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Defensive frailties cost Motherwell in entertaining friendly
There are those who consider pre-season friendlies to be nothing more than a glorified kick about in the sun. On this occasion they were well wide of the mark as Motherwell and Newcastle served up a thrilling game at Fir Park in front of a healthy crowd.
Goals from Vigurs and a cheeky penalty from McFadden (sorry, Trialist 2) were not enough to deny Newcastle as they scored four of their own through Vuckic, Gouffran, Sissoko and Marveaux.
If you were worried that this season is going to be less entertaining than last then on this evidence you don’t have too much to be concerned about. We have acquired a couple of players from Ross County who are incredibly comfortable with the ball at their feet and can frequently pick an attacking pass. In McFadden we have someone who looks capable of unlocking even a sturdy back line and Francis-Angol’s attacking work is dangerous down the left and with a more consistent cross could be a thorn in even the best defence’s side.
Trialist 1 was an Estonian forward. And whilst it would be easy to compare him to the recently departed Ojamaa this would be unfair as they are not the same type of player. Whilst Ojamaa was blessed with a low centre of gravity and incredible vision, tonight we were using a player who had intelligent running in spades and seemed already to have an idea what his strike partner was going to try. Given in his 80 minutes he played alongside McHugh, McFadden and young Moore this was good going. What they do have in common is a phenomenal workrate.
The concerning aspect of the game was our defending. The first goal came after three players tried to crowd out Tavernier and only succeeded in letting him play in Sammy Ameobi. His shot was blocked by Hollis but fell to Vuckic who had the easy job of stroking the ball into the empty net.
Vigurs almost replied immediately with a long range shot that was deflected wide for a corner. From that corner Lasley forced a superb save from Elliott with a powerful downward header.
In the fifteenth minute Newcastle scored a second as one long ball left us with a horrible 5 on 3 situation and when the ball was rolled into Gouffran he had a simple job of rolling it past the advancing Hollis.
A couple of minutes later the outstanding Vuckic flashed a volley just wide and in the 21st minute Ameobi should have made it three when his shot came off the post after he won possession after some dithering in possession by Vigurs.
In 26 minutes and against the run of play Motherwell pulled one back. Cummins played a nothing ball into the box and it looked like it would be easily cleared. However it wasn’t and Vigurs fired in a stunning volley that Elliot was not for saving.
Five minutes from half time Newcastle scored their third through Sissoko. His turn was outstanding and his volley was powerful enough but it was straight at Hollis. Unfortunately for Motherwell Hollis’ body did its best impersonation of the Red Sea and let the ball through it into the net. To be fair to our guests they were value for their two goal half time lead.
After half time Hollis, Cummins, Lawson and McHugh were left inside to be replaced by Neilson, Kerr, Francis-Angol and McFadden. The changes almost made an immediate impact when Ramsden played an outstanding cross field pass to Francis-Angol whose cross was heading for Kerr only for an outstanding bit of defending to deny him.
However it only stopped Motherwell for a couple of minutes as the industrious Carswell was caught by a trailing leg as he ran into the box and referee, William Collum had no option but to point to the spot. McFadden stepped up to hit it and was served with some mind games by Anita who tried to talk him off his game. It didn’t work and McFadden chipped the penalty a la Pirlo into the net. Motherwell were back in the game.
The second half didn’t have the same feeling from the visitors that they were going to score every time they attacked. Ramsden proving a better centre half pairing for Hutchinson than Cummins had been while Kerr seemed to have a much more success keeping Newcastle quiet on the left wing than Ramsden had before the break.
However Kerr did get caught up the pitch once and Gouffran crossed the ball and Marveaux turned it in for the final goal of the game with 25 minutes left.
Most of the remaining chances were ours. Lasley drove wide, McFadden had a shot blocked and Ramsden forced another good save from Elliott with a downward header from a beautiful cross from Kerr. Moore, Murray and Erwin all got a run out late on but by this time the game had slowed to a canter and there was no real chance to assess their performance.
All in it was a good night’s work and certainly more to be encouraged about than concerned about. With the addition of McManus to the defence you fancy this team is good enough to put another serious attempt at a top four finish in the coming year.
Motherwell 2–4 Newcastle United
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