Liam Donnelly’s double help set up Motherwell for a fourth straight victory to comfortably win their Betfred Cup section.
Liam Polworth also netted in the first half, before James Scott added a fourth late on.
Although Annan manfully stuck to their task to limit the scoreline until Donnelly and Scott grabbed two in the final minutes, ‘Well’s goal difference particularly on the back of having conceded no goals, sees the Steelmen progress to the last 16 as the best seeded team from the section stage.
Stephen Robinson, still rotating his squad ahead of next week’s Premiership kick-off, included Jamie Semple and Jake Carroll from the start amongst six changes, with striker Christopher Long making his home debut.
It was also a first ever Fir Park appearance for Annan, but the hosts showed little hospitality, as they pressed the League One side inside their own half from the start.
Annan ‘keeper Lyle Avci was called into action almost immediately happy to beat away Jake Carroll’s curling free kick after only two minutes. Charles Dunne then tried his luck from 35 yards but even on the wet surface his low drive posed no real threat to Avci.
With the Galabank side solidly lined up with two banks of four, ‘Well showed great patience in possession probing to get in behind the visitor’s defence.
However, having defended stoutly for the first 20 minutes the Annan rearguard failed to deal with Long’s low cross and as the ball rolled around the six yard mark, Donnelly lashed it high into the net for his 3rd goal of the campaign.
That failed to change the pattern of the game and with Annan sticking to their game plan, and their out ball to the ex Hearts’ striker Christian Nade occupying Dunne and Hartley, there was little goalmouth action until the final minutes of the first half.
Five minutes from the interval Mark Gillespie got his first taste of the action when he held an angled drive from Scott McLean.
A couple of half chances came the way of Liam Grimshaw and Jamie Semple before ‘Well doubled the lead a minute from the break.
Christopher Long was again involved racing through the centre of the Athletic defence. Although his shot was blocked by the ‘keeper at the edge of the box, the ball broke for Liam Polworth who guided it inside the post for his first goal in claret and amber.
The goal scorer didn’t reappear for the second half with another summer recruit Casper Sloth coming on for his debut.
Sherwin Seedorf, eager to cut in from the left, fired a couple of shots towards Avci’s goal without testing the ‘keeper. The Dutch winger finally hit the target after 58 minutes when, after a terrific run and exchange with Ilic, Grimshaw’s incisive pass played in Seedorf but his firm shot was brilliantly blocked by Avci.
That was Seedorf’s final touch, Jermain Hylton taking his place on the left wing after 66 minutes.
Annan, though, remained resolute in their defending and Robinson made another substitution three minutes later James Scott taking over the striking role from Long. With his first touch from 20 yards, Scott’s powerful drive forced a diving save from Avci and when Hylton rifled the rebound towards goal the ‘keeper produced a great reflex save to palm the ball over his crossbar.
As the game entered the final 10 minutes the visitors came close to breaking Gillespie’s run of clean sheets, with Lewis McLear passing up a great chance from 8 yards.
Five minutes from time Gillespie had to dive across his goal and block Kyle Wilkie’s effort to keep his goal intact.
However, Annan’s brave attempts were not rewarded with a consolation goal and instead the border’s side conceded another two goals in the dying minutes.
With Hylton probing for some space to shoot the ball found its way to Donnelly, who revelling in his new midfield role, thumped the ball home from 12 yards to claim his fourth of the tournament. A minute later Scott added a fourth goal, swerving the ball beyond Avci for a great finish to the game and the Betfred Cup section games.