Welcoming it with his familiarly languid gait, he killed it impeccably and fizzed forward a flat pass that bisected the Partick Thistle centre-backs but also eluded his team-mates. Play continued, but the 30-year-old stopped, consumed with rage, spinning round in a dark fury and gesticulating wildly while cursing his own imperfections.
It would become a familiar sight on a frustrating afternoon. Stationed on the right of a midfield four, McFadden was a peripheral figure for large swathes of this game against Partick Thistle, unable to dictate from the fringes and without the athleticism to truly trouble Aaron Taylor-Sinclair in wide areas. He did make a valuable contribution by curtailing the full-back's attacking thrusts but such successes have never held much value for a man of his talents.
Instead, goals and, to a lesser extent, assists have always been his currency of choice so his bleak outlook was probably coloured by the four opportunities he spurned during the second half alone. Inside one six-minute spell, three chances came and went: a magnificent leap to meet Simon Ramsden's cross was followed by a header over the bar, a wild thrash at John Sutton's cutback lacked composure, then a 25-yard scud clattered against the advertising hoardings with goalkeeper Scott Fox beaten. Near the end, McFadden broke but, with only Aaron Muirhead to beat, he stumbled over the ball, the threat dissipating to a soundtrack of despair from supporters desperate for their local hero to make his mark.
That Motherwell held firm during a fraught finale to stem a run of three consecutive defeats was a source of some succour, but their poster boy offered a brusque assessment of his own contribution. "My game's not been good enough," McFadden said. "I was closer today but I'm not going to be happy coming off the pitch and taking a pat on the back just because someone else thinks I've played well. I probably am a bit hard on myself; I want to be 10 out of 10 every week so if I make a mistake I get frustrated. I'm not going to try and hide it.
"It's different when you're a young boy and you can make 10 or 15 mistakes and people think, 'it's all right, he'll get better'. I'm not a young boy anymore and I want to make every pass count and do something with the ball every time."
McFadden concedes that his state of mind is perhaps coloured by the knowledge that he lacks the sharpness to do the things of which he is undoubtedly capable. That will come, he insists, and might even be accompanied by a Scotland summons. The attacker still retains ambitions to be part of Gordon Strachan's plans but admits his three-year exile has been sair tae bear and acknowledges that the retirement of contemporary Kenny Miller offers a reminder that time is not on his side. "I don't enjoy not being involved, I don't enjoy my time off and I don't enjoy watching Scotland games," he said. "I'm still learning to deal with things that I don't want to be dealing with. Getting back into the Scotland set-up is something I'd love but I've just got to accept the fact I'm not involved and try to impress the manager."
Perhaps playing for a successful Motherwell team would further his candidature to add to his 48 caps but Stuart McCall's recast side are still some way shy of the team that earned consecutive top-three finishes. The manager spoke of the value of a clean sheet after conceding five in their previous two games, but he is still troubled by a lack of fluency in attack. To that end, he is hopeful of adding a player with pace, having narrowly missed out on a couple of loan signings last week.
Thistle, too, could perhaps do with another option in the final third. After a first half in which Motherwell prevented them playing, the visitors were roused after the introduction of the menacing Kallum Higginbotham but were unable to capitalise on several sustained periods of pressure. Neither Kris Doolan, nor replacement John Baird, came close to scoring and, although chances were scarce for both, it is hard to escape the conclusion that a more reliable source of goals will be needed if Alan Archibald's side are to thrive in the top division.
"If teams are going to set up defensively against us, we just have to find a way to deal with it," said Isaac Osbourne, the Thistle midfielder. "From the first three or four games, I've been very impressed with the way we work the ball. I've not seen a team in the league pass the ball the way we can but we just need to finish off our good work."