MOTHERWELL supporters have certainly been cursed to live in interesting times in recent months. Transformed from runners-up to also-rans in the blink of an eye, they have excelled themselves this week.
Scorers: Motherwell - Sutton (53) Ojamaa (59); Ross County - Dingwall (45), (90)
In the space of 24 hours they have announced the identity of their new manager, thrown away two vital points in stoppage time and, most importantly, revealed that they are now just days away from being owned by their own supporters.
Missing out on victory here definitely represented short-term pain but there is surely long-term gain to be had from the restructuring of the club, following the model adopted by Hearts.
For the Hearts Foundation and Ann Budge, read the Well Society and Les Hutchison, the Barbados-based businessman and benefactor who began his working life in the local steelworks back in the days when industry and manufacturing were the economic mainstays.
Fittingly, since the club is about to become a workers’ soviet, their players put in a Stakhanovite shift here, watched from the stands by their new manager, Ian Baraclough, who will begin life as Stuart McCall’s successor tomorrow morning.
He saw them come close to taking the lead in the eighth minute when John Sutton threw himself at a Henrik Ojamaa delivery but his header shaved the outside of Antonio Reguero’s left-hand post.
On an afternoon when the wind-chill factor made activity essential, there was a lot of movement but precious little action during a busy but largely unproductive first half.
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Dan Twardzik combined a decent save from Yoann Arquin’s 20-yarder at his near post with a few more unconventional stops.
Arquin wanted more time than was necessary to get his shot away, allowing Mark O’Brien to clear, in the 43rd minute but, just as it looked as though the teams would be all-square at the break, County struck.
Jamie Reckord’s cross from the left fell kindly for the splendidly-named Tony Dingwall at the far corner of the six-yard box. Twardzik managed to keep out the midfielder’s right-foot drive but was powerless to prevent the local hero from smashing the rebound behind him with his left foot.
Lionel Ainsworth replaced the plodding Iain Vigurs at the interval but it was County who spurned a glorious opportunity to double their lead.
When Twardzik could once again only parry a Jake Jervis shot from Dingwall’s cross, the loose ball landed at the feet of Paul Quinn eight yards out but the former Motherwell defender failed to put his old team to the sword, hurriedly slicing his shot over the bar.
Motherwell made them pay for their profligacy. Five minutes later they were level when Ainsworth crossed from the right and the unmarked Sutton headed home at the back stick.
Ojamaa had started that move and his recent good form continued when he smashed a right-foot drive behind Reguero from 20 yards to give ’Well the lead. County responded magnificently, throwing everyone forward in an attempt to salvage a point. It looked as though their efforts were going to be in vain when Michael Gardyne somehow contrived to turn a knockdown from Arquin on to the post from point-blank range.
However, the substitute atoned in stoppage time when he laid a cross from Joe Cardle into the path of Dingwall and the 20-year-old smashed the ball behind Twardzik from 15 yards for his second senior goal.
It meant that, for the first time this season, County were not holding up the Premiership table.
Their delirious fans, who had earlier been singing Christmas carols, started chanting: “We’re not bottom any more.”
County manager Jim McIntyre must have felt like joining in. “It was a point we deserved,” he said. “We could have been comfortably ahead with the chances we created but, instead, we were caught out by two quick goals, which gave them a lift.
“But the desire our players showed to get back into the game and take something from it was great. I’m just glad it wasn’t another hard-luck story. It’s important, psychologically, not to be at the bottom.”
McIntyre also believes that goal hero Dingwall has a bright future. “As soon as I came to the club I thought that he had a chance,” he said.
“We’ve been working on him getting into that far-post area so it’s pleasing that his first goal came from there and his technique was superb for his second.”
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