Well and Terrors share spoils

United had some decent chances towards the end of a scrappy first

half in Saturday’s SPL encounter but Darren Randolph saved well

from John Rankin and Jon Daly in quick succession. Motherwell

pushed United back for much of the second half but the visitors

defended their penalty box resolutely. Several hundred Motherwell

fans braved the cold and rain to attend a pre-match ceremony to

unveil artwork paying tribute to former captain Phil O’Donnell, who

died almost four years ago after collapsing during a game against

United. But the weather proved more of a problem on the park with

the wind affecting the flow of the game, although both sides tried

to pass the ball throughout. Motherwell retain a solid grip on

third place and have still only lost to St Johnstone outside the

Old Firm but they struggled for a cutting edge as they failed to

add to their six home goals in the SPL, with Omar Daley unable to

make an impact after retaining his place following his winner at

Aberdeen. United got the first effort on target but it came from

inside their own half as John Rankin tried and failed to catch

Randolph off his line. Motherwell’s first chance fell to Michael

Higdon just outside the box following Randolph’s long kick but his

shot appeared to be heading wide before Dusan Pernis made sure.

Randolph then held a decent drive from Gary Mackay-Steven. United

manager Peter Houston had vowed not to be so “kamikaze” after

suffering four defeats at Fir Park last season but his side were

almost caught on the break on the half hour. Nicky Law released

Chris Humphrey after Motherwell cleared a corner but United

recovered to get men behind the ball and the move ended with Keith

Lasley volleying over from a difficult chance. Higdon tapped the

ball in the net in the 35th minute after Garry Kenneth had

stretched to stab Humphrey’s low cross against his own post but the

ball had gone over the line before the winger crossed. United

threatened several times before the break. Randolph pushed away

Rankin’s volley after a corner and then parried Jon Daly’s curling

effort after Shaun Hutchinson had misjudged a high ball. The

goalkeeper then held Kenneth’s looping header following another

corner. Motherwell stepped up a gear after half-time with Humphrey

and Tom Hateley putting in some dangerous crosses. Pernis held

Hutchinson’s header right on his line following Stevie Hammell’s

corner and, although Rankin had a shot saved at the other end,

Motherwell continued to make most of the running. United were

getting men behind the ball though and Houston brought on defender

Sean Dillon for front player Johnny Russell on the hour mark.

Dillon, making his comeback from a calf injury, lined up in central

midfield. Kenneth could not get enough purchase on his back post

header to beat Randolph from Willo Flood’s corner and Steve

Jennings saved Motherwell with a brilliant last-ditch sliding

challenge on Rankin after United sub Lauri Dalla Valle had got away

from Hutchinson, who pulled up injured and was soon replaced by

Jonathan Page. Substitute Jamie Murphy had a low strike saved after

leading the resulting counter-attack and Motherwell pushed forward

without success in the closing stages. Rankin twice threatened to

snatch a late winner but slid wide from Scott Robertson’s low cross

before Randolph saved his bouncing long-range effort.