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Page last updated at 16:56 GMT, Sunday, 18 January 2009

Dundee United 0-4 Motherwell

By Keir Murray

David Clarkson celebrates scoring Motherwell's third
David Clarkson put the match beyond doubt with Motherwell's third goal

Rampant Motherwell continued their fine start to 2009 with a comprehensive win over Dundee United at Tannadice Park.

United's Warren Feeney looked lively with an early shot and header, but it was Motherwell's Marc Fitzpatrick who headed the opener after 22 minutes.

Slovakian midfielder Maros Klimpl latched on to a loose ball to thump home the second from outside the box.

David Clarkson made it three after 32 minutes with a powerful shot and Chris Porter notched home for Well's fourth.

Motherwell took to the field knowing that a win would lift them to seventh in the table.

The Steelmen have looked stronger since Stephen Craigan's return to partner Mark Reynolds in defence and there were no signs of rustiness at Tannadice.

That defensive resolve was put to the test immediately after kick-off.

Steven Hammell was booked for fouling Feeney and there were only 45 seconds on the clock when Paul Dixon swept the resultant free-kick wide of the target.

Feeney shot straight into Graeme Smith's arms from 12 yards after a swift, skilful attack down the right by Jon Daly and Morgaro Gomis, and it was the Northern Irishman who threatened next when he diverted Craig Conway's crisp cross just wide.

Midway through the first half, Fitzpatrick marked his return to the side after illness with his first goal since Boxing Day 2006.

The Motherwell midfielder was at the back post to bullet a header beyond Lukasz Zaluska, having met Paul Quinn's cross perfectly.

Motherwell manager Mark McGhee smiles at Tannadice
After a poor December, Motherwell manager Mark McGhee can smile again

Motherwell doubled their lead through Klimpl, the Slovakian international thundering a 20-yard strike beyond the helpless Zaluska.

With United reeling, Motherwell pressed forward at every chance to put the game beyond their hosts.

And, after 32 minutes, Garry Kenneth was dispossessed and Jim O'Brien fed a confident-looking Clarkson, who jinked across the United defence, dummying Lee Wilkie en-route, sped into the box and rifled a superb left-foot shot into the top corner.

If their first was against the run of play, Clarkson's screamer was indicative of the greater precision in Well's general play and finishing.

It is a measure of United manager Craig Levein's standing at Tannadice that, at half-time, when he gestured to the home fans to add their vocal support in the second period, the crowd responded with cheers.

Few managers would escape without a chorus of boos.

Yet the first chance of the second half fell once more to the visitors.

Give your reaction to the astonishing scoreline at Tannadice

Clarkson, aggressive and direct, wriggled between the Terrors' defence and squared across the face of goal, but the stretching Porter was unable to apply the killer touch.

Conway and Paul Dixon attempted to conjure a way back into the game for United, but the latter's eventual shot from the free-kick flew into the arms of Smith.

Motherwell's clinical finishing and United's torrid defending put the result beyond doubt 18 minutes into the second half.

Substitute Danny Swanson was caught cold and Fitzpatrick rewarded Porter for his run into the box, supplying the pass for the Huddersfield signing target to clip the ball home for his ninth of the season.

A Feeney header across goal was United's best chance for a consolation goal, but Smith kept a clean sheet.

Dundee United manager Craig Levein:

"Up until their first goal I felt so comfortable, it was incredible, and 3-0 at half-time was never a true reflection of the game.

"Everything they hit went in, and I told the players at half-time that happens some days.

"On a day when our goalkeeper hasn't had a save to make we lose four goals.

"I've got to credit Motherwell too, we were soundly beaten today and sometimes you've just got to take it on the chin.

"But the league's wide open, anybody can beat anybody, and today proved that."

Motherwell manager Mark McGhee:

"I was delighted obviously with the performance and I thought we were very convincing.

"I've been saying it all week, I've been warning people that this was coming. But we still had to go out and actually do it.

"We've trained as well as, if not better than, we've done since I've been at the club.

"Dundee United are a really good team and we know that we've got a lot to do to catch them.

"But I said before the game we needed to beat them to do that so now we're on their tails so we're going to chase them to the line."

Dundee Utd: Zaluska, Dillon, Wilkie, Kenneth, Dixon, Gomis, Scott Robertson (Swanson 58), Flood (David Robertson 72), Conway, Feeney, Daly (Sandaza 61).
Subs Not Used: McGovern, Kovacevic, Buaben, Johnathen Russell.

Booked: Dillon, Kenneth.

Motherwell: Graeme Smith, Quinn, Reynolds, Craigan, Hammell, O'Brien (McGarry 72), Hughes, Klimpl, Fitzpatrick, Porter (Darren Smith 83), Clarkson (Murphy 72).
Subs Not Used: Krysiak, Malcolm, Sutton, Hutchinson.

Booked: Hammell.

Goals: Fitzpatrick 23, Klimpl 27, Clarkson 33, Porter 63.

Att: 7,090

Ref: E Smith

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Motherwell's Chris Porter 8.40 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

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