Pope spoils Millers’ Christmas

Motherwell produced a ruthless attacking display to defeat

Aberdeen 4-1 at Fir Park and go level on points with Inverness in

second place in the Scottish Premier League.

Tom Hateley headed home Jamie Murphy’s cross after 10 minutes to

give Stuart McCall’s side the lead against the run of play.

The hosts again punished Aberdeen’s failure to take their

chances as Murphy doubled their advantage on the half-hour mark,

however Jonny Hayes powered through the midfield before powering an

effort past Darren Randolph to reduce the deficit just minutes

later.

Murphy notched his 10th goal of the season on the stroke of

half-time to provide a timely boost for Well and Michael Higdon

added a fourth 10 minutes into the second half.

Former Scotland Under-21 international Murphy was handed a

chance to complete his hat-trick when Motherwell were awarded a

penalty with 25 minutes remaining, but his weak effort was saved by

Jamie Langfield.

The visitors passed up a glorious opportunity to open the

scoring after three minutes when Niall McGinn drilled wide after

Randolph had blocked from Joe Shaughnessy.

Motherwell burst into life after six minutes when Nicky Law

rattled Langfield’s bar with a fizzing effort from the edge of the

area, and the opening goal arrived three minutes later when

Murphy’s precise delivery was headed beyond Langfield by

Hateley.

Despite enjoying the better of the possession and chances

Aberdeen were again punished for their lack of cutting edge on the

half-hour mark as Murphy drove into the box before angling a low

shot past the despairing Langfield.

Motherwell were not to enjoy their two-goal advantage for long

as Hayes burst through the midfield before powering a shot low into

the bottom left-hand corner.

The home side got the perfect lift on the stroke of half-time as

Murphy slotted home his second of the afternoon.

Higdon was the first player to receive a yellow card for a

careless lunge on Mark Reynolds. The former St Mirren striker was

celebrating shortly afterwards however – as he slid the ball home

after some fantastic build-up play from Ojamaa.

It was Motherwell who looked the more likely to add to their

tally though and they were awarded a penalty when Ojamaa was

tripped inside the area by Clark Robertson, Murphy stepped up

hoping to seal his hat-trick, but was denied by Langfield.

The closing minutes brought little in the way of goalmouth

action and Motherwell held on for a victory that moves them level

on points with Inverness in second place in the league table.

Both sides had struggled to create chances in the opening 45

minutes despite Fleetwood dominating proceedings – Ball’s penalty

claim, rightly waved away by referee David Webb, the closest either

side came.

The home side upped the tempo after the break and grabbed the

lead following a period of sustained pressure.

Junior Brown found space down the left, his cross drifted onto

the head of Ball – his effort turned back across Barry Roche in the

Morecambe goal and into the net.

Fleetwood pushed for a second and could have doubled their

advantage when substitute Alex Titchiner pumped in a cross from the

right – Ball with a diving header which drifted wide.

Brown wasted an even better opportunity in the dying stages,

Titchiner with a low cross and with the goal gaping Brown somehow

firing over the bar.

Former Fleetwood man Richard Brodie created the visitors’ best

chance, beating Rob Atkinson but shooting well wide.

A goal-less first half of very few changes saw both teams

struggling to find their form with Rotherham going the nearest to

breaking the deadlock.

Rotherham did most of the attacking, Daniel Nardiello shot over

the bar after just two minutes and then from Ben Pringle’s pass

Alex Revell shaved the upright with a 10th minute shot. Johnny

Mullins’ header was deflected for a corner after 19 minutes and

Nardiello’s header after 38 minutes was wide of the target.

At the other end a bad back pass after eight minutes almost let

in Pope, but he was penalised for a foul on Rotherham goalkeeper

Andy Warrington and then Warrington denied Pope again after 35

minutes saving his header with his legs.

But ten minutes after the break it was Vale who got the vital

breakthrough. Following a throw on the right Ryan Burge picked out

Louis Dodds on the edge of the Rotherham penalty area and he

slotted the ball wide of Warrington and into the net.

And worse was to follow eight minutes later for Rotherham. Their

offside appeals were waved away and Vale’s leading marksman Pope

cut in from the left drawing Warrington out of his goal before

planting his shot into the corner of the net against his former

club.

Substitute Kieran Agard gave Rotherham some hope turning in a

cross from fellow substitute Courtney Cameron

with seven minutes to go, but Vale held out to spoil Rotherham’s

Christmas.