Motherwell 1-1 Ross County: Well may rue chances

HONOURS even in this basement dust-up, but it is unquestionably advantage Ross County in the battle for certain top-flight survival. Motherwell will rue not making home advantage count, having been ahead early on, but with six points to make up with only three games remaining, it seems the Well are destined for a cuticle-gnawing double-barrel play-off.

Motherwell's Keith Lasley (right) battles for the ball with Martin Woods. Picture: SNS Group

Scorers: Motherwell - McDonald (19’); Ross County - Boyce (41’)

The transformation in the fortunes of Ross County in recent months has been quite extraordinary, and one of the stories of the season. You would have got very good odds in the depths of winter on the Staggies being in with a chance of being all but safe with three matches to spare such was their predicament, yet this is their position at the end of what was in effect the proverbial relegation six-pointer.

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Motherwell have improved on their early season form enough to leave floundering St Mirren far behind in the automatic drop spot, but not as dramatically as the Highlanders, meaning a loss for the Fir Park men would have left them nine behind with only three to play and with a significantly worse goal difference. So, safe to say no little motivation on either side going into what always looked likely to be a pivotal 90 minutes for both clubs.

Having seen their long unbeaten run hit the buffers last week, County were rocked back on their heels right from the off against a Motherwell team who clearly knew they had to go for the jugular. Visiting keeper Mark Brown did well to keep out Marvin Johnson after 12 minutes mostly bossed by the home team, but with the most notable incident being a Scott McDonald dive.

Motherwell continued to hold sway, with McDonald, who has added both a decisive cutting edge and an experienced head to the ranks since his January arrival, keeping Brown involved in the action with a shot straight at the keeper.

McDonald wasn’t for giving up, however, and with a little under 20 minutes played he opened the scoring. Conor Grant will claim the assist, but the veteran Aussie took the plaudits with the type of close-range finish he has made his calling card for over a decade.

With so much at stake, there wasn’t much surprise in there being a dearth of open, flowing football as the game got bogged down in midfield and tied up with a string of fouls and infringements, although it was County who were beginning to make the more productive inroads.

Home manager Ian Baraclough, desperate to get his charges in with a goal to protect at the break, would have been be disappointed when Martin Boyce fired an angled 40th minute drive past George Long to leave the teams level at the interval.

The second half was rife with fear football, leading to an almost non-event.

It seemed neither team was willing to risk losing a game with the stakes what they were, which is understandable from a County perspective, but a little mystifying for a home team massively playing catch-up.

County had the better of what you could call chances, with Michael Gardyne and Rocco Quinn testing Long with a strike from distance and a header respectively.

John Sutton was introduced for the home team to add some pep up front, having netted with late cameos against Hamilton and St Mirren recently, but in the end both teams made do with a draw, which will serve County far better.

Motherwell: Long, Law, McManus, O’Brien, Hammell, Johnson (Ainsworth 68), Lasley, Pearson, Grant (Thomas 87), Erwin (Sutton 77), McDonald. Subs not used: Ramsden, Moore, Twardzik, Straker.

Ross County: Brown, Fraser, P. Quinn, Boyd, Reckford, Gardyne (Kiss 86), Woods, Irvine, De Vita (Dingwall 66), Curran (C. Quinn 81), Boyce. Subs not used: Reguero, Meite, Sernas, Garcia.

Referee: C Allan. Attendance: 4,281