Danny Johnson wins it for Motherwell in Northern Ireland

Danny Johnson scored the winner on his Motherwell debut
Danny Johnson scored the winner on his Motherwell debut

Motherwell FC kicked off their 2018/19 pre-season schedule in Northern Ireland on Saturday afternoon with a friendly win away to Crusaders.

New signing Danny Johnson scored with the very last touch of the ball to secure a 1-0 victory for the Steelmen in Belfast, with his back post header finding the net in Jordan Owens’ testimonial match.

Motherwell played two different XIs in each half, giving the majority of the squad who travelled playing time.

Both in the initial starting line-up were new goalkeeper Mark Gillespie and former Partick Thistle left back Aaron Taylor-Sinclair, with English centre back Peter Hartley also making his return from injury.

The extreme heat at Seaview – which reached around 28 degrees celcius – took the tempo down somewhat in this clash, with both sides having a handful of chances to open the scoring during the opening 45 minutes.

An acrobatic effort from Motherwell striker Ryan Bowman was the visitors’ best attempt, while the hosts were denied by an offside flag and an incredible save from Gillespie.

The second half saw the introduction of a whole new 11 players for the away side, including Spanish midfielder Alex Rodríguez Gorrín, English defender Liam Donnelly and former Gateshead man Johnson.

And it was the 25-year-old Englishman Johnson – who scored 44 goals in 109 appearances for Gateshead – who scored just before the referee’s final whistle.

Motherwell winger Elliott Frear delivered the ball to the back post where Johnson was on hand to nod the ball home.

Next up for Motherwell was a closed doors game with Morton after we went to press on Tuesday, followed by the trip to Darlington this Sunday.

The Steelmen’s competitive season begins with a home Betfred Cup group match against Edinburgh City on Tuesday, July 17.