Motherwell secured top spot in Group F of the Betfred Cup tonight with a 2-1 victory away to Edinburgh City.
But it was a difficult encounter for Stephen Robinson’s men, who had to battle from behind to grab a late winner and maintain a 100% record in the group.
Stephen Robinson made five changes to the side he fielded in the 4-0 victory over Morton on Saturday – calling on Stephen McManus, Jack McMillan, Alex Fisher and Ross MacLean, whilst handing summer signing Andy Rose his first start in claret and amber.
Richard Tait, Gaël Bigirimana, Chris Cadden and Craig Tanner were included in a strong substitutes bench as the Fir Parkers searched for the three points needed to finish top of the group.
And within the first 30 seconds it should have been 1-0 when a slack back header left Ryan Bowman with a glorious opportunity to grab his eighth goal in as many games.
But the forward fluffed his lines when he tried to pass the ball beyond the advancing City stopper first time, catching it with his studs and the ball trickled in to the keepers gloves.
Fisher missed the first of a series of headers just minutes later, heading over the crossbar from six-yards out before finding at least four other chances flash off target or straight at the grateful Callum Antell.
The Fir Parkers continued to push and press off the ball whilst creating chances in abundance throughout a frustrating first half, but could not find a way past Antell and, in truth, didn’t test him either.
Robinson acted fairly sharply when his side went in to the dressing room with the game goalless, brining on Craig Tanner and Chris Cadden and withdrawing Ryan Bowman and Ross MacLean.
And it was the latter of the two substitutes who looked the liveliest, bursting down the right hand side of the park before firing a dangerous, low cross across the Citizen’s six yard box but agonizingly beyond the lurching Fisher and Tanner.
Chances came and went but it remained a worrying feature through the clash that the Steelmen failed to truly test Antell.
However, that all changed in the 64th minute when Alex Fisher got a strong head on Tanner’s cross, looping his effort over Antell who recovered superbly to scurry back and tip the effort over his cross bar and keep his side on level terms.
Just over five minutes later, Edinburgh City took the lead and silenced the large, travelling Motherwell support.
A long ball wasn’t dealt with at the back and Liam Grimes raced through one-on-one to slot cooly beyond Carson and the hosts took a shock lead with their first effort on target.
However, the Steelmen sparked in to life and it was substitute Cadden who proved to be the difference.
In the 75th minute, a good ball in to the box fell for Cadden at the back post who struck home to grab his third goal in as many games.
The youngster then turned provider in the final minute of the 90 to avoid what looked like a certain penalty shootout.
Cadden’s low ball across the box was met by the clever run of Frear, who tucked in from the left to steer his left-footed effort over the line and secure a hard-fought three points for Stephen Robinson’s men.
[tab:As it happened]
Alastair Reilly at Ainslie Park
And with that result, The Steelmen confirm their place as Group F winners.
FT: Edinburgh City 1 – 2 Motherwell
90′ | 1-2
Lovely flick by Bigirimana into the path of McHugh but Antell makes a good save to deny him the third
89′ | 1-2
Cadden fires a fine ball across goal and Frear tucks in and is on hand to steer it into the empty net!
85′ | 1-1
Tanner clips in a great little ball at the back post but McHugh’s header lands on the roof of the net.
75 | 1-1
Motherwell back on level terms! McMillan’s cross is headed only as far as Cadden who makes it 3 in 3 for the season.
71′ | 1-0
Motherwell sub, Bigirimana on for Rose
70′ | 1-0
Goal – Incredibly Edinburgh City take the lead. Long ball not dealt with and Grimes cooly finishes past Carson
64′ | 0-0
Fisher loops a header which looks to be going in but Antell makes a great save, tipping it over the bar
60′ | 0-0
Thomson booked for impeding Frear as he broke away
57′ | 0-0
Claims for a penalty as Cadden goes down in the box but ref sees nothing in it and waves play on.
56′ | 0-0
Frear with a powerful shot which Antell has to beat away to safety
49′ | 0-0
Cadden knocks it past two and drills in a great ball across goals but there are no takers!
Tanner gets the second half underway. COYW!!!
Out come two sides for the second half, two subs for the Steelmen: Bowman and MacLean off for Cadden and Tanner
HT: Edinburgh City 0 – 0 Motherwell
41′ | 0-0
Chance! Frear comes in off the left but his first shot is blocked and his second shot is blocked by Antell
34 | 0-0
Well worked move there from City but Laird drills his shot just past the post.
31′ | 0-0
Great chance again for Fisher, who got on the end of Bowman’s cross but nods wide of the target!
20′ | 0-0
Frear beats his man and swings in a ball which finds Rose but his left-footed volley is routine for Antell.
13′ | 0-0
Dunne fires in a great ball which again finds Fisher but his header loops over the bar onto the roof of the net
10′ | 0-0
Fisher is played in but from a narrow angle on his weaker foot, he produces a decent stop from Antell.
9′ | 0-0
Frear skips past his man down the clips and stands up a great ball to Fisher who this time hits the target but Antell saves
2′ | 0-0
Another decent chance! McMillan’s cross pick out Fisher but his header loops high and wide.
1′ | 0-0
‘Well should be one up! Bowman clean through but Antell makes the save with his foot!
City get the game underway. COYW!!!
Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson:
Edinburgh City manager xx