Motherwell's top six hopes dented by 1-0 home defeat to Kilmarnock

Kilmarnock's Kirk Broadfoot heads against his own post during Saturday's clash with Motherwell at Fir Park (Pic by Ian McFadyen)
Kilmarnock's Kirk Broadfoot heads against his own post during Saturday's clash with Motherwell at Fir Park (Pic by Ian McFadyen)

Motherwell slumped to a 1-0 home defeat against Kilmarnock on Saturday, vaulting the Ayrshire side into theScottish Premiership's top six at the Steelmen's expense, writes Craig Goldthorp.

A first half strike by Killie's Stephen O'Donnell was all that separated the sides on a cool, crisp afternoon at Fir Park in which excitement was in scant supply but frustration was plentiful among the home support.

Motherwell's Nadir Ciftci had this first half penalty appeal waved away (Pic by Ian McFadyen)

Motherwell's Nadir Ciftci had this first half penalty appeal waved away (Pic by Ian McFadyen)

Despite bossing possession for long spells, Motherwell failed to turn any of their chances into goals and also had a good penalty appeal turned down.

It was Killie who almost went ahead inside three minutes when Kris Boyd spun away from defender Charles Dunne and shot just wide of the right post.

Play then raged to the other end where Motherwell won a corner which when swung in by Craig Tanner saw keeper Jamie MacDonald flap at the ball before Curtis Main's shot was deflected wide.

And the Steelmen came close again on eight minutes when a fine run and cross by returning winger Elliott Frear saw his ball in being volleyed wide by Tanner.

Nadir Ciftci then turned and shot off target and Main headed a Tanner centre straight at MacDonald, but Motherwell's closest call of the first half came on 20 minutes when Chris Cadden's cross from the right was played against his own post by Kilmarnock defender Kirk Broadfoot.

The Steelmen then had a good shout for a penalty for Greg Taylor's challenge on Ciftci but referee Steven McLean wasn't interested in any home appeals.

Eamonn Brophy of the visitors saw yellow for a challenge on Tanner, before Main headed Frear's centre weakly at MacDonald.

Killie then scored out of the blue on 34 minutes when Main gave the ball away in midfield and O'Donnell forged through before sending a low 20-yarder past Motherwell keeper Trevor Carson who'd had virtually nothing to do.

Trailing at the interval, Motherwell bossed possession in the early stages of the second half and came close on 48 minutes when Frear's corner from the right was met by Tom Aldred whose effort was blocked by MacDonald on the line.

Motherwell skipper Carl McHugh had a shot deflected wide following a Frear corner, before a series of substitutions included the hosts sending on a masked Ryan Bowman for his first appearance since December 30 following a head injury.

Great link up play between Bowman and Main in the 77th minute culminated in Main's chip towards goal which just missed the far post.

The final chance of a second half in which Motherwell won several corners came from a Tanner flag kick which saw Dunne head off target.

The defeat - only Motherwell's second of 2018 - means the Steelmen are three points behind Kilmarnock having played two more matches than the Ayrshire side.

So - with just six matches for 'Well to play until the split - a top six finish looks an outside bet.

Motherwell: Carson, Tait, Cadden (Grimshaw 80), McHugh, Main, Frear, Rose (Bigirimana 70), Dunne, Aldred, Ciftci (Bowman 69), Tanner.

Crowd: 5372

Referee: Steven McLean