A brilliant last-minute free-kick from Callum Slattery maintained Stuart Kettlewell’s unbeaten start as Motherwell manager as his side claimed a 1-1 draw against Kilmarnock.
Kettlewell was appointed on a permanent basis on Wednesday after winning his two matches in caretaker charge, but the new manager bounce appeared to have gone flat in the first half at Rugby Park.
Scott Robinson converted from a goalmouth scramble in the 17th minute as Kilmarnock dominated.
The second half was a different story. Motherwell grew more and more threatening and only a string of saves from Sam Walker prevented them getting on level terms before substitute Slattery curled into the top corner from 25 yards.
Kettlewell named the same team for the third game running, while Killie boss Derek McInnes made five changes as Christian Doidge returned for the suspended Kyle Vassell.
The home side quickly got on top and put Motherwell under pressure. Robinson twice had the chance to set up a team-mate but misplaced his cutbacks before a Danny Armstrong cross flashed across the face of goal.
The opener came from Armstrong’s corner. Liam Kelly stopped Joe Wright’s header but Motherwell could not clear and the ball ricocheted back into the goalmouth for Robinson to turn home.
The Ayrshire side threatened from another Armstrong corner when Kelly saved Alan Power’s header and Calum Butcher then blocked from Rory McKenzie.
Motherwell were struggling to get any meaningful possession inside the Killie half and the home side were down to 10 men with Doidge receiving treatment for a facial injury when they finally managed an effort at goal in first-half stoppage-time. Blair Spittal’s strike was headed wide by Ash Taylor.
Doidge reappeared for the second half and was soon played clean through by Robinson, but Dan Casey got back to brush the striker off the ball.
Motherwell had their best chance so far shortly afterwards when Taylor was short with a backpass but Jonathan Obika’s rushed shot was saved by Walker.
The visitors had another excellent opportunity as they countered through Paul McGinn and then Dean Cornelius but Walker again came to Killie’s rescue when he denied James Furlong.
The goalkeeper made it a hat-trick of impressive stops when he parried Kevin van Veen’s 20-yard strike following Obika’s lay-off.
Kettlewell put on an extra attacker in Jack Aitchison and the substitute set up McGinn but again Walker got strong hands to the defender’s powerful strike before making a more routine save from Furlong.
Walker made a point-blank save from substitute Stephen O’Donnell in the 89th minute as Obika claimed he had been hauled to the ground inside the box.
It was clear it would take something special to beat Walker and Slattery soon provided it to move Motherwell seven points above bottom club Dundee United and keep them three ahead of Ross County and Killie.
Kilmarnock’s next Scottish Premiership match is away to Rangers on March 4, Motherwell are away to Ross County on the same day.
Both games kick-off at 3pm.