Motherwell 2-1 Ross County: Steelmen stay second

Ross County manager Derek Adams may have been in the minority when it came to his opinion that his side deserved a point from this fixture but few disagreed with his view that goalkeeper Mark Brown shouldered the responsibility for their defeat.

James McFadden, left, tangles with County defender Erik Cikos. Picture: SNS

Many managers will slate their players in private but defend them in public but Adams clearly believes that the veteran is long enough in the tooth to be able to cope with the blame game.

“There wasn’t much in it but I felt we shaded the opening 45 minutes,” he said. “Then Motherwell scored two goals due to our own errors.

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“Mark Brown has taken full responsibility: it’s his fault for the two goals. It makes it difficult for us when he palms the ball twice into the middle of our area and allows the onrushing team to score, so I can’t blame my defenders for that.”

With all of the teams around them losing, third-bottom County are no worse off after this defeat but they face Aberdeen in midweek and Celtic next Saturday and could have done with taking something from this game.

The visitors had clearly come to frustrate and their pressing certainly disrupted Motherwell’s passing game.

John Sutton shot wide from distance while James McFadden, off balance, headed wide from a Lionel Ainsworth cross, the only notable moments from the first quarter of the contest.

An error by Stephen McManus, who was woefully short with a back-header to Gunnar Nielsen, left the Faroese hopelessly exposed and allowed Jordan Slew a free run on goal.

The striker, on loan from Blackburn Rovers, ought to have fired County in front but snatched at the opening and shot wastefully wide from the edge of the penalty area.

Indeed, the match was half an hour old before the first effort on target arrived – and, when it did, Motherwell should have broken the deadlock.

Iain Vigurs nodded down Shaun Hutchinson’s free kick for McFadden six yards out. The former Scotland forward may have believed, wrongly, that he was offside but his momentary hesitation cost him, giving Brown the opportunity to leave his line and block his shot.

Motherwell enjoyed the bulk of possession and Brown again denied McFadden from point-blank range, this time from a Steven Hammell cross.

However, they did not need to wait long after the restart for the scoreline to reflect their superiority.

Vigurs can lay claim to the assist for sending in the shot from 30 yards which Brown parried, unconvincingly, allowing McFadden to score from inside the six-yard box at the fourth attempt.

Brown had been impressive during the opening 45 minutes but his confidence evaporated after that goal and he failed to hold another raking shot from Vigurs.

Substitute Craig Moore, on for the injured McFadden, exploited that nervousness minutes after coming on to set up the home side’s second goal.

He tried a speculative effort from 25 yards out and, once again, Brown allowed it to squirm from his grasp. Sutton was the last player he would have wanted to see loitering with intent and the striker eagerly stuck away the rebound for his 19th goal of the campaign.

That two-goal cushion turned out to be essential after Keith Lasley and Zaine Francis-Angol passed up openings to put the outcome beyond doubt.

County, with nothing to lose, started pushing men forward. Richie Brittain struck the base of Nielsen’s right-hand post with a shot and then, with eight minutes left, Yann Songo’o, the Cameroon defender on loan from Blackburn Rovers, scored with a volley from Graham Carey’s corner.

Songo’o came close again with a venomous drive in the dying seconds but Motherwell held out for a merited win.

That was just as well for their skipper, who might have been left kicking himself for his earlier miss.

“It’s Keith Lasley’s testimonial dinner tonight and I warned the lads that they wouldn’t be allowed out unless they won,” said manager Stuart McCall.

“In the past couple of months we’ve been clinical, but today we weren’t. If we had been, then the game would have been put to bed by half-time.

“We created plenty of chances, but our Achilles heel again was losing a goal from a corner.

“That made it a lot more edgy than it should have been. If you don’t take your chances then it can come back to haunt you.

“Had we been more clinical then it could have been over sooner. Had we not won then it would have been a travesty.”