Motherwell ended the 2020/21 season with a defeat at home to Ross County.
An early goal from Sam Foley had the hosts in control, but second half strikes from Iain Vigurs and Michael Gardyne guaranteed the Staggies’ safety, and saw Motherwell finish eighth.
For the Steelmen it rounded of a season of highs and lows which started in the Highlands in August and fittingly concluded with the visit of the Dingwall side to an empty Fir Park on a sunny May midday.
Allan Campbell’s ankle injury deprived the midfielder of one final appearance in a ‘Well jersey before his anticipated departure over the summer. That allowed Robbie Crawford to take his place in midfield.
However, it was the most recent member of the Fir Park midfield, Sam Foley, who grabbed his first goal for the club.
But the Highlanders found themselves behind after only seven minutes.
Jack Hastie rolled a pass into the path of the overlapping Mark O’Hara. His teasing ball across the face of the County goal was completely missed by Devante Cole who should have claimed his 12th goal of the season. His blushes were saved, though, when Foley nipped in behind him to nudge the ball beyond Ross Laidlaw.
The Staggies made an immediate response and came close to a leveller within six minutes.
Blair Spittal’s cross into a packed home box fell for Jordan White, but from 10 yards the ex-Well striker lashed his effort off the crossbar.
The visitor’s were out of luck again a few minutes later. Keith Watson met Spittal’s corner and his powerful header was destined for the back of the net until it rebounded off Michael Gardyne on the goal line.
After that furious start from both sides the tempo of the game slowed and became more of a midfield affair.
With Ricki Lamie and Tyler Magloire working hard to contain Whyte’s aerial threat, Liam Kelly and his opposite number Laidlaw in the County goal were never called into action for the remainder of the first half.
John Hughes’ side kicked off the second knowing that they needed at least a point to avoid dropping into the play-off spot.
And within five minutes of the restart County grabbed the goal they desperately needed.
In his time at Fir Park Iain Vigurs often delighted ‘Well fans with his talented his left foot -but none better than this effort when he superbly curled the ball high beyond Kelly and into his top right-hand corner.
On the hour mark, Graham Alexander made his first change bringing on Steven Lawless for Hastie. A few minutes Tony Watt replaced Crawford but it was the visitors who took the initiative and the lead in the 65th minute.
Gardyne cut into the box on the left and as Kelly advanced from his line the veteran winger calmly steered the ball past the ‘keeper and into the empty goal.
That put County firmly in the driving seat to secure the points and maintain their position above Kilmarnock in the league table.
To their credit, with nothing to play for, the ‘Well players pressed County deep into their own half for the final 10 minutes.
But with the club’s Premiership future on the line the Dingwall men fought to the end to preserve their lead and league status.
For Motherwell, although it was a disappointing result to bring the season to a close, it concluded a hugely impressive league run suffering only their second defeat in the last nine games.
Motherwell: Kelly, O’Donnell, Magloire, Lamie, McGinley, O’Hara, Crawford, Foley, Hastie, Long, Cole.
Subs: Fox, Johnston, Dunne, Carroll, Gallagher, Cornelius, Maguire, Lawless, Watt.