Motherwell got their pre-season schedule underway with a win against Stirling Albion at Forthbank this afternoon.
A goal in each half, from trialist Shaun Tuton and Ryan Bowman, was enough to edge the fixture against a plucky Stirling side.
Stephen Robinson named four of his summer recruits – Russell Griffiths, Charles Dunne, Andy Rose and Craig Tanner in his starting eleven.
There was also a spot for trialists Cedric Kipré and Shaun Tuton. Long-term absentees from last season Richard Tait and Stephen McManus also returned to the line up.
It was a fairly low-key start to the game with the first chance not coming until the 13th minute when Richard Tait managed to dig out a cross from the right for Elliott Frear who could only send his looping header wide of target.
Stirling were getting the majority of their success on the counter and they should’ve scored just after the midway point of the first half when a mix up in the visitors defence allowed former ‘Well man Darren Smith to tee up veteran striker Peter McDonald, but he could only balloon it over the bar from fifteen yards.
A long-range effort at either end, MacLean for ‘Well and Dickson for Stirling, came before the Binos really ought to have opened the scoring. Again it was Smith for McDonald, this time getting a fairly fortuitous ricochet on route, but the former St Johnstone striker dragged a shot wide despite having the freedom of the eighteen yard box.
It would be a missed chance the hosts would most certain rue as with the next attack, Motherwell took the lead. Ross MacLean got the assist, sliding a firm pass into the feet of Tuton who managed to use the pace on the ball to wriggle clear of his marker before unleashing a rocket into the top right hand corner.
Stirling had another half decent chance to level when Smith found himself in some space on the edge of the area, but his shot was straight at Griffiths who comfortably saved.
However, it was the Claret and Amber men who finished the half stronger, with Rose firing just over from distance, MacLean sending a curling shot straight at Binnie then, on the stroke of half-time, the Stirling keeper produced a neat stop to deny Stephen McManus who had let fly from 25-yards.
The Steelmen replaced every outfield player at the break with recognisable names such as Carl McHugh, Stephen Hammell, Chris Cadden, Ben Heneghan, Ryan Bowman and Craig Clay all getting a run. In addition, trialist Bira Dembélé took his place at the heart of the Steelmen’s defence.
Motherwell dominated much of the second half as the hosts began to tire. Heneghan almost doubled the lead ten minutes in, getting on the end of a Thomas corner, only for his header to be deflected wide. The next corner found Dembélé, and his effort was bundled off the line before being cleared as the Binos held on.
However, it looked like a matter of time before ‘Well would make their possession count and the second goal eventually came just before the hour mark.
Shay Gordon burst clear from midfield and timed his pass perfectly for the supporting Cadden on the right flank. The Scotland U21 International picked out Ryan Bowman with an inch perfect cross, allowing the former Gateshead man the space to tuck home at the far post.
Bowman almost doubled his tally for the day just minutes later when he got on the end of a majestic Heneghan pass over the top, controlled it brilliantly on the chest before fluffing his lines when it came to the finish, screwing it high and wide of target with just the keeper to beat.
Dom Thomas almost got lucky with a cross that caught the wind and almost dropped in at the far post before sending over another teasing corner for Dembélé who found space, only to header narrowly wide of target.
It was one-way traffic by this point and Cadden spurned a great change to get amongst the goals too after a cross from the left wasn’t properly cleared, but his first-time shot flew over the bar and into the terracing behind the goal.
Clay had a free kick sail wide, Gordon had a cut-inside-shot that fizzed wide and Cadden had a low effort that was well held by Binnie as Motherwell looked to extend their advantage.
However, there would be no more scoring as the game soon finished, with Robinson happy with a victory to kick off, but just as important, no injuries during a run of four games in fourteen days.
First Half: Griffiths, Tait, McManus, Frear, Rose, Dunne, Kipré (t), Campbell, Tuton (t), MacLean, Tanner
Second Half: Griffiths, Hammell, Heneghan, Cadden, McHugh, Bowman, Dembélé (t), Clay, Thomas, McMillan, Gordon