A makeshift home side were well beaten by a better organised Dundee United team at Fir Park in this fourth round tie. The young Motherwell side tried till the end and never gave up but there were few signs of promise and it could well be a bleak outlook for the rest of the season.
Bright sunshine and a clear blue sky greeted the teams as they ran out on a perfect winter's day for football. The temperature was near to freezing but the anticipation of a great cup tie lay ahead despite an unfamiliar look to the 'Well side.
Not for a long time have the Fir Park faithful been so perplexed and confused on hearing the tannoy announcement of the 'Well team. The enforced absence of Goodman and Strong as well as the departure of Brannan was known in advance, but to be without McCulloch, McMillan and Kemble through injury was a nasty surprise.
We lined up 3-5-2 with Townsley in the centre (and to his credit he pulled off a creditable performance). There were five in midfield including Lasley and Oueifio.
United started well and must have been taken aback by collecting a goal in three minutes - it has become our custom to concede a soft one in the last few minutes rather than at the start of the game! Miller ran through the middle with the ball and slipped it under Goram. Few 'Well fans expected any recovery as United continued to press for the next goal and it was not until mid way through the half that we started to look like we might pull level.
Elliott had a good run stopped on the penalty spot and Spencer has an overhead from ten yards. But our best chance came in twenty nine minutes when Twaddle put in a great cross from the right corner flag to find Elliott rising at the far post. He got the header on target and the ball almost got into the net at the junction of post and bar but the goalie touched it on to the woodwork and the chance was gone.
Ten minutes later we lost possession in midfield and the ball was moved into our area, passed square and Easton had an easy tap in. At that stage the game was over and it seemed that we could be facing a rout.
Goram had to pull off a good save just after the break to prevent the third goal and Billy started to make changes. At ten minute intervals McFadden replaced Adams, Nicholas came on for Twaddle and finally young Brian Dempsey swapped with Corrigan as we threw everything up the park in the hope of grabbing something from the game. But to be honest we never looked liked getting anything from the match and the United defence was rarely troubled.
It will be a month before we play at Fir Park again (St Patrick's day v Rangers) and if we gain any points in the intervening three away games it will be a pleasant surprise. The season looks over and Billy is now concentrating on preparing some of the youngsters for first team football next season.
We must judge the remaining performances on that basis.
Corrigan (S72 Dempsey) Townsley Hammell
Oueifio Elliott Leitch Adams (S55 McFadden) Lasley
Spencer Twaddle (S67 Nicholas)
Subs unused: Woods Ramsay
Referee S Dougal
Motherwell 0 Dundee United 2
17 February 2001