Revenge is a dish best served early. Aberdeen returned to Fir Park for a kick-off that was more Sunday brunch than lunch-time, to atone for their Betfred Cup capitulation here last Thursday.
Even with a 12.15 kick-off, Aberdeen were still backed by 1,000 fans who made the journey to see Andrew Considine’s goal which keeps the Dons second in the Premiership.
This was winning ugly but manager Derek McInnes will be pleased with that, as Aberdeen moved back to two points behind leaders Celtic.
His side had everything they lacked last Thursday, most notably defensive resilience. So it was fitting that one of those defenders, Considine, should produce the decisive 57th-minute touch to give Aberdeen’s title ambitions a breath of fresh air after two league draws and that cup quarter-final defeat.
Motherwell were angry about Aberdeen’s excessive celebrations, claiming it was as if the visitors had won the league. They certainly won this particular battle, ensuring that Motherwell striker Louis Moult was given no space to repeat his ruthless finishing performance from last Thursday.
Yet, both sides and the two sets of supporters at Fir Park impressively joined forces before kick-off for a minute’s applause for former Motherwell captain, and Scotland midfielder, Bert McCann, who died last week at the age of 84.
Once that was out of the way, though, you could see Aberdeen taking on McInnes’s game plan as a mission statement. The Aberdeen manager felt his side were bullied out of a chance of another potential cup final.
In effect, McInnes had six defenders on the pitch, with Anthony O’Connor, pushed into a midfield sitting role from centre-back to allow 20-year-old Scott McKenna to fill that central defence duties.
McKenna was drafted into the Aberdeen line-up by McInnes to add some physicality which the manager saw missing last Thursday. He belied his age with an assured display which saw him handle the robust Ryan Bowman and also create problems for Motherwell at the other end.
Indeed, the Dons might have been ahead after eight minutes when Stevie May robbed Cedric Kipre but shot just wide. That incident symbolised the turnaround in attitudes. Motherwell had been in Aberdeen’s faces in the cup tie but this time it was the visitors who showed the greater aggression.
Just before the half-hour, Considine came close with a header when his back was to goal from Kari Arnason’s flick on after Greg Tansey’s free kick. Seconds later, Kenny McLean almost turned the ball past his own goalkeeper from Gael Bigirimana’s low corner, but Joe Lewis reacted well.
That seemed to encourage Motherwell and Carl McHugh volleyed wide and then Peter Hartley’s shot was narrowly wide from another dangerous corner.
The resentment between both teams, and dugouts, which carried on from the cup-tie, meant that Motherwell’s Richard Tait returned for the second half with a caution to his name for something he had said to the Aberdeen backroom staff in the tunnel on the way out.
A more visible example of the needle came when McHugh was booked early in the second half for chopping down the ever-eager Ryan Christie.
Lewis then provided another excellent save to beat away Chris Cadden’s fierce shot from the edge of the box for a corner and, five minutes later, Aberdeen broke the deadlock.
Aberdeen had just brought on Greg Stewart for Tansey and he was involved in the move down the right wing which saw the ball played in by Shay Logan and was missed by May before it was cleverly back-heeled towards goal by Christie. He was unfortunate to see his skilful effort come off the post, but Considine pounced to stab the loose ball over the line in the melee.
The visitors endured a torrid scrutiny from Motherwell in the last 20 minutes. The hosts felt they had a claim for a penalty when Moult went down as he tried to reach a Bigirimana corner but it would have been a soft award.