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Motherwell 2-1 Dundee United

By Thomas McGuigan

David Clarkson is congratulated after heading the winner for Motherwell
David Clarkson's header secured maximum points for the hosts

Motherwell substitute David Clarkson secured a controversial victory against Dundee United at Fir Park.

Well striker John Sutton broke the deadlock with a cool finish from Jim O'Brien's cross on 27 minutes.

Francisco Sandaza equalised for a revitalised United after the break with a predatory finish in the 51st minute.

United appealed in vain for a penalty after Maros Klimpl appeared to foul Danny Swanson in the box and Clarkson's header seconds later sealed the points.

Motherwell flew out of the traps from the first whistle and Sutton curled a beautiful 25-yard just wide in the second minute.

Both sides tried desperately to play the ball on the surface, but the poor Fir Park pitch meant the players regularly chose the aerial route to goal.

Dundee United captain Lee Wilkie sent a header over the bar from about six yards after Warren Feeney had set up his team-mate from Paul Caddis's inviting cross.

Cillian Sheridan fired in a shot after 13 minutes which was brilliantly parried by Lukasz Zaluska and Sutton could not convert the rebound.

The hosts took a deserved lead 14 minutes later with United temporarily down to 10 men while Garry Kenneth received treatment for a head knock.

Jim O'Brien's cross from the left was steered home by Sutton as United's defence dithered and Well were ruthless with their numerical advantage.

Motherwell defender Paul Quinn then produced a comedy moment when he sliced a shot wide from inside the penalty area and looked on helplessly as the ball trickled out for a throw-in.

Sheridan spurned a great chance to double Motherwell's lead six minutes before the break when he broke free of United's defence after a superb pass from Stephen Hughes.

But the on-loan Celtic striker's shot lacked conviction and Kenneth got back to clear off the line.

The United defender almost equalised moments later but he blazed just wide of Graeme Smith's goal.

United's players must have received the proverbial flea in their ear at half-time from manager Craig Levein as they looked a different proposition after the break.

And substitute Sandaza equalised from close-range in the 51st minute after the Motherwell defence failed to clear a Caddis corner.

Well defender Brian McLean spurned a great chance to re-establish their lead when the defender ballooned the ball high and wide from inside the penalty area.

Dundee United substitute Francisco Sandaza equalised at Fir Park
Francisco Sandaza equalised but United left Fir Park with nothing

Motherwell goalkeeper Smith produced a world-class save to deny Danny Swanson from giving United the lead when he palmed away his goal-bound effort.

The visitors wanted a penalty with 15 minutes remaining when Swanson appeared to be chopped down in the box by Klimpl, but referee Iain Brines waved away their appeals.

Seconds later, much to the fury of United boss Craig Levein, Motherwell were ahead for the second time in the game.

O'Brien was the hosts' creative spark again when he danced away from the United defence and his cross was headed home by substitute Clarkson at the second attempt.

Sutton then slid the ball wide when it looked easier to score as Motherwell looked to make the points safe.

United failed to find an equaliser late on and their angry players trudged off believing they should have taken something from the game.

Motherwell manager Mark McGhee :

"I think the game was not the best and the performance was not the best that we can play.

"The conditions and surface were not conducive to silky football, but we ground it out.

"Both teams certainly went at it and knew how important a game it was.

"It brings us back into the chase for third spot, so it was a significant result, although it is going to be a big ask and fourth is perhaps more realistic.

"If the referee had given them a foul just before our winning goal, I would have not complained as there seemed to be a collision."

Dundee United manager Craig Levein: "When you've got the captain of the opposition team telling you he thought it was a penalty then it's quite galling.

"These things happen and you just have to deal with it. What's happened, has happened.

"I take great heart from the way we played today; particularly in the second half.

"Fir Park is a hard venue to get anything from. But I think we controlled the game for long spells.

"We had some great chances but it just wasn't to be our day today.

"I'm very proud of our players and their application. I can't point the finger of blame at the players."

Motherwell: Graeme Smith, Quinn, Brian McLean (Fitzpatrick 85), Craigan, Reynolds, Hammell, O'Brien, Klimpl, Hughes, Sheridan (Clarkson 69), Sutton. Subs Not Used: Krysiak, Lasley, McGarry, Malcolm, Murphy.

Booked: Klimpl, Clarkson.

Goals: Sutton 27, Clarkson 75.

Dundee Utd: Zaluska, Kovacevic, Wilkie, Kenneth, Dixon, Caddis (Conway 83), Gomis, Buaben (Sandaza 46), Wesolowski, Daly (Swanson 46), Feeney. Subs Not Used: McGovern, Dillon, Shala, David Robertson.

Booked: Gomis, Wesolowski, Swanson, Wilkie.

Goals: Sandaza 51.

Att: 4,798

Ref: I Brines

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see also
SPL as it happened
14 Mar 09 |  Scottish Premier
SPL photo gallery
14 Mar 09 |  Scottish Premier

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