MOTHERWELL’S daytrippers arrived at Galabank yesterday in the knowledge that their team would be a striker light as they went in seek of their first win in the Betfred Cup.

As it transpired, it would be Louis Moult, the man expected to be side-lined ahead of a groin operation, who would play a decisive role in place of crocked counterpart Scott McDonald as his two goals helped get his team’s campaign up and running with a 3-1 win away to Annan Athletic.

Last season’s Fir Park top goalscorer only came on as a substitute in the defeat to Rangers last weekend as a long-standing niggle moved Mark McGhee to leave him on the bench. However, after McDonald pulled up in training on Friday, the Motherwell manager’s decision to throw in the former Stoke City forward here was vindicated within the space of two second-half minutes as he put the Premiership side out of Annan’s sights.

“He’s going in for an operation on Tuesday and it shows you how important he is to us,” said McGhee. “I’m delighted he’s off the mark before he goes in for his op as it puts him in a positive frame of mind.

“He is very fit and should come back quickly.”

Unsurprisingly, this was a tie that Motherwell dominated from start to finish. With the hosts camped in their own half during a frantic opening few minutes, it was a stunning strike from Marvin Johnson that put the visitors deservedly ahead. The winger rolled his marker from a quick Stevie Hammell throw and from the tightest of angles lashed a fierce left-foot half volley beyond Blair Currie and high into the top corner.

It only seemed a matter of time before a second would arrive and Stephen McManus must half thought he’d delivered three minutes before the break, but his header from a Lionel Ainsworth corner came back off the bar.

Two minutes later and just seconds before half-time, Annan broke level. Tony Ribeiro got space down the left and when his cross reached the box, Rabin Omar’s clever run and well-timed leap saw him glance a header beyond Craig Samson from 10 yards.

Despite the leveller, it did little to change the tide in the second half as Motherwell pushed for a second. Currie saved smartly from a direct Johnson free-kick, while Moult had a header from an Ainsworth corner cleared off the line by Steve Black.

However, Moult would soon make his mark. Some fancy footwork from man-of-the-match Johnson on the right side outfoxed Black and his inch-perfect delivery was easily chested home from just a couple of yards by Moult after 61 minutes.

The man who got 18 goals last term got his second of this season just two minutes later, again courtesy of a piece of brilliance from Johnson. The former Kidderminster Harriers winger sent Moult scampering through on goal with a back-heeled flick and the striker calmly finished into the bottom corner.

“We are disappointed with the goals we lost, especially after warning the boys of what could happen,” said Jim Chapman, the Annan manager, whose side have lost all three of the games played in Group F. “We’ve worked hard again, another Premiership team with three games in seven days. There’s a lot of positives to work with.”

Meanwhile, it was a frustrating game for Motherwell trialist Lee Lucas, who last just 34 minutes. Signed on a two-week deal in order to make him eligible for the competition, the former Swansea City midfielder hobbled off with a tight hamstring.

“I thought he started well and made some good passes,” added McGhee. “We are going to have to look at that and see how it leaves us.”