Saturday proved to be a missed opportunity for Motherwell as they were thrashed by a rampant Dundee United at Tannadice.
A win would have seen them qualify for Europe and move to within a point of second placed Aberdeen, but as Stevie Hammell made his 500th appearance for the club, they had a day to forget.
’Well now sit four points behind Aberdeen and four ahead of United with three games left to play.
It took just eight minutes for the home side to take the lead as Stuart Armstrong played in NADIR CIFTCI who stepped inside Shaun Hutchinson and clipped the ball into the top corner.
Paul Paton almost made it 2-0 as he lobbed the ball over Gunnar Nielsen, but Stephen McManus cleared, and then Nielsen saved well from Ciftci.
Five minutes from half-time they did double their advantage as Armstrong’s low cross from the left was turned in by CIFTCI.
’Well tried to change it at half-time as Craig Moore and Lionel Ainsworth replaced Henri Anier, and for a time it seemed like they might find a way back into the game.
Keith Lasley, who had given up the armband to Hammell for the day, found himself with a clear sight of goal six yards out, but blazed over.
Then when Gavin Gunning’s header from Iain Vigurs’s cross dropped invitingly for Ainsworth he did likewise.
United weathered the pressure and on 61 minutes scored again as ARMSTRONG outpaced Hutchinson through the centre to fire past Nielsen.
Ciftci then hit the post, but a fourth arrived on 71 minutes as RYAN DOW brought down Gunning’s cross field ball and had plenty of time to pick his spot.
With the game as good as dead ’Well might have given James McFadden his first run-out in over a month, but instead Zaine Francis-Angol came on for Vigurs.
The one way traffic continued though, as on 81 minutes Andrew Robertson played a through ball for Brian Graham who slid it past Nielsen.
Three minutes from time AINSWORTH got away from Robertson and lashed the ball into the bottom corner, but it was on no consolation on a very bad day for ’Well.
Dundee United: Cierzniak, Watson, Dillon, Gunning, Robertson, Paton (Gauld 69), Rankin, Mackay-Steven, Armstrong (Gomis 73), Dow, Ciftci. Subs not used: McCallum, Souttar, Wilson, El Alagui.
Motherwell: Nielsen, Reid, Hammell, Hutchinson, McManus, Sutton, Vigurs (Francis-Angol 77), Lasley, Kerr (Ainsworth 46), Anier (Moore 46), Leitch. Subs not used: Hollis, McFadden, Murray, Cadden.
Referee: Steven McLean.