In the first of three consecutive home games, Motherwell claimed their first league win of the season. But it was truly a game of two halves as ‘Well, second best to well drilled County in the first half, raised their game in the second to finish comfortable winners.
After a disjointed opening 45, Motherwell boss Stephen Robinson rang the changes at the break with the Fir Parkers looking more like themselves in the second period. Richard Tait gave them the lead within nine minutes of the break and when Louis Moult claimed his first league goal of the season from the penalty spot, to ease ‘Well to their first league points.
Without the suspended Trevor Carson, Russell Griffiths started in goal and with Carl McHugh also serving a one match ban, it allowed Alex Fisher to partner Moult in attack with Craig Tanner supporting from the midfield.
Within 90 seconds, Moult almost caught Scott Fox off his line with an effort from 35-yards but the ball drifted past the County ‘keeper’s post.
With four red cards already this season, a harsh early booking for Ben Heneghan made the ‘Well defender wary of collecting a second during the remaining 87 minutes.
It was generally an untidy opening period with both sides guilty of misplaced passes and Griffiths’ first save after 18 minutes was as a result of an error when Cedric Kipre’s acrobatic attempt to clear the ball sent it towards his own goal.
The visitors were the more comfortable on the ball and from a great break down the right Michael Gardyne was set up at the edge of the box but his firm drive was well parried by Griffiths.
There was no fluency to ‘Well’s play and a frustrated Andy Rose was shown a yellow card after pulling back Craig Curran at the edge of the box – but thankfully Alex Schalk fired the resultant free kick high into the Davie Cooper stand.
As County continued to control the play Schalk forced a routine save from Griffiths.
Then five minutes from the break the Steelmen came close to stealing the lead. A swift break down the right found Chris Cadden racing onto Moult’s measured pass but the final ball across the six-yard box just eluded the diving Fisher.
That aside, it was a poor first half from the Fir Parker’s with the only consolation being that County failed to make superiority count in terms of goals.
The ‘Well boss recognised that changes were required at the interval and, as well as bringing on Ryan Bowman and Allan Campbell, he shuffled his defence, switching Kipré to right back with Tait moving to the opposite flank.
That helped inject some urgency into ‘Well’s play and within two minutes Moult had earned himself a free-kick, but from 25 yards he curled his effort over the bar.
As the home side continued to press the visitors they were presented with the opener in the 53rd minute. Gael Bigirimana’s ball across the box was completely missed by Andrew Davies allowing the unmarked Tait to sweep the ball past Fox from 10-yards and claim his second goal of the season.
That stunned the Highlanders who might have grabbed a quick equaliser when Schalk broke through on goal but Griffiths stood tall forcing the County striker to fire over the bar.
Motherwell needed a second goal to kill of the spirited Staggies and it arrived in the 74th minute. Moult worked a clever one-two with Bowman at the edge of the box before being impeded by Kenny van der Weg as he homed in on goal. The County defender was shown a red card before Moult sent Fox the wrong way from the spot and make the first win of the season safe.
With the extra man advantage, the Fir Parker’s finished the game in control. And on a couple of occasions some clever play from a sharp looking Moult just failed to set up Bowman for a goal that his presence and appetite in the second half deserved.
[tab:As it happened]
Alastair Reilly at Fir Park
FT: Motherwell 2 – 0 Ross County
A much improved second half from the Steelmen provides the first three points of the season. COYW!!!!
88′ | 2-0
Bowman bursts away but Fraser gets the tip of his toe on the ball to nick it away from what surely would have been a goal
85′ | 2-0
Pause in play as Bowman and Naismith are treated for headknocks. Looks like both will play on.
82′ | 2-0
Motherwell sub, Bigirimana off for MacLean
77′ | 2-0
Moult with a great first touch with his left foot to set himself up for a shot but it’s too weak to trouble Fox.
75′ | 2-0
MOULT steps up and sends Fox the wrong way from 12 yards. COYW!!!!
74′ | 1-0
RED CARD! Van Der Weg fouls Moult in the box and is sent off!
And a final sub for County, Davies makes way for Kelly.
65′ | 1-0
Ross County sub, McKay on for Schalk
60′ | 1-0
Great burst of pace by Bowman gets him past Fraser but his cut-back to Moult is intercepted!
57′ | 1-0
Glorious chance for County as Schalk gets in behind but blasts his shot well over the bar!!
53′ | 1-0
It’s TAIT who gives the Steelmen the lead! Found himself with plenty of room in the box and cooly slotted past Fox!
51′ | 0-0
Ball falls kindly to Bigirimana but he shoots just wide of the post.
50/50 | Today’s Half Time Draw winning tickets are: 173945 for £200; 173158 for £75 & 173987 for £25.
…..Moult curls it well over the bar.
46′ | 0-0
Chance for ‘Well. Free-kick from about 25 yards….
Second half is underway. COYW!!!
Half-time subs for ‘Well, Campbell and Bowman on for Fisher and Tanner
HT: Motherwell 0 – 0 Ross County
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There will be one minute added on.
43′ | 0-0
County have a free-kick wide on their right…..headed clear by Cadden
40′ | 0-0
Decent chance there as ‘Well break through Cadden but his cross is not met by Fisher who goes down, ref not interested.
38′ | 0-0
Schalk has a low shot from range but it fails to really trouble Griffiths.
27′ | 0-0
Rose booked for pulling down Curran about 25 yards from goal.
24′ | 0-0
Good save by Griffiths! Gardyne received it in the box but his low shot is equalled by the stopper.
18′ | 0-0
Acrobatic effort there from routis but it’s a routine stop for Griffiths from his overhead-kick
17′ | 0-0
Tim Chow booked for hauling down Tanner as he broke away.
14′ | 0-0
Early change for County, O’Brien limps off and is replaced by Routis
6′ | 0-0
Curran gets past Heneghan but Dunne is on hand to knock it out for a corner.
4′ | 0-0
Fisher does well on the left and wins a free-kick for the Steelmen. From Tanner’s delivery, County clear.
3′ | 0-0
Yellow already! Heneghan shown the card for a foul on Curran
2′ | 0-0
Half-chance for ‘Well as Moult gets the break of the ball some 30 yards out. Tries the lob but it drifts wide.
Schalk gets the game underway. COYW!!!
Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson:
Ross County manager Jim McIntyre