald did well to hold off former teammate Paul Quinn before slipping the ball inside. With Fox advancing from his goal Ainsworth sped past the ‘keeper before calmly stroking the ball over the goal line.
Two minutes later Ainsworth came within inches of adding another, volleying Cadden’s cutback across the face of the goal and just beyond the far post.
Craig Samson then produced his first save of the game rising to his right to push Alex Shalk’s stinging drive away from his goal.
The Fir Park men looked the more likely to add to the scoring add after carrying the ball from his own half Ainsworth’s drive from the middle of the box was deflected over the cross bar.
The Staggies continued to chase a goal and were rewarded 13 minutes from time when Schalk whipped a low shot past Samson to make it 4-1.
‘Well hadn’t given up thoughts of making it five and Lee Lucas almost capped an very impressive league debut setting himself up 20 yards from goal before curling a fabulous effort which Fox touched onto his bar.
Minutes later Lucas left the field to the applause of the home fans as 18-year-old Allan Campbell made his first team debut.
And shortly after that, Ainsworth left the park to a similar reception from the jubilant home support.
It was just the response that Motherwell fans would be hoping for, and they were treated to a good afternoon of football too at Fir Park.