Motherwell picked off an Inverness Caledonian Thistle side who appeared to suffer the mental exhaustion of losing the Scottish League Cup final.

Billy McKay forced a couple of early saves from returning Well goalkeeper Gunnar Nielsen.

But fine balls from fit-again Stevie Hammell exploited losses of concentration in the visiting defence.

And Caley Thistle pressure could not overturn the resulting first-half goals from Lionel Ainsworth and John Sutton.

The three points lift Motherwell level with second-top Aberdeen, although the League Cup winners have played one less game, while defeat leaves Caley Thistle nine points adrift of the victors in the chase for Europa League qualifying places.

It also leaves Inverness manager John Hughes still searching for a balance between the solidity that served predecessor Terry Butcher so well and a more adventurous style that has recently leaked so many goals while also failing to score in their last give games.

Lionel Ainsorth and John Sutton celebrate

Ainsorth and Sutton scored Motherwell's goals against Caley Thistle

Hughes had ignored the effects of possible hangover and fatigue by keeping faith with most of the side that battled bravely for 120 minutes on Sunday before losing out on penalties to the Dons.

Aaron Doran, who had been dropped to the bench at Celtic Park, was back in favour, swapping places with the man who replaced him, Marley Watkins, and the speedy winger immediately created a chance on the break at Fir Park.

Greg Tansey's first-time shot, though, was a mere confidence booster for Nielsen, with the goalkeeper, who was taking over from the injured Lee Hollis, flopping onto the low drive.

Hammell, another of Well manager Stuart McCall's three changes, swiftly created even more danger at the other end, but the left-back's low cross to the front post just evaded Sutton's toes.

However, Caley Thistle were the more incisive side in the early stages and McKay had two dangerous efforts well saved.

A first-time strike from a clever James Vincent chest down and a half-volley following a David Raven cross might have given Nielsen greater problems had the Caley Thistle top marksman's scoring rate not deserted him since the new year.

Suddenly, gaps started to appear in the Caley Thistle backline and Ainsworth had a volley pushed wide by Dean Brill and, from the corner, the goalkeeper was also called into action to hold a Keith Lasley snap-shot.

Inverness failed to heed those warnings and Hammell's long ball out of defence sent speed merchant Ainsworth clear to fire past Brill.

Hammell was the creator again eight minutes later when his low pass whipped across the six-yard box found Sutton diving in at the back post to head Well into a two-goal half-time lead.

Ryan Christie came on for Doran at half-time, but Caley Thistle failed to fill the defensive gaps as James McFadden ought to have found the target with a volley and Shaun Hutchinson headed just wide.

As much as the visitors were lacking at the back, they were dangerous going forward and captain Richie Foran's effort was parried from close range by Nielsen and Tansey's drive on the rebound was deflected off the line by Hutchinson.

Christie, who has inherited a football cleverness from his father, former Caley Thistle player and manager Charlie, fired a low drive just wide.

It was an improved display going forward but, despite their admirable tenacity, Caley Thistle paid heavily for those lapses in defence against a Well side who did not need to be anywhere near their best to secure victory.

Lineup, Bookings (2) & Substitutions (3)

Motherwell

  • 12 Nielsen
  • 02 Reid
  • 03 Hammell
  • 14 Lasley
  • 05 Hutchinson
  • 06 McManus
  • 18 Carswell Booked
  • 11 Vigurs
  • 07 McFadden (Francis-Angol - 74' )
  • 09 Sutton
  • 25 Ainsworth

Substitutes

  • 17 Francis-Angol
  • 21 Stewart
  • 22 Moore
  • 23 Murray
  • 26 Leitch
  • 30 Thomas
  • 34 Cadden

Inverness Caledonian Thistle

  • 12 Brill
  • 02 Raven
  • 03 Shinnie
  • 08 Draper
  • 14 Devine
  • 06 Meekings
  • 04 Vincent (Watkins - 75' )
  • 09 Foran Booked
  • 10 Doran (Christie - 45' )
  • 07 McKay
  • 16 Tansey

Substitutes

  • 01 Esson
  • 05 Warren
  • 11 Ross
  • 15 Watkins
  • 18 Tremarco
  • 19 Williams
  • 36 Christie
Ref: Alan Muir
Att: 3,432

Match Stats

Shots

11 13

On target

3 7

Corners

4 4

Fouls

9 10

Live Text Commentary

Full time

Full Time Match ends, Motherwell 2, Inverness CT 0.

90:00 +2:18 Full time

Full Time Second Half ends, Motherwell 2, Inverness CT 0.

90:00 +1:33

Attempt missed. Ryan Christie (Inverness CT) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left.

90:00 +0:22

Foul by Craig Reid (Motherwell).

90:00 +0:22

Marley Watkins (Inverness CT) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

87:19

Attempt missed. Ryan Christie (Inverness CT) right footed shot from outside the box is too high.

85:27

Corner, Inverness CT. Conceded by Steven Hammell.

81:35

Stephen McManus (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

81:35

Foul by Richie Foran (Inverness CT).

81:09

Corner, Inverness CT. Conceded by Craig Reid.

77:46

Zaine Francis-Angol (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

77:46

Foul by David Raven (Inverness CT).

74:09 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Inverness CT. Marley Watkins replaces James Vincent.

73:52 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Motherwell. Zaine Francis-Angol replaces James McFadden.

70:44

Attempt missed. Ryan Christie (Inverness CT) left footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the right.

68:44 Booking

Booking Richie Foran (Inverness CT) is shown the yellow card.

68:34 Booking

Booking Stuart Carswell (Motherwell) is shown the yellow card.

68:20

Foul by Stuart Carswell (Motherwell).

68:20

Richie Foran (Inverness CT) wins a free kick on the right wing.

67:14

Iain Vigurs (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

67:14

Foul by Richie Foran (Inverness CT).

66:07

Steven Hammell (Motherwell) wins a free kick on the right wing.

66:07

Foul by Greg Tansey (Inverness CT).

64:15

Attempt missed. James McFadden (Motherwell) left footed shot from outside the box is too high from a direct free kick.

63:35

James McFadden (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

63:35

Foul by Danny Devine (Inverness CT).

63:14

Attempt saved. James Vincent (Inverness CT) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the top right corner.

61:12

Attempt saved. Billy McKay (Inverness CT) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the top centre of the goal.

60:28

Attempt missed. Iain Vigurs (Motherwell) right footed shot from more than 40 yards on the left wing is close, but misses to the left.

58:20

Shaun Hutchinson (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

58:20

Foul by Josh Meekings (Inverness CT).

57:59

Corner, Inverness CT. Conceded by Shaun Hutchinson.

57:11

Foul by Keith Lasley (Motherwell).

57:11

Greg Tansey (Inverness CT) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

55:36

Attempt missed. James McFadden (Motherwell) left footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the left.

53:53

Corner, Inverness CT. Conceded by Craig Reid.

53:37

Attempt saved. Richie Foran (Inverness CT) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom right corner.

53:24

Attempt saved. James Vincent (Inverness CT) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom right corner.

52:21

Attempt missed. Shaun Hutchinson (Motherwell) header from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left.

51:54

Corner, Motherwell. Conceded by James Vincent.

50:40

James McFadden (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

50:40

Foul by Graeme Shinnie (Inverness CT).

48:44

Attempt missed. James McFadden (Motherwell) right footed shot from the centre of the box is just a bit too high.

47:55

Attempt missed. James McFadden (Motherwell) left footed shot from outside the box is just a bit too high.

45:00

Second Half begins Motherwell 2, Inverness CT 0.

45:00 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Inverness CT. Ryan Christie replaces Aaron Doran.

45:00 +0:09 Half time

Half Time First Half ends, Motherwell 2, Inverness CT 0.

44:47

Attempt missed. Greg Tansey (Inverness CT) right footed shot from the centre of the box misses to the right.

43:44

Attempt missed. Richie Foran (Inverness CT) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right.

40:42

Attempt blocked. Iain Vigurs (Motherwell) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.

36:42

Foul by John Sutton (Motherwell).

36:42

Josh Meekings (Inverness CT) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

36:16

Corner, Motherwell. Conceded by Josh Meekings.

35:00

Keith Lasley (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

34:59

Foul by Aaron Doran (Inverness CT).

33:45 Goal scored

Goal! Goal! Motherwell 2, Inverness CT 0. John Sutton (Motherwell) header from the right side of the six yard box to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Steven Hammell.

30:32

Foul by Keith Lasley (Motherwell).

30:32

Billy McKay (Inverness CT) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

29:12

Corner, Motherwell. Conceded by Danny Devine.

27:29

Attempt missed. Billy McKay (Inverness CT) right footed shot from the left side of the box misses to the right.

25:04 Goal scored

Goal! Goal! Motherwell 1, Inverness CT 0. Lionel Ainsworth (Motherwell) right footed shot from the right side of the box to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Steven Hammell.

24:21

Corner, Motherwell. Conceded by Dean Brill.

24:11

Attempt saved. Lionel Ainsworth (Motherwell) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal.

21:19

Attempt missed. James McFadden (Motherwell) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the right.

18:42

Attempt saved. Billy McKay (Inverness CT) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom left corner.

17:21

Richie Foran (Inverness CT) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

17:21

Foul by John Sutton (Motherwell).

16:28

Greg Tansey (Inverness CT) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

16:28

Foul by James McFadden (Motherwell).

11:56

Attempt saved. Billy McKay (Inverness CT) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal.

9:32

Billy McKay (Inverness CT) wins a free kick on the right wing.

9:32

Foul by Steven Hammell (Motherwell).

7:04

James Vincent (Inverness CT) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

7:04

Foul by Stuart Carswell (Motherwell).

5:03

Iain Vigurs (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

5:03

Foul by Richie Foran (Inverness CT).

3:54

Attempt saved. James Vincent (Inverness CT) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal.

3:00

Keith Lasley (Motherwell) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

2:59

Foul by Ross Draper (Inverness CT).

0:00

First Half begins.

0:00

Lineups are announced and players are warming up.

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