Published: 7th November 2014
An Iain Vigurs deflected strike five minutes after half time proved enough for the three points to stay at Motherwell despite United having the upper hand at Fir Park tonight.
By Joe James
United made six changes to the team that beat St Mirren last week with John Souttar, John Rankin, Stuart Armstrong, Chris Erskine, Ryan Dow and Blair Spittal all returning to the starting eleven in place of Callum Morris, Sean Dillon, Calum Butcher, Charlie Telfer, Mario Bilate and Nadir Ciftci.
Motherwell’s caretaker manager Kenny Black made only one change to the team that lost last week against St Johnstone wih Mark O’Brien coming in for the injured Steven Hammell whilst Zaine Francis-Angol dropped to the bench for Craig Reid.
In the opening few minutes, both teams looked comfortable in possession and played some decent football. However, there was no real clear cut chance until the 15th minute when Chris Erskine wonderfully glided past two Motherwell tackles before playing a pass inside the box to Ryan Dow whose shot was palmed wide by the Motherwell keeper Dan Twardzik.
Fifteen minutes later, it was Motherwell's turn to attack. After an extremely quick counter-attack, Henrik Ojaama's cross fell to Iain Vigurs but the winger's shot rose well over the bar.
The tricky Aidan Connolly proved to be a handful for the Motherwell defence throughout the first half, and just after the half hour mark, he created a golden opportunity for United to open the scoring. Connolly brilliantly passed Reid on the left flank and hit a powerful cross into the box, however, the youngster's pacey cross flew too far in front of Blair Spittal.
Three minutes later, Connolly was again the provider for a Spittal opportunity. Connolly's defence- splitting pass was gathered by Spittal who poked a shot a matter of inches wide of the post.
As United continued to flow forward in numbers, seven minutes before half time, United perhaps had their closest chance to break the deadlock. Aidan Connolly's shot from outside the box took a wicked deflection forcing Twardzik into a fantastic save.
Shortly after the break, Motherwell were just a goal post away from scoring the first goal of the evening. The Steelmen led up the pitch with pace before Ojaama's pass fell to Lionel Ainsworth at an acute angle, but much to United's relief, the winger's shot crashed off the frame of the goal.
That chance gave Motherwell great confidence and at 52 minutes they took the lead. Kieth Lasley sucked in two United defenders before disguising a pass to Vigurs inside the box, with Vigur's resulting shot hitting powerfully into the opposite corner of Cierzniak's goal.
Minutes later, United were lucky not to be two goals down when Ainsworth's clever finish was wrongly judged offside by lines-woman Kylie McMullan.
With Motherwell holding a 1-0 lead, the Steelmen began to sit with bodies behind the ball and then quickly counter-attacking against a United team with many players in advanced positions.
Only six minutes after the goal, the impressive Ojaama nearly scored a brilliant solo for Motherwell. The attacker cut onto his right foot before curling a long shot just wide of the target.
In the hope of finding a way to unlock the stubborn Motherwell defence, on the hour mark Jackie McNamara brought on Nadir Ciftci and Gary Mackay-Steven.
At 75 minutes, Ciftci brilliantly delivered a looping cross in the direction of Conor Townsend whose header was directed over the crossbar.
Just four minutes later, United again pressurised, a clever pass allowed Ciftci to take it past the Motherwell keeper before passing the ball back inside the box. After a ricochet near the goal, the ball fell kindly to John Rankin outside the box, whose first time shot was comfortably deflected into the arms of Twardzik.
United piled on the pressure for much of the last ten minutes, and two minutes before the final whistle, Stuart Armstrong's inviting pass was headed over the goal by Ryan Dow.
After three minutes of relatively comfortable added on time for Motherwell, it was the Steelmen who collected the three points, despite United controlling much of the game.
Full time: Motherwell 1-0 United
Man of the match: Everything positive that United did in the first half came through Aidan Connolly. His passing, skill and pace caused all sorts of problems for the Motherwell defence.
Dundee United: Cierzniak, Paton, Souttar (Morris 77?) Fojut, Townsend, Rankin, Spittal (Mackay-Steven 58?), Erskine, Dow, Armstrong, Connolly (Ciftci 58?)
Unused subs- Szromnik, Dillon, Butcher, Telfer.
Motherwell: Twardzik, Reid, Ramsden, McManus, Ainsworth (Law 78?), Sutton, Vigurs, Lasley, O’Brien, Kerr, Ojamaa. Unused subs- Nielsen, Carswell, Lawson, McHugh, Franicis-Angol, Moore.
Referee- Steven Maclean.