Football: Motherwell fail to bridge gap

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The Independent Online
Motherwell 1

Coyne pen 36

Dundee United 1

Zetterlund 66

Attendance: 5,382

Little by little, Motherwell is dying. The town's Ravenscraig steel works was first to go, now it could be their football team after Alex McLeish's endangered side passed up the chance to avoid having to put their Premier League status on the line in the post-season play-off.

The Motherwell manager had expressed hope before the game that his team could move closer to the heels of Kilmarnock and Hibs above them - "Something has to give in our favour" - but in the end things remain the same, with the draws at Fir Park and Rugby Park cancelling each other out.

The deflation from Motherwell was visible as they trooped off at the final whistle, scorning the opportunity to gain a valuable victory against a team who played with 10 men for 51 minutes after Stewart McKimmie was sent off for his second caution. Now they have only two games left, one of which is against Rangers at Ibrox on 5 May, and have to take all six points if they are to have any hope.

Yet optimism flourished around Fir Park after Tommy Coyne gave Motherwell a 36th-minute lead from the penalty spot. The Republic of Ireland striker had earned the award himself when Steven Pressley pushed him in the back and Coyne grabbed the ball from the regular kicker Owen Coyle before stroking it past Dundee United's keeper, Sieb Dykstra.

Three minutes later McKimmie, who had been booked for dissent following the penalty, brought down Coyle in full flight and earned the second yellow card that sealed his dismissal.

United, however, became far more expressive in the second half and it was little surprise when Lars Zetterlund equalised for them in the 65th minute when he pounced on a headed clearance from the Motherwell defender Mitchell van der Gaag and drilled his shot in off the post.

The Swedish midfielder's reward, sadly, was to be stretchered off in a climactic final few minutes after a collision with Van der Gaag, and then Motherwell's Kevin Christie was sent off for a second caution.