Motherwell overcame monsoon conditions and Dundee United to claim all three points and close the gap on fourth place to a single point.
On a night that began dreich and then just got worse, ‘Well had to overcome a stubborn United and a flooded pitch to stubbornly defend the only goal of the game, most especially when they were reduced to 10 men for the final 10 minutes after Barry Maguire was sent off.
Thankfully the goal lifted the game above at times a dreadful rain-drenched spectacle, as Tony Watt claimed his eighth goal of the season with a wonderful curled effort after only 12 minutes.
Aiming to bounce back from Saturday’s defeat and close the gap on United in fourth place in the cinch Premiership table, the Steelmen showed great determination ensuring that Liam Kelly had a trouble-free evening, to register another significant win.
Graham Alexander looking for an immediate response from his players following their poor performance against Dundee on Saturday, made two changes.
Sean Goss was fit again and returned to the midfield at Liam Grimshaw’s expense. Up front Kevin van Veen, who replaced Connor Shields at half-time on Saturday, retained his place from the start.
Accused of being a step off the pace on Saturday, the Steelmen started n the front foot and immediately pressed United deep into their own half.
Chasing every loose ball in packs forcing the visitor’s into unforced errors, the chances quickly came ‘Well’s way.
The scene was set within 90 seconds when in the first in a stream of quick breaks down the right from Bevis Mugabi, Maguire latched onto the cut-back but his shot took a deflection providing Benjamin Siegrist with a comfortable catch.
Four minutes later a Goss free kick toward the penalty spot found Watt but his cushioned header was straight at the ‘keeper.
The Fir Park striker made amends after 12 minutes.
Maguire’s through ball sent Kaiyne Woolery racing towards the United box. When he tried to thread a pass to the waiting van Veen the ball was deflected to Watt just beyond the corner of the box.
His immediate instincts were rewarded as he curled high beyond Siegrist and inside the ‘keeper’s far post for an exquisite finish.
It could have been 2-0 minutes later as United failed to get the ball out of the danger area and Woolery’s fierce drive from six yards was blocked.
The rain was still relentless but gradually United managed to stem the flow of attacks towards Siegrist. And after 22 minutes they managed their first shot on goal but Declan Glass’ low shot from 16 yards posed no problems for Kelly.
At the other end some neat footwork work from van Veen set up a cut back for Callum Slattery but his diving header steered the ball over the bar.
As the teams headed to the dressing room for a dry set of strips, the only complaint from the home fans might be that Motherwell should have had more to show for their first-half superiority.
There appeared little chance of letting United off the hook as ‘Well restarted the second 45 where they had finished the first. Within a minute another speedy attack ended with a Goss drive from 20 yards skidding narrowly past Siegrist’s right hand post.
Despite the sodden conditions the Fir Park players tried to keep the ball moving on the deck.
After 55 minutes some slick passing found Woolery on the right and when his ball into the box landed at van Veen’s feet, he swivelled 10 yards from goal only to fire the ball narrowly over.
Two minutes later the home side was forced into an enforced change when Solholm Johansen limped off allowing Stephen O’Donnell to make his return to the right-back berth, with Mugabi moving to the centre of defence.
With most of the pitch underwater, a tremendous run from Woolery was ended at the edge of the box by Scott McMann’s sliding tackle which carried the defender several metres on the saturated surface.
As both sides found it increasingly difficult to move the ball on the sodden surface, openings at both ends started to appear, particularly as defenders toiled to clear their lines.
Conditions summed up 15 minutes from time. Watt’s control took him past Adrian Sprole on the right of the box but with Van Veen and Woolery waiting in front of goal, both could only watch as the ball slowed down and stopped a couple from them.
Watt then sent his strike partner into the box but from a tight angle, Van Veen fired the ball over the bar.
Ten minutes from time the conditions cost Motherwell a second goal. Slattery’s free-kick was backheaded across goal by Lamie and as O’Donnell drifted in unmarked at the back post he seemed certain to score until the ball skidded under his feet.
With six minutes of regulation time remaining, Maguire was shown a second yellow card. Graham Alexander decided it was time to batten down the hatches, sending on Jake Carroll and allowing van Veen to head for a well-earned warm shower.
Still work to do on the pitch, though, and with three minutes remaining Charlie Mulgrew hoisted a free kick onto Kelly’s line but before United could react to the loose ball, the ref awarded ‘Well a free kick and a chance to get the ball downfield.
Just before the start of the five minutes added time, Watt epitomised ‘Well’s display. Undoubtedly man of the match, he earned a standing ovation from the home fans, when he showed tremendous determination and skill to hold off three United players as they slithered and skidded on a treacherous surface, as the Steelmen deservedly held onto all three points.