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Motherwell 2 Aberdeen 2: Visiting hand makes light work of hosts' resistance

IT may have arrived late, but the message which was hand delivered by Russell Anderson was received loud and clear by Motherwell.

Motherwell players appeal for a free kick after Anderson pushes the ball into the net. Picture: SNS
Motherwell players appeal for a free kick after Anderson pushes the ball into the net. Picture: SNS

The Fir Park side were powerless to stop the Pittodrie captain grabbing, quite literally, a draw for his team from this enthralling match as he appeared to swot the ball over the line on 93 minutes. However, it was not the only point which was made on Saturday by Derek McInnes' ensemble as they continue to stamp their authority on the SPFL Premiership.

In a fraught second half, Aberdeen twice showed remarkable resilience to come from behind to keep their third-placed hosts beneath them in the table. It was a result which was garnered in the face of trying adversity and truly hazardous conditions, with Ryan Jack and Barry Robson both leaving the field early with various ailments, as those unfortunate enough to be left on the park were forced to contend with the driving wind and rain on a sodden surface.

While the manner in which Anderson caressed the ball over the line was a topic of discussion in the immediate aftermath, the influence of the goal may be spoken about for some time as both these teams increasingly look like the prime candidates for 'best of the rest'. Not only did it maintain Aberdeen's upper hand in the race to finish second, more importantly it dampened the spirits of their hosts who appeared to have dealt with all McInnes' players had thrown at them. Apart from Anderson, of course.

"I've seen it and it looks a bit of a handball to be fair," admitted Stephen McManus, the Motherwell defender who put the Lanarkshire side into a 1-0 lead just after half-time. "But I'm not wanting to sit here with sour grapes, over the course a draw was maybe a fair result. We defended well in the second half and it's disappointing to lose a goal late on, but Aberdeen have got that in their locker as they've done it in the last few weeks.

"Russell came in to try and get it over the line and I think he has used his hand. Sometimes you get the rub of the green and sometimes you don't. When you look at the resources Aberdeen have compared to us it's just night and day. They've been able to bring players in and we haven't, so it shows just how good a job the manager has done here. To finish second it's going to be tough, it's going to be a fight and that was shown today."

For Motherwell, it was a cruel end to a game which appeared to have turned their way after a stilted start. James McFadden had gone close before being substituted midway through the second half, while the ingenuity of his replacement Henri Anier crafted a superb second goal for the Fir Park club. The Estonian's quick feet drew three defenders before a cute one-two and cross took out the Aberdeen defence to let Zaine Francis-Angol slide the ball home.

Conversely it was by desperation rather than design that they held firm for as long as they did. McManus cleared one effort off the line while a series of stramashes were cleared before Anderson's late intervention.

Much of the concern caused at the back for the hosts revolved around Adam Rooney. The Irish striker enjoyed a fruitful debut in Lanarkshire at the apex of an Aberdeen attack which flowed freely for much of the afternoon under the influence of Niall McGinn and Robson.

It was the former Inverness Cale­donian Thistle forward's predatory instincts which allowed Aberdeen to grab a way back into this match as Motherwell goalkeeper Gunnar Nielsen handed him his first goal for his new club. The Faroe Islands internationalist spilled McGinn's dipping shot from range straight into Rooney's path, who reacted first to turn the ball into the net.

It was the dream start for a striker who has found contentment hard to come by since he left the Highlands for Birmingham City in 2011, with detours via Swindon and Oldham delaying his return back north.

The next opportunity for Rooney to repay the faith shown in him by McInnes will come in the League Cup semi-final on Saturday against St Johnstone, and the striker is determined to seize the opportunity afforded to him at Pittodrie.

"I want to start in the cup game but I just need to make sure I work hard in training for the manager," said Rooney, who fluffed his chance at a second goal when he shinned the ball over from six yards not long after equalising.

"I've settled in, everyone around the club has been brilliant in helping me settle in. The team is playing well, we just need to take the same performance into the game next week."

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