In his second appearance for the Lanarkshire club, the on-loan Rotherham United man popped up 11 minutes after entering the fray as a substitute to send a rasping shot from 35 yards swerving wickedly into the Dundee United net to earn a merited draw for Stuart McCall's side.
It was a point which appeared to be running away from Motherwell after a promising start; Henri Anier's goal in the first half gave the visitors a deserved lead. However, the memory of the Estonian's strike soon faded as a mixture of a spirited United fight back and dire defending gifted the hosts the upper hand. "I might feel different later but the first sense is one of disappointment," said the Motherwell manager. "I felt at half-time we stopped their good players playing, we looked in relative control.
"We've been doing well with a few 1-0s and clean sheets, but the two goals we lost are disappointing. We were disappointed with the way we started the second half to let them back into it. When the time comes we've got to defend well, and I don't think we did."
Ainsworth's arrival has been an understated one. The 25-year old has had more clubs than you could shake a proverbial stick at - 14 to be exact - but his fleeting substitute showing yesterday was a sight for sore eyes for many of the travelling support. The exit of Chris Humphrey, Nicky Law and Henrik Ojamaa in the summer has been a source of frustration, as their pace and guile followed the trio out of the door. Their creativity has been hard to replicate, too, with even James McFadden dropping to the bench yesterday as McCall continues to tinker with his midfield set-up.
However, Ainsworth's pace and delivery was a threat for the visitors as they pushed for a winner, having regained a firm footing in the match. "He tore us for shreds when I was with Bradford against Hereford years ago," recalls the Motherwell manager. "He's had loads of clubs. Lee Clark bought him for Huddersfield, Aidy Boothroyd bought him for Watford, so a lot of good managers have signed him. I knew about him, although I've never seen him score a goal like that."
With Keith Lasley, Iain Vigurs, Stuart Carswell and Zaine Francis-Angol operating in a lop-sided and congested midfield, it was inevitable Motherwell would control the bulk of possession in the opening exchanges. Stephen McManus went close with a diving header early on, while Anier had several good chances to put the hosts ahead. First, a drilled effort was deflected into Radoslaw Cierzniak's arms, before the Estonian latched on to a ball over the top from Vigurs and hammered a half volley from 18 yards just over. Anier has scored three times this season and only needed one more invitation before he claimed his fourth. Francis-Angol, who was a lone winger for Motherwell as they looked to exploit the left flank, surged forward before cutting inside Keith Watson and John Rankin and playing the ball back to the unmarked Anier 15 yards out. The striker was given time to chest the ball down and smash it low under Cierzniak.
At that stage, it was the least that Motherwell deserved. Yet United's perseverance enabled them to turn the game on its head in the second half. They had gone close before the break with a Watson header and a Stuart Armstrong drive that just whizzed by the far post. However, it was a defensive lapse by the visitors that gave Jackie McNamara's side a platform to build their resurgence on eight minutes after the interval. Lasley attempted to play out from the back at pace only to gift possession to Rankin. He spotted Simon Ramsden out of position and fed Nadir Citfci, who strode forward with purpose to smash a shot low under Lee Hollis from just inside the box.
Having won 4-2 in Dingwall last weekend, United's threat in attack was well telegraphed but it was a defender who doubled their lead five minutes later. Andrew Robertson, who signed from Queen's Park in the summer, was allowed to gallop over 70 yards to the edge of the visitors' box before dispatching a wicked left-foot shot beyond Hollis and into the far corner of the net. "Every United fan was singing his name, it's not just his goal today but it was his performance. He's been a revelation here, he just seems to get better and better," said McNamara of the 19-year-old.
Both sides were to come close again, with Armstrong failing to turn the ball in from three yards out and Lasley cannoning a 30-yard free-kick off the post. However, the Motherwell midfielder was outdone just moments later when Ainsworth crashed his shot into the top corner of the net. "I've maybe scored a couple better than that," said the man on loan until January. "I've had a few clubs but I've always believed in my ability."