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: