Ross McLean’s 25-yard, curling free-kick was enough to send Motherwell through to the next stage of the Scottish FA Youth Cup at the expense of Kilmarnock.
Storm Desmond wreaked havoc on fixtures at all levels across Scotland this weekend, but thanks to this match taking place on the Excelsior Stadium’s artificial pitch it was never in doubt and by Sunday afternoon the wind and rain had mostly subsided.
With only a point separating the sides in the SPFL development league and both hungry to progress to the next round of the cup, this was never going to be a whitewash. Instead it was a tight, tactical battle only won by a set-piece of sheer brilliance.
The home side started brighter, Allan Campbell firing wide after Dominic Thomas’s corner fell to him on the edge of the box. Thomas, Well’s dangerman throughout the game then picked out Jake Hastie at the back post with a low cross along the front of goal but the winger blazed his effort over.
Dylan Mackin, playing as the lone striker and target man for Motherwell, did well to hold up the ball and give Thomas a chance of his own. The tricky midfielder turned his marker while having his ankles kicked and, as the ref played advantage, advanced into the box but shot wide. Mackin taking the ball on his chest and waiting for Thomas, Hastie, and Chris Cadden to advance past him before playing it on was a regular feature of the first half dominated by the Steelmen.
Kilmarnock could barely get out of their own half, with slack passing preventing them from building up from the back. The only threat they posed was when Aaron Splaine managed to head on a long ball to frontman Jack Whittaker but Luke Watt was there to get the block in and prevent any real danger.
It looked like a matter of time before Motherwell broke the deadlock and they almost did it in bizarre circumstances. A complete mishit from Adam Livingstone sent the ball spinning back towards his own centre-halves while the rest of his team were expecting a long ball into the box, but Watt took advantage of the Killie players standing off to galavant forward and hit a swerving 30-yard shot that pulled away from Ross Miller’s left-hand post at the last second.
Just after the half-hour mark and Well did take the lead with a swerving, long-range drive however. Thomas drew the foul from Iain Wilson and up-stepped McLean whose shot went over the wall, forcing Miller to take a step towards his left post, before it swerved back towards the right corner and landed perfectly in the side of the net, leaving the keeper with no chance. It was to be the only goal of the game but it was a hit worthy of winning any match.
Miller was tested by another free-kick before half time when Watt’s long ball into the box from the halfway line almost went directly into the top corner, only for Miller to claw it out at the lost second and take a knock off the post for his trouble. Fortunately after some attention from the physio he was okay to continue.