There were no fireworks on display for the women of steel to celebrate their first competitive match of 2024, as an exceptional first-half display was quickly undermined by three-quickfire second-half goals, leaving Motherwell to reflect on their swift Scottish Cup campaign at a frozen Petershill Park on Sunday.
Summer acquisition Morgan Cross secured successive penalty kicks on her first competitive start in claret and amber, netting one with Bailley Collins dispatching the second. Emma Lawton narrowed the deficit in the first-half, with a Demi Falconer double and a strike from Rachel Donaldson securing the hosts place in the next round of the Scottish Cup.
Head Coach, Paul Brownlie made two changes from the victory over Dundee Unite prior to the festive break, with Katie Rice and Morgan Cross both featuring in the starting XI, as Eve Donald merited a place on the bench following a lengthy injury spell.
With the intense pre-match fog clearing and the pitch still blanketed in frost, Motherwell started the contest firmly on the front-foot, with the hosts trading possession deep into their own half.
Motherwell skipper Gill Inglis worked her way into the Thistle penalty area, before curling a close-range effort from the left, forcing Megan Cunningham into a routine stop in the Thistle goal.
The breakthrough materialised soon after, with Katie Rice’s clever change of direction providing an opening for Cross to breakthrough into the box before being tripped a yard into the penalty area, leaving the referee no alternative but to award the spot kick. The Dunfermline-born striker stepped up and coolly placed her effort into the bottom-right corner.
Less than two-minutes later, the hosts levelled the tie, with Emma Lawton firing a low effort into the bottom-right corner.
The visitors persevered and had their second spot kick moments later. A hopeful long ball left Cross racing through on goal, beating Cunningham to the ball before being hauled down under a forceful challenge. Receiving treatment off of the pitch, penalty duties turned to Bailley Collins, with the youngster calmly restoring Motherwell’s advantage with a well-placed effort.
As the second-half resumed, Motherwell’s competitive first-half display was soon eroded, as Thistle netted from three successive set-pieces. Amy Bulloch’s whipped free-kick from the left floated invitingly towards the back post, with Falconer powering home a header low into the bottom-left corner.
Frustrated by what appeared to be an offside player interfering with play, Motherwell appealed to the referee profusely to overturn his decision, but the goal stood. Moments after the restart, Donaldson headed home from a pinpoint corner kick to compound the women of steel’s second-half frustrations.
Falconer netted a decisive fourth late into the second half to secure her sides place in the next round of the Scottish Cup, leaving Motherwell to reflect on a chaotic second-half that failed to reflect their comfortable first-half performance.