by Richard Early
A LAST-minute winner gave Motherwell victory against Crusaders in a testimonial match for Crues record goalscorer, Jordan Owens.
The first opportunity at Seaview Stadium came the Hatchetmen’s way after five minutes, but Michael Carvill’s effort from the edge of the area cannoned off the crossbar.
Five minutes later, the Steelmen had a terrific chance to break the deadlock. Ryan Bowman found space outside the box and his strike went well wide of the left upright.
Stephen Baxter’s side had the ball in the net, after 16 minutes but it was ruled offside. Jordan Owens struck from close-range and was ready to celebrate until he spotted the linesman’s flag.
After 37 minutes, Well came close through George Newell. The forward intercepted a poor pass deep in Crusaders’ half and fired on target – Harry Doherty parried before the danger was cleared.
The woodwork came to the away side’s rescue for the second consecutive time, after 40 minutes. Matthew Snoddy leapt to head towards the top, right corner and Mark Gillespie acrobatically tipped onto the crossbar. Luke Murray was there on the rebound and scooped over.
As half-time approached, Gael Bigirimana produced a curling effort from the right of the area but Doherty tipped wide. The resulting corner was played short to Aaron Taylor Sinclair, who drove on target and Snoddy cleared off the line.
After the interval, it took eight minutes for Motherwell to come close. Liam Grimshaw lofted a cross for Curtis Main, who headed off the crossbar – the third time it had been struck.
The affair progressed to provide little opportunities – both sides weren’t threatening. Cedric Kipre had the next opportunity as he rose at the back-post to head into the side-netting.
Crusaders had a superb chance to score through Matthew Donnelly, after 89 minutes. The midfielder tussled with Kipre and won the battle before striding through on goal. However, his shot was weak and Ronan Ferguson saved.
Two minutes into added time, Motherwell broke the deadlock. Rodriguez Gorrin drew Harry Clarke and flicked on for Danny Johnstone who headed into the empty net.
The last-minute winner was harsh on the semi-professional side, who put on a tireless performance against the professionals.
Jordan Owens, 28, has been with the Irish Premiership champions throughout his career. He left the pitch to a standing ovation.
Crusaders: Doherty (H. Clarke 90’), Burns (Glackin 56’), K. Owens (Magowan 82’), Beverland (Morrow 82’), Murray (Cushley 56’), Coates, Lowry (Rainey 82’), Snoddy, J. Owens (Donnelly 76’), Carvill (R. Clarke 63’), Brown (Ruddy 63’).
Subs not used: Nimick.
Motherwell first-half: Gillespie, Tait, Taylor-Sinclair, McHugh, Hartley, Bowman, Newell, Bigirimana, Maguire, Brown, Turnbull.
Motherwell second-half: Ferguson, Kipre, Dunne, Donnelly, Grimshaw, Campbell, Rose, Rodriguez Gorrin, Main, Frear, Johnson.