Motherwell left it late to maintain their 100% record and claim a seeded spot in the draw for the next round of the Betfred cup. And for the second successive game Elliot Frear came up with the late goal for a narrow win over Second Division opposition.
Credit to a well organized Berwick Rangers who restricted ‘Well to few genuine chances, however, despite making it four wins on the spin, the Fir Park players will need to capitalise on their chances when Glasgow Rangers come calling next Sunday.
Stephen Robinson shuffled his starting eleven for the visit of the Borderers but the most significant change was Louis Moult making his first start of the season. And although the ‘Well fans will be relieved to see the striker get an hour under his belt, he looked short of match sharpness as he passed up chances he would normally convert.
With Ben Heneghan missing through injury, the ‘Well boss set up the home defence with Charles Dunne partnering Cedric Kipré at the hear of a back four.
After only five minutes, though, those plans were altered as Stevie Hammell, with an apparent hamstring injury, had to be replaced by Elliot Frear forcing Carl McHugh to drop back alongside Kipré. Ironically, that increased ‘Well’s attacking threat with Craig Tanner moving forward to join Moult.
The first threat, though, came at the home end after 14 minutes, when Aaron Murrell’s left foot shot forced Trevor Carson into an early save.
The next move four minutes later had more familiar look as Richard Tait’s cross found Moult but from six yards and at full stretch he could only guide his header over the bar.
The striker’s next chance followed a few minutes later when Dunne’s long ball dropped in behind the Berwick defence but from a tight angle Moult rattled the ball off the ‘keeper’s legs.
Creating plenty of space on the left wing, Frear whipped in a couple of inviting crosses. The first found Andy Rose and his glancing header was just off target before Tait nodded Frear’s cross back across goal for Tanner to force Robby McCrorie to rise and claim the ball under his cross bar.
On the stroke of half-time, Moult got his head to a teasing Chris Cadden cross but again the ball sailed over McCrorie’s bar.
The first half ended with the visitor’s taking the plaudits having largely contained ‘Well and restricting the home side to a handful of half chances around McCrorie’s goal.
That changed as ‘Well made a furious start to the second half.
Within five minutes McCrorie was forced into making his first real save reacting well to beat Moult’s powerful angled shot beyond his post. As Berwick failed to clear the corner Frear’s return across the six yard box zipped past three ‘Well players.
The pressure remained on the visitor’s goal and Cadden’s header was nodded on by Tanner with McCrorie rescuing the ball as it dropped under the bar.
Berwick though were eager to get forward and Carson was forced into a diving save to block another 20 yard effort from Murrell.
Having tasted his first hour of action, Moult made way for Alex Fisher.
Five minutes later the sub combined with Rose at the edge of the box but although the latter’s drive was low and hard it was straight at the waiting ‘keeper.
Still looking to make the breakthrough ‘Well gave midweek signing George Newell 15 minutes to make an impact. And the former Everton youth player immediately unsettled the Berwick defence with his direct style of play.
However, it was mainly Frear’s delivery from crosses and corners which threatened the visitor’s goal.
With ten minutes remaining the ball was in the Berwick net but as the keeper appeared to be impeded as he rose to hold a spiraling shot from Cadden it was disallowed. Carl McHugh then watched his header from yet another Frear corner palmed from under his bar by McCrorie as the Berwick keeper looked like holding out for penalties until he was finally beaten eight minutes from time.
Cadden worked his way into the box on the right and when his firm cross was knocked back into the middle of the area, Frear confidently swept the ball down the middle of the goal to ensure three points and top seeding.
Two minutes from time Newell came close to capping an impressive introduction when he turned on Kipré’s hoisted pass before hammering his shot off the ‘keeper.
[tab:As it happened]
Alastair Reilly at Fir Park
‘Well come through the group stages with a 100% record and are seeded for the next round.
FT: Motherwell 1 – 0 Berwick Rangers
90′ | 1-0
Newell with a great first touch on the spin from Kipré’s cross but McCrorie makes a good stop from his shot.
84′ | 1-0
Looked like a clear foul on Frear on the edge of the box but ref says defender got a touch. Some tackle if he has!
82′ | 1-0
Finally a breakthrough! Cadden’s powerful cross is beaten out to Frear who fires it into the empty net!
…from the corner ‘Well have the ball bundled into the net but ref deems there was a foul on McCrorie!
78′ | 0-0
Close! Dunne’s header somehow flicked over the bar by a defender. Another corner…..
74′ | 0-0
Newell straight into the action closing down his man and winning it back but his attempted flick past the ‘keeper is saved
71′ | 0-0
Motherwell sub, Newell makes his debut replacing Tanner
65′ | 0-0
Berwick Rangers sub, Murrell off for McKenna
63′ | 0-0
Stewart booked for a poor challenge on Tanner as he broke away.
60′ | 0-0
Motherwell sub, Moult makes way for Fisher.
51′ | 0-0
Frear’s cross is headed back in by Cadden and nodded on by Tanner but McCrorie gathers. Still goalless.
50′ | 0-0
Moult steals the ball from his man inside the box and gets a shot away but McCrorie beats it away for a corner
HT: Motherwell 0 – 0 Berwick Rangers
42′ | 0-0
Tanner taken down in a decent area but ref waves play on with no real advantage then gives Berwick a free-kick
32′ | 0-0
Another good chance! Tait heads it back across goal to Tanner but he heads straight at McCrorie
30′ | 0-0
Moult and Frear combine down the left, letting the winger clip in a ball to Rose but his header lands on the roof of the net.
22′ | 0-0
Dunne’s ball over the top finds Moult but from a tight angle McCrorie makes the stop with his foot.
21′ | 0-0
Another decent chance for Moult! Frear with the clipped cross but he can’t divert his header goalwards and the chance goes.
18′ | 0-0
Decent chance for Moult. Tait hangs a cross up which he meets with his head but it loops over the bar.
14′ | 0-0
Murrell gets in behind the defence but his left-footed shot lacks any sort of power to trouble Carson.
6′ | 0-0
Corner is swung in and met by Rose but Berwick manage to sweep it clear.
5′ | 0-0
Motherwell sub, Hammell comes off injured for Frear
Tanner gets the action underway. COYW!!!
Out come the two teams, claret and amber for the Steelmen, all white for the visitors.
Berwick Rangers subs: Brennan, Fairbairn, Thomson, McKenna, Donaldson, Orru, Watt
Berwick Rangers: McCrorie, Fleming, Waugh, Notman, Lavery, Rutherford, Phillips, Irving, Stewart, McDonald, Murrell
Motherwell subs: Griffiths, Frear, Bowman, Fisher, Newell, McMillan, Gordon
Motherwell: Carson, Tait, Hammell, Bigirimana, Cadden, McHugh, Moult, Rose, Dunne, Kipré, Tanner
Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson:
Berwick Rangers manager John Coughlin