Motherwell edged out a nervy final 10 minutes to secure a crucial 2-1 victory over Dundee United.
Graham Alexander’s men stormed into a 2-0 half-time lead after goals from Devante Cole and a rejuvenated Christopher Long inside 30 minutes. The Tangerines improved and got a goal back 10 minutes from time but the Well did just about enough to claim a second win on the spin.
Motherwell were going into this one in good spirits, ending an unbeaten run that stretched back to October last week against Ross County and adding to their squad with several new additions. Micky Mellon’s men meanwhile wanted to end a run of seven previous games without a win.
Nothing of note happened in a quiet opening 15 minutes before Motherwell sparked into life. Bevis Mugabi leapt highest from a corner, forcing a great save from United keeper Benjamin Siegrist. Seconds later, Tony Watt flashed an effort wide from point-blank range as United players claimed offside.
Six minutes later and the Well made the visitors pay for not learning from previous set-piece errors. As the ball was scrambled in the box, Cole reacted quickest to score his fourth goal in five games.
He’d have a big part to play in the second Motherwell goal four minutes later. Some lovely build-up from back to front had Cole tee up strike partner Long, who thumped a brilliant effort from outside the box into the bottom corner.
Mugabi had to make big block before half-time after a slack backpass almost allowed Marc McNulty in on goal but outside that it was a dominant first-half display from the Steelmen who started the second half in full control.
Peter Pawlett almost made an instant impact from the bench for United, sliding a wicked ball across the goalmouth, but there were no takers. United then had three penalty appeals waved away as Mellon’s side looked keen to get back level.
Watt came so close again before the hour mark, Siegrist again doing very to palm a Motherwell goal-bound shot. Lawrence Shankland then had his first shot of the night, dragging an effort wide from inside the box, Long doing similar up the other end seven minutes later as the clock hit 64.
Chances were coming thick and fast but yet again Siegrist would stop Well from converting one, Cole this time denied by the Swiss stopper. United had it in the net up the other end but a foul on Well keeper Liam Kelly ruled it out. He would come up trumps 10 minutes from time, stopping a superb Callum Butcher effort. But Kelly could do nothing to stop Ryan Edwards heading home from a corner one minute later.
Motherwell were reduced to 10 men as Nathan McGinley came off after getting a boot to the face inside the box, Adrien Sporle taking advantage and going one-on-one with Kelly, but the QPR keeper made a huge save to deny the left-back as three points were secured. Here are three things we learned.
The full performance
Alexander has spoken of his want for three points in Dingwall last week to be more, for it to be a platform to put in a complete performance and earn consistent results. He got his wish at Fir Park against Dundee United.
While there were some moments to improve upon, the Well were clinical in the first half and dug deep in the second, creating numerous chances to extend their lead. But it mattered not as two goals were enough.
It’s a tough spell for Mellon and Dundee United, the most testing of his reign so far. That’s now no wins in eight for the Tangerines, one coming in their last 12 matches overall.
Form need to pick up quick or they could find themselves dragged into the fight at the bottom. Ross County in 11th are now just five points behind United.
One Well player enjoying life under Alexander is certainly Cole. He scored another here and assisted too, taking his tally to four goals in five games. While they haven’t been goal of the season contenders, he’s had a handy knack of being in the right place at the right time.
His continued form will be crucial for Alexander, Long too thriving alongside him with his best display of the campaign.
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