A stunning Tony Watt strike inspired a spirited Motherwell to sweep aside Dundee United in the Scottish Premiership at a rain-soaked Fir Park.
Watt’s first-time shot from the edge of the box flew into the top corner in a showing brimming with endeavour.
Kevin van Veen and Stephen O’Donnell should have made sure of the points in the second half as the heavens opened.
But, despite Barry Maguire’s late red card, Watt’s ninth of the term was enough to clinch the win.
The points for Motherwell narrow the gap on United in fourth to a single point.
Motherwell were given a taste of their own medicine on Saturday.
Recent triumphs against Aberdeen an Hearts were meted out in performances whipped in a flurry of energy and purpose. In a 3-0 defeat at Dens, though, a whirlwind start from Dundee simply blew them away.
In the swirling wind and driving Lanarkshire rain, however, Graham Alexander’s men were a force United simply couldn’t deal with in the early stages.
Motherwell smothered their visitors from the outset. Callum Slattery went close, as did Watt, who should have done better with a free header in the middle of the box. Perhaps he was just finding his range.
Moments later, he didn’t miss. A breakaway saw the ball trickle towards him on the angle at the edge of the box. Without thinking, Watt met it true, sending a shot sailing straight over Benjamin Siegrist. Fir Park’s held silence was shattered as the ball crashed into the far corner.
The opener triggered a monsoon of pressure flooding towards Siegrist’s goal. Slattery spurned a header when he should have done better, while United’s defence creaked under the intensity of Motherwell’s pressure.
Such was the bluntness of United’s forays forward, Nicky Clark was substituted on before the break in an attempt to spark the visitors into life.
Courts’ side rallied after the hour but Motherwell should have been out of sight by then. Van Veen spun on the penalty spot with poise only to lash wide. He’d fire wide later when it looked easier to hit the target.
Both sides struggled with deluge as the game wore on, with the torrent saving both sides in defence with a host of sticking crosses and balls holding up amid sprays of water.
However, Stephen O’Donnell was left staring at the opening heavens as he somehow conspired to fluff a tap in at the back post.
United were pressing hard for an equaliser at the death and they were given extra encouragement with Maguire’s second yellow for a rash challenge on Ian Harkes.
Man of the match – Tony Watt
What did we learn?
When Motherwell click, boy, do they click.
Alexander described wins over Hearts and Aberdeen as some of the best showings of his tenure, but this one was up there with the best of them.
Courts’ side have earned plenty of plaudits this season but they just couldn’t cope with Motherwell’s intensity. Watt was tormentor-in-chief. His goal was a blockbuster, and he continues to show his savviness for the Fir Park club. It was a streetwise performance from the former Scotland cap.
For United, Courts will be alarmed at how impotent his side were at Fir Park. Aside from a tame effort in the opening moments, they did not lay a soggy glove on Motherwell, who now have them in their sights in the league table.
It’s just now one win in six for United, with the significant test of Celtic up next.
Motherwell travel to face Hibernian on Saturday (15:00 GMT), while United are in action the following day when they welcome Celtic (12:00).
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- 21Solholm JohansenSubstituted forO’Donnellat 59′minutes
- 19McGinleyBooked at 77mins
- 6MaguireBooked at 82mins
- 27GossBooked at 77mins
- 7WoolerySubstituted forGrimshawat 89′minutes
- 9van VeenSubstituted forCarrollat 84′minutes
- 33McMannSubstituted forSpörleat 75′minutesBooked at 78mins
- 21GlassSubstituted forClarkat 42′minutes
- 14HotiBooked at 71mins
- 7NiskanenSubstituted forWatsonat 57′minutes
Match ends, Motherwell 1, Dundee United 0.
Second Half ends, Motherwell 1, Dundee United 0.
Attempt missed. Louis Appéré (Dundee United) header from the centre of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Adrián Spörle with a cross.
Foul by Florent Hoti (Dundee United).
Sean Goss (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt blocked. Charlie Mulgrew (Dundee United) left footed shot from more than 35 yards is blocked.
Ian Harkes (Dundee United) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Ricki Lamie (Motherwell).
Attempt saved. Darren Watson (Dundee United) right footed shot from more than 35 yards is saved in the centre of the goal.
Foul by Ian Harkes (Dundee United).
Callum Slattery (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Substitution, Motherwell. Liam Grimshaw replaces Kaiyne Woolery.
Offside, Dundee United. Charlie Mulgrew tries a through ball, but Ryan Edwards is caught offside.
Kieran Freeman (Dundee United) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Nathan McGinley (Motherwell).
Substitution, Motherwell. Jake Carroll replaces Kevin van Veen.
Second yellow card to Barry Maguire (Motherwell) for a bad foul.
Ian Harkes (Dundee United) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Barry Maguire (Motherwell).
Foul by Darren Watson (Dundee United).