A John Sutton penalty nine minutes from half-time gave Motherwell a deserved win against Hamilton Accies this afternoon.
In truth, it could – and perhaps should – have been more comfortable for the Steelmen but they found Accies keeper Tomáš Černý in sensational form, with the Czech keeper making terrific saves from Jamie Murphy, Francis Jeffers and Ross Forbes.
Accies rarely troubled Darren Randolph’s goal, their best chance falling to Mickael Antoine-Curier at the start of the second half but the Guadeloupian striker could only head way over.
The win cements Motherwell’s place in the top half with tricky home ties against St Mirren and Celtic coming up this week.
‘Well boss Stuart McCall opted to go with the same starting eleven that won at Pittodrie, but unlike Tuesday night’s game it was a slow start – as has unfortunately become the norm in these games.
It was Accies who sparked the game to light with a quick fire double chance ten or so minutes in. The first, from Flávio Paixão, was an audacious 45-yard lob that had Randolph scrambling back towards his line but the Irishman recovered in plenty to make the comfortable catch.
Two minutes later Jon Routledge got on the end of a decent Jim McAlister cross from the left but his header dropped just over the cross bar.
That seemed to spark the Steelmen to life and John Sutton came within inches of putting ‘Well ahead. Gavin Gunning got into a great position on the left flank and his lovely low ball across the face eluded the former St Mirren man by a matter of inches.
‘Well continued to attack as Hateley fired a free-kick just over and Jeffers had a low effort that forced Cerny into a catch. Gunning got in on the action too, getting on the end of a Hateley corner, but it bounced harmlessly wide of the post.
The Fir Park men continued to push and push and Francis Jeffers almost made it two goals in three days with another terrific header. Ross Forbes’ free-kick was put into a great area and the former Arsenal man peeled off his marker and turned the ball towards goal. But Černý was in great form and got down well to turn away with a terrific one-handed block.
Motherwell’s pressure finally paid off though when John Sutton put his side ahead from the penalty spot. Keith Lasley’s inconspicuous ball towards Sutton on the edge of the box didn’t look as it would cause many problems in the Accies defence but, as 27-year-old striker Suton turned, Martin Canning had both arms around him and wrestled him to the floor. Referee Crawford Allan was on hand and pointed to the spot. Sutton dusted himself down and slotted the ball into the bottom right corner for his ninth goal of the season.
‘Well sensed blood and Murphy almost doubled the advantage with a stinging low drive that Černý expertly saved again. If that save was good, his next stop was incredible. A free-kick on the edge of the box looked in Ross Forbes territory, and the midfielder duly delivered a fearsome strike that the Czech stopper somehow turned away with one hand.
That proved to be the last action of the first half, with the ‘Well players going into the dressing room probably wondering how they were only one head.
Incredibly, with the second period not even a minute old, Accies should’ve got back in the game. McAlister’s cross from the left found Antoine-Courier inside the area, the French-born striker got away from Craigan but could only head the ball over the bar once again.
The game slowed to a scrap even though Billy Reid changed things up, introducing Ali Crawford and Gary McDonald in place of new signings Carrington and Chambers.
Indeed, the second half was a virtual non-event until the closing stages when Accies threw everything in search of a leveller – with ‘Well content to pick them off on the break.
Jamie Murphy had a chance to kill things off when he was the benefactor of some excellent build-up play for Sutton and substitute Chris Humphrey. However, his low shot was again well held by the Accies keeper.
The same player went even closer three minutes later, meeting a terrific Tom Hateley cross with a neat header but it dropped just the wrong side of the post.
Further chances came and went for Humphrey, who made a lung-busting 60-yard spring before smashing over the bar, and John Sutton, who controlled a neat effort just a yard or so over the bar with Cerny at full stretch.
Accies could only muster a couple of long balls into the box but never really looked like getting the equaliser, despite some nervous faces amongst the ‘Well support.
[tab:As it happened]
Graham Barnstaple at Fir Park
Full time – 1-0 to the Well, first back to back League wins since the start of November against ICT and St. Johnstone
90mins – Only two minutes being added on
90mins – Hammell breaks from defence, passses to Murphy who sets up Sutton who bends a shot just over.
86mins – Humphrey bursts down right, and his 50 yard run sees him cut inside Skelton before firing a left foot shot over
84mins – Great chance for Murphy as he steers a header wide from 10 yards from a Humphrey cross
80mins – Cerny smothers Murphy shot after fine work from Humphrey and Sutton
72mins – Humphrey cross headed into arms of Cerny by Sutton
69mins – Double sub for Well – Hammell and Humphrey on for Forbes and Jeffers
64mins – Lasley booked for a late tackle, and crowd announced as 4407
61mins – Paixao shown yellow for a late tackle on Craigan, the Accies man is then taken off to be replaced by Hasselbaink
54mins – Double sub for Accies, McDonald and Crawford on for Carrington and Chambers
47mins – Accies should be level as McAlister sends a free header over from a Routledge cross
Half time – 1-0 and it’s thoroughly deserved, let’s hope we can keep it up in the second half
43mins – Stunning save by Cerny from a Forbes free kick 20 yards out, keeper is keeping them in it at the moment
40mins – BBC reporting “trouble” after the goal, all I saw was an over exuberant celebration from the East Stand – nothing to write home about
38mins – Cerny forced to scramble to save from a Murphy shot from the edge of the box
36mins – Sutton slots in as cool as you like with Cerny going the wrong way, his 9th of the season, and our first v Accies this season
35mins – Canning hauls Sutton over in the box and pen awarded to be taken by Sutton
30mins – Our best chance, Forbes free kick sees Jeffers run off Elebert but Cerny saves header well at full stretch
27mins – Hateley corner finds Gunning but his header falls harmlessly wide of the post.
22mins – Half way through the first half and so far it is typical Lanarkshire derby fare – and that is not a good thing
17mins – McLaughlin has just achieved the rare feat of sending the ball on to the roof of the Main Stand!!!
12mins – Gunning gallops down left and fires in a great cross but Sutton on the slide can’t connect
10mins – First real half chance as Routlege heads over a McAlister cross for the Accies, ball loops on to the roof of the net
6mins – Only thing to note so far is Skelton’s man marking of Murphy, it’s so tight they only need one jersey!
1mins – Motherwell kick off shooting towards the South Stand end, filled with the usual travelling Accies support
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“We said in the week that we would take a one nil from that type of game a derby produces. Our record against them this season hasn’t been great, I think overall their keeper has pulled off some excellent saves and ours has had nothing to do.
“On chances and possession it was merited and hard earned win.
“It was what I thought the game would be, they came here with three centre backs and man marked Jamie Murphy, it is hard to break down but we had some decent passing moves. The bottom line is a victory, we played far better against Kilmarnock and got nothing, the three points were crucial.”
Hamilton manager Billy Reid:
“I was disappointed with the penalty decision, I think it was soft. I think it happens all the time in the box.
“There was minimal contact, I think Sutton has thrown himself to the ground and I think the referee has been conned.”