The Motherwell renaissance is on hold.
Graham Alexander’s hope of taking something from this game collapsed after goals in each half from two Aberdeen defenders, Tommie Hoban and Andrew Considine.
The win takes the Dons back into third place in the Premiership after a difficult week for boss Derek McInnes.
But it was the ordering off of Motherwell’s Liam Polworth two minutes into the second half that sparked fury in the Fir Park camp as they battled for an equaliser.
The midfielder expressed his anger at a challenge from Lewis Ferguson and, while he had already been cautioned for his involvement in a first-half skirmish with several other players, he was shown a straight red for “foul and abusive language” as he was helped to his feet following treatment.
Earlier, there were claims that Aberdeen’s Funso-King Ojo handled in the penalty area which appeared to be backed-up by TV pictures of the incident.
Alexander was thus unhappy
with Craig Napier and later found himself on the receiving end of the referee judgement when yellow carded for another decision that displeased him.
“I was told it was for foul and abusive language,” he said. “He did swear, not at the referee but the opponent who brought him down. I think the referee thought he was swearing at him. I haven’t spoken to the ref and I won’t.
“All we can do is make sure we replicate everything we put in that performance as I am proud of the team. We could have felt sorry for ourselves but we didn’t. We tried to keep attacking players on the pitch when we were down to 10 men.
“We did well in everything that was under our control but we can’t do anything about anything else. We can appeal the sending off as it was a straight red. Liam said he did swear, he admits that but I doubt he was the only one who swore today. It was just in whose direction but he says it was at the player who fouled him.”
It was obvious from the start that this was to be both passionate and combative. Declan Gallagher’s name was entered into the referee’s book after just five minutes, his crunching challenge on Lewis Ferguson prompting a yellow card for the Scotland defender.
There were, however, a few troublesome moments for the visitors in the opening stages as Ryan Hedges, operating on the right, invariably cut inside, made space for himself, then unleashed shots that were too close for goalkeeper Liam
But it was Matty Kennedy’s free kick from the right, deep into the Motherwell area, that unlocked the Steelmen’s defensive door for the game’s opener in 15 minutes as Hoban won the aerial challenge, and ensured his header would beat Kelly.
The visitors were determined to respond, though, and it needed some brave work from Joe Lewis at the other end to prevent them from drawing level. The big goalkeeper blocked a thunderous strike from Tony Watt and once more dealt courageously in stopping Sherwin Seedorf’s attempt from the rebound.
If we needed reminding that this was, indeed, a competitive clash, it came midway through the first half as a challenge right in front of the Motherwell dugout resulted in a bout of pushing and shoving followed by the flashing of yellow cards for Aberdeen’s Ojo and Scott Wright, and for Polworth.
But it was the straight red card for former Inverness player that was the big talking point . It was also irksome for Alexander as the player went down to a robust challenge from Aberdeen’s Ferguson two minutes after the break.
The referee clearly didn’t like what he heard from the Fir Park man and when he rose to his feet after treatment, he was invited to leave the pitch for language Mr Napier found unacceptable.
This was not what Alexander needed to stimulate a Motherwell comeback and his frustration boiled over just after an hour had been played as he expressed his displeasure at another refereeing decision and found himself yellow carded.
But while his team did not lack endeavour, they found it difficult being a man down and were mightily relived to see Kelly effect an astonishing save from Kennedy’s long range
effort with similar acts twice later.
Andrew Considine’s close-range 77th minute strike as the hosts sought to emphasise their superiority wrapped-up the win for the home side to please McInnes and perhaps silence some of his critics among the supporters.
“We go back to third in the table and are actually five points better off than we were at this stage last season,” the Reds, manager said.
“Now we move on to St Johnstone in midweek and hopefully we can build on today’s performance result.
“That’s the key for any team wherever you are in the league, to get that consistency, as we have only had five defeat this season and three in the league were against Rangers.”