Motherwell’s youngsters eventually saw the fizz come out of their Irn-Bru Cup challenge on Saturday – but only after giving Championship Ross County an almighty scare, writes Stuart McFarlane.
Stephen Craigan’s young charges competed well throughout the quarter final clash – but were undone by a headed double from County’s Ross Stewart either side of Adam Livingstone’s excellent free-kick.
The visitors made eight changes for the last eight clash but threatened within the first minute at Fir Park when ‘Well keeper Peter Morrison had to be alert to palm away a dangerous cross from Stewart ahead of the onrushing Declan McManus.
It was a tight opening to the match and it took until 25 minutes for the Colts to carve their first decisive opening, with Broque Watson’s good run and shot well saved by the leg of County keeper Ross Munro.
Meanwhile, Morrison was forced to be at his best as he tipped over a flicked header from Don Cowie on 36 minutes.
Winger Jake Hastie was a major threat to the County defence in the first half and his dangerous cross flashed across goal after Watson’s pass broke open the visitors’ defence.
The Colts gained the ascendancy as the half drew to a close, and had a golden chance to open the scoring on the stroke of half-time when Christian Mbulu’s header from a corner came back off the post.
And the hosts were to pay for their profligacy right at the start of the second period when Cowie’s corner was headed back across goal by Ross Draper and nodded into the net by Stewart.
However, the Colts had the perfect reply just two minutes later when Livingstone curled in a delightful effort off the underside of the bar from just outside the area.
But the cheers soon turned to jeers as Mbulu was sent off by referee David Munro after an altercation with Cowie during the celebrations.
Craigan raged about the decision, and his mood wasn’t improved as the Staggies regained the lead to cap off a crazy five-minute spell.
Cowie had picked up villain status with the home support and it was his delivery that again found the head of Stewart to nod past Morrison.
The streetwise visitors then sought to close out the game against the undermanned Colts, who failed to create a clear-cut opening in the closing quarter of the game.
McManus enjoyed the final big chance of the game when his fine run and shot was well saved by Morrison.
As the final whistle blew, it was the visitors who breathed a sigh of relief after sealing their semi-final spot.
The Fir Park faithful in attendance applauded their young side off the pitch following their sterling efforts.