A stoppage-time strike from Niall McGinn denied Motherwell a hard-earned point away to Aberdeen today as they lost 1-0 in the Ladbrokes Premiership.
The Steelmen looked set to hold on to a goalless draw on an afternoon when Craig Samson and the ‘Well defence put in spirited performances for over 90 minutes.
However, in the second minute of injury time, McGinn stroked home a Jonny Hayes cutback to send the Dons nine points clear of third placed Rangers.
Stephen Robinson took charge of his second game as caretaker ‘Well boss and made three changes to the side which secured victory over Kilmarnock last weekend.
Two of those alterations were forced upon the Northern Irishman, who brought in Ryan Bowman and David Ferguson for the suspended Louis Moult and the injured Richard Tait. Skipper Keith Lasley was dropped to the bench and was replaced by Craig Clay.
Aberdeen were forced in to changes as well, with Peter Pawlett and Andrew Considine swapped for Anthony O’Connor and Ryan Jack, as Derek McInnes reshuffled from his favoured 4-2-3-1.
Neither side really threatened the opposing goalkeeper in the opening exchanges, but in the eighth minute, top goalscorer Adam Rooney got on the end of a dangerous Kenny McLean cross – but the Dons number nine watched on as his powerful header flew narrowly over the bar.
It took more than twenty minutes for the Steelmen to have a real pop at goal, and it came from a throw in deep in Aberdeen territory. Scott McDonald offered Stevie Hammell the option and, letting the ball run across his body, unleashed a right footed strike towards goal on the spin, but it soared over the bar.
Ben Heneghan, strapped with a head bandage after an earlier collision, went closer just minutes later, but his towering header hit the side netting following a freekick.
Craig Samson pulled off a stunning save to deny Rooney just before the half hour mark, as the Irishman turned a deflected cross goalward and over the ‘Well keeper, who somehow managed to get finger tips to turn it narrowly over the bar.
He was called upon again just before half time, and it was an equally impressive save from Motherwell’s number one. Cutting in on to his right foot, McGinn fired a powerful effort towards the top corner, but was stunned to see Samson get his hand to it to palm it away from goal.
The second half got off to a quiet start, with Ryan Jack’s header from inside the area, which flashed passed Samson’s post in the 60th minute, the first major opportunity of the second 45.
Bowman was forced the exit the action shortly after the hour mark, with Jacob Blyth entering the fray for his first appearance since the 2-1 league loss to Rangers at Ibrox.
Graeme Shinnie missed a glorious opportunity to give the hosts the lead when he latched on to a deep cross but turned it over the bar from close range.
The game really came to life just before 70 minutes, when Hammell’s corner was nodded on at the near post but was cleared from the goalmouth, setting Aberdeen on a fast paced dangerous break. McGinn threaded a ball through for the run of Hayes, only for Samson to burst off his line and stab it away on the stretch from the onrushing midfielder.
Aberdeen made a change – withdrawing Rooney and replacing him with on loan Celtic midfielder Ryan Christie just moments before Robinson made his second substitution of the afternoon – introducing Elliott Frear in place of Hammell.
Samson pulled off two saves in relatively quick succession when he turned away McGinn’s curling effort and then McLean’s low drive less than a minute later, but it was the 92nd minute of play when the stopper saw his clean sheet slip away.
Hayes, who had been relatively quiet, popped up with the ball down the left flank and cut the ball back for McGinn. The Reds number ten stepped on to it and struck what was a bit of a mishit towards Samson’s far post to snatch all three points for McInnes’ side.
[tab:As it happened]
Alastair Reilly at Pittodrie
FT: Aberdeen 1 – 0 Motherwell
90′ + 2 | 1-0
Goal – McGinn gets on the end of Hayes’ low cross and pokes it into the net.
5 minutes added on.
90′ | 0-0
Cadden booked for holding to the ball. A dubious one as he looked then went down surrounded by three Aberdeen players.
86′ | 0-0
Pause in play as Stockley and Ferguson receive treatment following a headknock.
83′ | 0-0
Aberdeen sub, O’Connor off for Storey
82′ | 0-0
Stockley booked for a wild tackle on Jules.
77′ | 0-0
Another good save by Samson! Dives low to his left to beat away McGinn’s curler.
76′ | 0-0
Motherwell sub, Frear on for Hammell.
75′ | 0-0
Ferguson booked. A frustrating one as he was taking a throw-in but there were options. Ref says timewasting.
73′ | 0-0
Aberdeen sub, Rooney off for Christie.
72′ | 0-0
Hammell booked for a late foul on Hayes.
70′ | 0-0
Cadden wins a corner on the Motherwell right…..Aberdeen counter and it’s Samson to the rescue, sliding away from Hayes’ feet!
69′ | 0-0
Pearson booked for pulling down Hayes as he broke away from him.
66′ | 0-0
Great chance for Shinnie as he latches onto a deep ball into the box but he volleys well over the bar from close range.
…Motherwell sub, Blyth on for Bowman.
63′ | 0-0
Corner to Motherwell as play pauses so Ryan Bowman can get some treatment.
60′ | 0-0
Ball comes in from the left and thankfully Jack’s header flashes inches past the post.
Pearson gets the second 45 underway. COYW!!!
HT: Aberdeen 0 – 0 Motherwell #AFCvMFC
41′ | 0-0
Superb stop by Samson diving high to palm McGinn’s powerful effort over the bar.
…floated in by Hammell, headed goalwards by Jules but gathered by Lewis.
36′ | 0-0
Cadden does well and draws a foul about 25 yards out….
33′ | 0-0
Routine save for Samson there, denying McGinn whose 25 yard shot never looked like going in.
31′ | 0-0
Booking for Bowman. Bit of a nothing foul well inside the Aberdeen half but ref thinks otherwise and produces the yellow.
29′ | 0-0
Great save from Samson as Stockley’s driven shots deflects off the Irishman and is heading in but for the stretching hand of Sammy
22′ | 0-0
McHugh clips in a deep free-kick which finds the head of Heneghan but he heads into the side-netting. Close!
20′ | 0-0
Hammell with the throw-in to McDonald who drops the shoulder and volleys goalwards but it’s over the bar.
17′ | 0-0
Rooney intercepts and breaks away, taking on the shot with maybe better options. Drags it wide of the post.
13′ | 0-0
Heneghan has a blood injury, gets treated and comes back on but is then booked. Presumably ref hadn’t waved to let him on…..
9′ | 0-0
McDonald gets in behind but his cutback is knocked out for a corner. Set-play amounts to nothing.
8′ | 0-0
McLean turns his man and whips in a good ball to Rooney who heads powerfully over the bar.
2′ | 0-0
Hayes gets past Ferguson and on the cover, Cadden concedes a free-kick wide on the right…Samson punches clear.
Aberdeen get the game underway. COYW!!!!!
Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson
Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes: