Motherwell continued their preparations for the Europa League clash with Breidablik with a 2-1 win over Forfar at Station Park.
The Steelmen, much changed from Tuesday’s success at Brechin, just about deserved the win against a neat and tidy Forfar who were worthy opponents and caused considerable trouble over the 90 minutes.
Craig Brown made nine changes with only trialists Chris Shuker and Carlos Gazapo retaining their starting spots. They were joined by Rhys Weston, the former Walsall full-back also looking to win a deal at Fir Park.
The amount of changes appeared to upset some of the rhythm built-up in the second half at Glebe Park. Only a Jonathan Page header, that dropped harmlessly wide of the post, offered any encouragement in a dull opening ten minutes.
That all changed midway through the first period when both sides got on the scoresheet in a frantic two-minute salvo.
The Steelmen drew first blood when trialist Shuker did well to skip by two challenges on the edge of the box before pulling the trigger. His effort was blocked but fortune favoured the Englishman as the ball spun up, allowing him to smash home the rebound from six yards out.
But Forfar drew level almost immedaitely when a long, searching throw-in from Mark McCulloch found Chris Templeman in the area. The veteran striker used all his experience to help it on, allowing Graham Gibson the simplest of tasks as he cushioned a header past Hollis and into the net.
The goal gave the Loons confidence and they almost made it 2-1 four minutes later when left-back Steven Tulloch latched onto a Templeman diagonal before cutting it back for Martin Fotheringham. The striker took a good touch but couldn’t match that with a shot, ballooning his effort way over the bar.
Both sides traded possession and created half chances. John Sutton tested the handling of on-loan Rangers keeper Scott Gallagher with a low shot. And at the other end, a fantastic cross ball from Fortheringham found scorer Gibson but this time his header went well wide with Weston in close attendance.
Just before the interval, the Steelmen had another half-chance when Chris Humphrey showed terrific pace to create an opening on the right flank. The winger threw over a teasing near-post cross but it was just the wrong height for Robert McHugh who could only screw his header high over the bar.
Brown made one change at half-time; Steven Saunders replacing winger Shuker who took a knock just before the interval. That meant a few positional changes as the Scotland U19 International took his place in the heart of the back four.
Fellow youngster Jordan Halsman was first to threaten in the second half but his free-kick from the edge of the area flew a few yards over the bar with Gallagher comfortable.
Forfar replied through Templeman, who latched on to an over-the-top pass and fired a shot at goal from an acute angle but Hollis was well placed to make the stop.
Motherwell were starting to get the upper-hand though as the part-timers began to tire. Substitute Saunders almost got his name amongst the goals when he rose to meet a Humphrey corner from the right but his header dropped inches wide of the post.
Eight minutes later, ‘Well created another opening and should have taken the lead. Page, now operating as a left-back, was the architect, bursting forward with the ball and seeing off a number of challenges. As the penalty box approached, he slid in Gazapo but with time and space, the Spaniard shot straight at Gallagher.
Brown introduced a couple of substitutes with Mark Reynolds replacing Sutton and Stevie Hammell coming on for Weston. And that extra bit of quality proved to be the turning point in the game as the Steelmen took the lead with just 15 minutes remaining.
Another Humphrey corner, again from the right, had Gallagher battling with Page for the ball. It dropped kindly for Reynolds who, despite only being on the park for a few minutes, showed great composure to smash home from close range.
Yet Forfar missed a great chance to snatch a draw in the sixth minute of injury time. A free-kick from the left caused all sorts of problems in the six-yard box and eventually, Templeman fired a shot that was hacked off the line by Halsman – a game winning block without a doubt.
Motherwell: Hollis, Weston (Hammell 65), Halsman, Page, Hutchinson, Meechan, Humphrey (Lasley 8), Shuker (Saunders 46), McHugh, Sutton (Reynolds 61), Gazapo. Subs not used: Randolph, Craigan.