First half goals from Alan Gow and Nick Blackman earned Motherwell a hard-fought three points against Inverness Caley Thistle this afternoon.
Gow opened the scoring on 33 minutes with a neat header from a Chris Humphrey cross. Then, just before the break, Blackman doubled the lead with a deflected strike from distance which looped over Ryan Esson.
Stuart Duff pulled one back for the home side in the second half but the Steelmen held on to record another away win and consolidate third place in the table.
‘Well boss Craig Brown made just one change from the side that lost to Hamilton seven days ago. John Sutton returned to the starting eleven in place of Ross Forbes, with the youngster having to be content with a place amongst the substitutes. Jamie Murphy returned to the squad but could only make the bench.
Both sides started brightly in the highlands and there were early chances at both ends. It took just three minutes for Nick Ross to flash a low shot just wide of Darren Randolph’s post with the Irishman at full stretch.
At the other end, Humphrey outpaced Graeme Shinnie on the right flank before cutting it back for John Sutton. The big striker managed a decent low shot but Esson brilliantly turned it round for a corner.
The game settled down with both teams trading possession in midfield. However, Inverness almost got ahead via former ‘Well fans favourite Richie Foran on19 minutes. Jonny Hayes’ cross from the right looked comfortable for Steven Saunders but the defender slipped allowing the winger in. However, Randolph was quick off his line though and did brilliantly well to turn round.
Three minutes later, Hayes was again involved, this time firing a low shot across goal but again the former Charlton man was on hand to tip round.
‘Well weathered a the storm and then had two quick-fire opportunities to take the lead as the half hour approached. Blackman almost took advantage of slack defending from a corner but his snap shot was instinctively beaten away by Esson again. Two minutes later, the keeper made another save, this time denying Tom Hateley from a free-kick.
Brown’s men were beginning to get the upper hand and Esson was eventually beaten on the half hour. Humphrey played a quick one-two corner with Hateley before hanging a lovely ball towards the back post where Gow had the simplest of tasks to convert from close range.
Two minutes later, he almost grabbed a second but his stinging drive from the edge of the box was tipped over by Esson with the Inverness defence at sixes and sevens.
So it was no surprise that just before the break, ‘Well doubled their lead. Blackman picked up the ball about 30 yards from goal and his first time shot deflected off Grant Munro and looped over a stranded Esson and into the net.
It was the last action of a good first-half for the Steelmen and Brown’s men started the second with the same intent; both Sutton and Blackman went close to adding a third but neither could take advantage of decent chances inside the area.
Motherwell continued to dominate proceedings, playing some lovely football to boot. However, they were struggling to add the decisive third despite numerous chances.
Steven Saunders almost got his first of the campaign but his shot, after a bursting run, was deflected away for a corner. Two minutes later, the same player got on the end of a Hateley cross from the right but could only head a yard or so wide of the post.
Inverness had rarely threatened in the second half but they almost scored when Ross Tokely reacted first to a quick free-kick and delivered a lovely ball into the middle for Rooney, but the striker could only head over the bar.
They did get back into the game with 15 minutes remaining though following a super goal by former Abderdeen man Stewart Duff. Rooney teed up the midfielder and from all of 30yards and he smashed a low drive past Randolph and into the net.
The home crowd were buzzing and Rooney almost produced an equaliser two minutes later. Picking up on a loose ball on the right flank, he cut inside and curled a shot that flew inches wide of Randolph’s post.
Shortly after, substitute Sutherland again went close with a shot from the edge of the area but Randolph always looked comfortable watching it wide despite the screams from the home support.
It was certianly a nervous finish to the game but Motherwell held on for all the victory to put a four point gap between the two sides.
[tab:As it happened]
90mins FT: Inverness 1 – 2 Motherwell
80mins – Caley are battering the ‘Well goal. Rooney fires wide, as does Sutherland. Come on ‘Well – please hold on!
73mins – GOAL Inverness CT! Stewart Duff. From nothing Inverness are back in the game. Long range shot by the former Don that flies past Randolph.
70mins – Great chance for Caley. Quick thinking by Tokely from a free kick followed by a great ball into the middle but Rooney heads over
67mins – Free-kick for ICT on the right but the cross is cleared by Hammell!
65mins – Saunders goes close again… Hateley ball from the right is met by the full-back but his header drops wide.
63mins – Motherwell are playing some great stuff! Saunders broke into the box but his shot is deflected wide.
54mins – Great free-kick from Hateley almost leads to a third but Saunders can’t connect at the back post.
51mins – Superb ball from Gow plays Blackman in. Defenders do well to get back to cover but his shot flies just over the bar.
48mins – Motherwell almost make it three. Great wee free-kick has Hammell dinking it up for Sutton but the header drops wide.
46mins – Inverness get the second half underway. No changes from either side!
HT: Fingers crossed for the second half! Good on Nicky Blackman for getting his fifth of the campaign.
HT: Great first-half from the Steelmem. Game is still alive though and you fancy we’ve not seen the end of the scoring.
45mins – HT: Inverness CT 0 – 2 Motherwell.
43mins – GOOALLLLLLLLL Nick Blackman! Out of nothing, Motherwell double their lead. Long range shot deflected off Grant Murno before looping over Esson and into the net.
33mins – GOOOOALLLLLLL Alan Gow! Humphrey plays a 1-2 with Hateley from a corner. Cross takes out the GK and Gow heads home from a few yards out,
30mins – Hateley free-kick from 20-yards is once again well saved by Ryan Esson. Good wee game here at Caley!
28mins – Down the other end, ‘Well almost take advantage of slack defending in the Caley area but a Blackman shot is well saved by Esson
25mins – Low shot by Hayes is turned round by Randolph for another corner. Caley on top at the minute…
22mins – Caley should go one ahead. Hayes cross from the right looked comfortable for Saunders but he slipped. Foran in, shot is saved by DR
19mins – Craigan loops a header at goal, following a Hateley free-kick, but it is comfortable for Esson in the home goal.
14mins – ‘Well fans are singing the name of former boss Terry Bucher… Still appreciative of what the big man achieved whilst at FP.
5mins – Great move by the Steelmen there and an even better save by the ICT keeper. Good start to the match…
5mins – ‘Well almost take the lead… Humphrey bursts down the right. His cut back finds Sutton but his low shot is turned away by Esson.
3mins – Nick Ross almost puts Caley ahead with a low shot that drops inches past the post. Close shave…
1mins – Motherwell kick-off
Motherwell midfielder Tom Hateley:
“It was great for Nick to get a goal as well. Sometimes they go over the stand and other times they go in the net but thankfully this one went in.
“He worked hard, up against two good centre-halves. It was always going to be a battle for him and sometimes our delivery wasn’t great.
“But he did what he had to do and got on the scoresheet as well. He’s been great for us since coming here and hopefully he stays longer when his loan spell is up. Everyone at the club wants to keep him here including the fans because he’s scored so many important goals, like against Rangers and Hearts.
“With that left foot of his he must be one of the most entertaining players in the SPL in full flight.”
Inverness Caley goalscorer Stewart Duff:
“I don’t know how we can do so well against Rangers then be so poor just a week later. Our gaffer Terry Butcher has said some harsh words to us and we’ve all held up our hands.
“All the boys realise the performance was not acceptable but maybe we’ve believed a bit of our own hype last week after what we did at Ibrox.
“What we’ve achieved so far has all been about hard work and determination but that wasn’t on show out there against Motherwell.
“It looks as though we’ve rested on our laurels after last week’s result.My goal gave everybody a lift and we tried to get back in the match. But it would have been a robbery if we had taken a point.
“We now need to get ourselves up for the game on Tuesday night against Aberdeen.”