TWO second-half goals scored by defenders gave Dundee United victory over a plucky Motherwell in this exciting all-Premiership clash at Fir Park. Last year’s beaten finalists move on into the fifth round, but they were made to work hard.
Scorers: Motherwell - Ojamaa 7; Dundee United - Souttar 66; Watson 82
Both sides had plenty of chances with Dan Twardzik pulling off several memorable saves to deny the visitors a barrowload, while the look on John Sutton’s face after his header in the dying seconds went just over the bar spoke volumes about Motherwell’s current frustrations, encompassing the situation where the club may be under new ownership and therefore has yet to name a replacement for the departed Stuart McCall.
Stand-in manager Kenny Black said afterwards that uncertainty was affecting people and “for clarity”, he hoped the club would find a permanent manager soon – “I am sure the club are working on it behind the scenes,” he said.
Originally named as a substitute, Keith Watson was a very late replacement for the ill Jaroslaw Fojut, and that proved crucial for United, who were backed by 2,061 of the 4,827 crowd – figures which amply demonstrate the present frame of mind of the Motherwell support.
Had the match finished at half–time, Motherwell would have deserved to have been in Monday’s draw, but United stirred themselves in the second half and dominated play as much as Motherwell had done in the preceding 45 minutes.
Henrik Ojamaa showed the sort of form he displayed during the bright start to his first spell at Fir Park, and opened the scoring in some style after just seven minutes. Simon Ramsden fed Paul Lawson whose clever pass found the Estonian some 25 yards from goal, and as the United defence mysteriously froze, Ojamaa whirled and fired a crisp low shot that whizzed by Radoslaw Ciernziak.
Gary Mackay-Steven should have equalised less than two minutes later, but the combined efforts of Stephen McManus and Twardzik foiled the United man. At the other end Mark O’Brien’s header was easily held by Cierzniak.
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Paul Paton and Iain Vigurs then got involved in a spat and earned the first of a handful of plain stupid bookings deservedly awarded by referee Craig Thomson. Keith Lasley, Conor Townsend and Ojamaa were all shown needless yellow cards, with the two Motherwell men almost talking themselves off the field as Thomson’s patience ran out.
The match was now full of thrilling end-to-end stuff, with Stuart Armstrong’s angled shot beating Twardzik but also scraping by the post, before Law’s shot was saved by Cierzniak.
Ryan Dow was clean through but Twardzik made the first of his successful one-to-one encounters to save his attempt. Chris Erskine’s shot then looked goalbound before Twardzik saved spectacularly.
Motherwell took over play with the impressive Paul Lawson, the doughty Vigurs and veteran Lasley bossed the midfield, albeit to no avail in the chance-creating department.
The loss of the first-named of the trio just after half-time was the turning point of the match. Goalkeeper Twardzik said later: “We controlled the game very well in the first half but the crucial moment was losing Paul Lawson with an injury because he had kept the ball well for us. We were unlucky in that respect.”
With the arrival of Calum Butcher to steady the visitors’ midfield, United began to press forward, with Mackay-Steven the next to face Twardzik alone and fail to beat the goalkeeper. Dow, Butcher and Armstrong would later do the same, with Twardzik’s save at the latter’s feet particularly excellent.
United manager Jackie McNamara quipped afterwards: “In training this week they’ll be getting six seconds to score from the halfway line.”
By that time United had equalised, Motherwell’s defenders being posted missing in 66 minutes as Armstrong’s corner found a huge gap in the penalty box into which John Souttar hurled himself, making no mistake with his powerful header.
The winner eight minutes from time was similar, a deep cross from Townsend finding Watson with just enough space to head home.
It was Watson who also did just enough to foil Sutton’s last gasp attempt deep in injury time, his success delighting manager McNamara. He added that United earned the win: “We created good chances and deserved the victory on the second half.”
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