Arbroath beat the frost but not Motherwell as Steelmen avoid much-predicted Scottish Cup exit

Under pressure on the back of an inauspicious league campaign in the cinch Premiership, this awkward Scottish Cup tie held the potential to be a fraught afternoon for Steve Hammell, the Motherwell manager.

Any curious glances towards Gayfield in the hope of finding a Scottish Cup shock would have been disappointed with the Fir Park side comfortably negotiating a fairly flat tie that never really caused them any genuine consternation.

The Fir Park side played at a fairly languid tempo throughout with Arbroath offering little real bite as the afternoon played out. The only moment of note for the hosts in the opening period was a long effort from Sean Adarkwa that was comfortably held by Motherwell goalkeeper Liam Kelly.

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Motherwell exerted their top flight status with a lead at the interval, albeit only by the slenderest of margins. Blair Spitall, who had shaved the side-netting with a shot in the opening stages of the game split the Arbroath defence with a fast, low pass that unleashed Stewart McKinstry. Unselfishly, he squared for Mikael Mandron, on his first start for the club after his contract was terminated by Gillingham, to roll the ball into an empty net.

Motherwell's Mikael Mandron (not in frame) scores to make it 0-1 during a Scottish Cup fourth round match against Arbroath.

Prior to the opener Motherwell had had a goal chalked off with Arbroath toiling to muster any threat in an attacking sense. There were a couple of half hearted penalty appeals for both teams that were brushed away by referee Willie Collum with the real consternation coming via a heavily cratered surface that was prohibitive to any level of fluency.

The game had survived a thick Friday evening frost courtesy of ground covers which around 60 members of the local community helped lift but underfoot conditions made for a game in which the ball spent ample time being booted up in the air.

McKinstry ought to have added a second shortly after the restart when Gill had struggled to adequately cope with a low cross before before beating a raping effort away from the on-loan Leeds United midfielder.

Arbroath will be disappointed that they did not make more of the defensive fragilities that have been evident in Motherwell throughout the course of this season. Dick Campbell’s side hustled and harried and were beyond reproach for the industry they showed but there was little within the game to ever suggest that the visitors were under pressure.

Arbroath’s Joao Balde could consider himself a little fortunate that there was no VAR after he escaped a caution for a crunching tackle on Spittal that on another day and with a second viewing may well have increased the severity of the sanction.

It was a rare show of aggression from Arbroath, although as the game ticked into its closing stages they found a little more urgency. Still, Motherwell had chances to finish the tie off with Mandron lifting the ball over the bar and McKinstry dragging an effort wide as Motherwell struggled to take their chances, a familiar route this term.

The second goal arrived at the death when a moment of quality within the game opened up Arbroath’s defence. Substitute Kevin van Veen backheeled the ball into the path of Sean Goss before Mandron finished the move and finished off an afternoon where Motherwell will feel quietly satisfied with their efforts.