Motherwell Under 20s went down 3-2 to Celtic at a freezing cold Cheaper Insurance Direct Stadium this evening.
Stephen Craigan’s men had a wretched first thirty-five minutes and found themselves trailing 3-0 at the interval.
However, one of the hallmarks of this young Steelmen side has been there heart and never-say-die attitude and they pulled themselves back into things with two goals, inspired by the terrific Elliott Frear, who was outstanding on the flank for the Fir Parkers.
However, they just ran out of time in the search for a leveller, crashing to only their second defeat since November, the other coming earlier in the week at Rugby Park.
With Mark McGhee’s first-team having a free weekend, there were several experienced faces in the starting line up.
Joe Chalmers and David Ferguson were in the back four; there was a welcome return for Jacob Blyth in attack who’s missed the whole season through injury and a first start in Motherwell colours for January signing Elliott Frear.
However, despite the edge in experience, it was the hosts who came out the blocks on the front foot and Regan Hendry almost put his side ahead in the sixth minute, crashing a shot over the bar after good wing play and cross from Calvin Miller.
‘Well’s first effort at goal came shortly after, when the livewire Frear ghosted past two challenges before striking a low shot at McAdams who held on.
The same player had another chance four minutes later, picking up from deep, charging forward before sending a stinging shot inches wide of target.
However, Celtic’s next meaningful attack led to the game’s opening goal.
A long, deflected clearance caused confusion for Barry Maguire, who slipped when trying to deal with the awkward, bouncing ball. That allowed Paul Joseph Crossan to collect, cut inside before hitting a shot that deflected off the sliding Joe Chalmers and past Ollie Pain to make it 1-0.
It quickly went from bad to worse as Tommy McIntyre’s team doubled their advantage shortly after. Mark Hill picked up a loose pass from Davie Turnbull and he wasted no time firing at goal. Yet another big deflection left Pain with no chance as it nestled to give the denim-blue clad ‘Well a mountain to climb.
Celtic were going for the throat and further chances via a Hill free-kick and a close-range effort from Michael Johnston came and went.
However, the third wasn’t far away and when an enticing near-post cross allowed Crossan to nip in ahead of Chalmers, he made no mistake, bulleting his header past Pain.
To their credit, Motherwell worked hard to try and steady the ship and slowly but surely worked their way back into the game.
Frear was again at the heart of everything positive for the visitors and he worked the ball out towards Hastie whose cross-cum-shot almost caught out McAdams, who eventually palmed away.
Frear had another two good cross balls into the box shortly after, headed over by Hastie and Maguire respectively.
Having introduced James Scott midway through the first half, Craigan replaced Shea Gordon with Tom Fry and his side started the second much in the same way they finished the first.
In fact, they got a goal back inside the opening few minutes when Hastie was tripped in the box by Hill. The young winger dusted himself down and slammed home his twelfth of the campaign.
Motherwell were seeing a lot of the ball but Celtic continued to be a threat on the counter. On-loan Sunderland stopper Pain had to look smart to save well from both Johnstone and Jack Aitchison.
At the other end, Frear again went close, needing no invite to let fly from distance, but his shot again landing just the wrong side of the post with McAdams at full stretch.
Two minutes later, it was Frear yet again. This time getting on the end of a Livingstone ball over the top and seeing his fierce shot tipped onto the post and out for a corner.
That led to another ‘Well goal as from the resulting Tom Fry kick from the quadrant, Jacob Blyth rose higher than a host of players in the box to head home from close range.
With scintelating comebacks a feature of this young Motherwell side’s season, there was a real belief in the side that they could go on and wrestle something from the match.
They almost goal level when a Fry free kick was headed on by Scott, but McAdams was well placed to save under pressure.
Then, with just seconds left, Frear looked as if he was going to be the hero. The former Forrest Green man picked up a pass from Fry, skilfully nutmegged Sam Wardrop only to watch on as his goalbound looking shot was superbly blocked on route by the stubborn Celtic rear guard.
The young ‘Well eventually ran out of time and lost the match, but left encouraged by a brave and determined second half showing.
Motherwell: Pain, Ferguson (Armstrong – 68mins), Livingstone, Maguire, Chalmers, Campbell, Frear, Turnbull (Scott – 32mins), Blyth, Hastie, Gordon (Fry – 45mins)
Subs Not Used: Pettigrew, Agyeman,