Saturday, 16 July 2011

Motherwell 1 Leeds United 2

Having beaten Falkirk in midweek, United manager Simon Grayson was again looking to utilise his full squad for the game against SPL side Motherwell.And it was Leeds who created the first opening of the game when Lloyd Sam sent over a cross which Billy Paynter puled back across goal inside the first minute.It was a lively opening to the game and Paul Rachubka was also called into action inside the opening five minutes to make a decent save at the near post after good build-up play by the home side.Motherwell midfielder Keith Lasley received a stern talking to early in the game following an altercation that was ended by an intervening Paddy Kisnorbo.Leeds were backed by a terrific away following at Fir Park, too, giving some atmosphere to the game.Michael Brown and Adam Clayton were the sitting central midfielders for United with Jonny Howson being given licence to play in an advanced role.And Clayton was the instigator of what appeared to be the opening goal. The youngster whipped in a cross from the left and Paynter poked the ball home from close range - but the effort was ruled out by an offside flag.
Moments later, Motherwell mounted a raid down their left and Steven Hammell smashed a shot against the post after cutting in at an angle.
As the half wore on the rain started to fall, making the pitch greasy, and two Motherwell defenders may have struggled a little when they combined to send Sam sprawling on 34 minutes to win a penalty for United.
Ross McCormack, Scotland international and one-timer Motherwell favourite, stepped up to take the spot-kick, but his effort was saved by Darren Randolph, who dived low to his left.
Motherwell had an opportunity themselves after Kisnorbo was somewhat harshly penalised on the edge of the box, but the resultant free-kick was over the head of Paul Rachubka and over the bar.
The hosts did get their noses in front on 39 minutes, though, when Chris Humphrey found space on the right and his low cross was converted by Jamie Murphy who slid the ball home at the far post.
Just over 60 seconds later, McCormack had the ball in the net at the other end after good work by Sam, but the whistle had already gone for an infringement.
And shortly before half-time, Aidy White embarked on a run that saw him carry the ball a full 50 yards before his pull-back cross was cleared over his own bar by Motherwell defender Shaun Hutchinson.
Grayson made four changes at half-time with Alex Bruce, Ben Parker, Max Gradel and Rob Snodgrass all being handed run-outs. The rain also returned with vengance at the start of the second period as the game kicked off in a torrential downpour.
The home side started brightly and after Paul Connolly cut out one cross, Alex Bruce headed away a corner from underneath his own bar.
But Bruce was involved at the other end moments later when he had a header turned over the bar after McCormack saw a shot turned wide.
Snodgrass was also denied with a header, following a good cross from Gradel after Paynter had charged down a poor clearance.
Gradel threatened again on 60 minutes when he had a shot deflected to Randolph in the Motherwell goal, but the home side came storming back up the park and Rachubka showed good command of his box by coming out to punch the ball clear.
Zac Thompson was next to be denied after a move he started and finished. He released McCormack with a good ball and collected the return before being denied by Randolph. Thye Motherwell goalkeeper also pushed the resultant corner over the top under pressure from Snodgrass.
But the next corner proved decisive as Randolph failed to collect and Bruce was on hand to convert from close range to make it 1-1.
Motherwell responded when Rachubka had to save a Michael Higdon header and on the break Thompson saw a shot deflected wide for United. The hosts again failed to deal with the set-play and Randolph had tol be alert to make an instinctive block to deny Bruce once again.
Moments later, United were in front, though, courtesy of a stunning solo effort from Ramon Nunez. The Honduran showed great skill to weave his way through on goal before working an opening for himself to slip the ball home to make it 2-1.
Having surrendered leads like this last season, Grayson was looking for his troops to close the game out and both Rachubka and Parker made good clearances when Motherwell came forward.
Gradel almost created a third, but was denied by a good challenge when McCormack was waiting in the middle, while at the other end substitute goalkeeper Alex Cairns warmed his hands by collecting a free-kick, curled in from just outside of the area. Cairns also made another decent save late on.
And that proved to be the last real action of what was another impressive pre-season outfit as United ended the week in Scotland by recording a second successive victory north of the border.

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