Motherwell under 20s returned to winning ways tonight with a hard fought performance against Celtic at the Excelsior Stadium.
A Ryan Bowman penalty and a sturdy defensive showing secured all three points for the Steelmen, who moved to within two points of league leaders Hibernian.
Stephen Craigan called upon senior players Ryan Bowman, Elliott Frear and David Ferguson as the under 20s looked to end a poor run of form.
However, an in form Celtic side presented a tough task for the Steelmen, who narrowly lost the last time to two sides met earlier this month.
Celtic were the side perhaps just on top for the opening 30 minutes, edging possession and having more efforts on goal than their claret and amber opponents, but it remained goalless.
Michael Johnston and Theodore Archibald looked lively down either flank, with January signing Kouassi Eboue in the middle of the park for the Hoops.
Oliver Pain didn’t have many saves to make, but was nearly undone by a powerful low strike from Johnston, which thundered back off the stoppers near post.
He was then saved by full back Adam Livingstone, who cleared centre back Sam Wardrop’s goal bound header off the line following a corner.
Motherwell had a couple of half chances, perhaps the best of those arriving at the feet of Shea Gordon, who couldn’t quite escape his marker to break through one on one and was eventually closed down by the onrushing Conor Hazard in the Celtic goal.
The second half got off to a better start for the onlooking ‘Well fans when Elliott Frear collected the ball on the right flank, cut inside and danced past Calvin Miller only to be tripped in the process. Referee Calum Haswell pointed to the spot immediately.
Bowman stepped up and made no mistake, lifting his penalty high and hard down the middle past the helpless Hazard to give the Steelmen the lead.
Frear looked lively and ten minutes later picked the ball up centrally, skipped past his man and couldn’t get his shot away thanks to a cynical trip. The referee somehow didn’t give the freekick, but Bowman rushed in to collect the loose ball, turned neatly and struck a ferocious strike at goal but it was right at Hazard who could only palm it away.
With a yellow card to his name and the likelihood of him picking up a second increasing, Hastie was replaced by Jordan Armstrong in the 70th minute.
Celtic substitute Josh Kerr nearly levelled from four yards when he got on the end of a cross. But Pain managed to produce an outstanding reaction save to deny the visitors a levelling goal.
Midfielder Conor McManus got on the end of a corner in the 82nd minute, but his glancing effort flashed across the face of goal and out for a goalkick.
The Steelmen held on though and secured all three points thanks to a strong defensive performance and a Ryan Bowman penalty.
Motherwell U20s: Pain, Fry, Livingstone, Maguire, Ferguson, Campbell, Frear, Turnbull, Bowman (Mackin, ’80), Hastie (Armstrong, ’70), Gordon
Unused subs: Pettigrew, Scott, Agyeman, Rintoul