Motherwell “need to become more streetwise” if they are to turn around their poor start to the season, says manager Stephen Robinson.
The Fir Park side slumped to a second 1-0 defeat in a row as Dundee United left Fir Park on Saturday with a Scottish Premiership victory.
Former Motherwell defender Mark Reynolds netted the only goal with the hosts turning in a blunt showing.
“We need to learn how to win the game ugly at times”, said Robinson.
“It can’t be brilliant football, and the perfect pass and the perfect goal all the time. We looked like we were looking for the perfect goal today, but we didn’t even make their goalkeeper work.”
Motherwell, who finished third last season, have lost their opening two matches and have now won just one of their past 10 games.
They dominated the first half, but despite having the majority of the ball, failed to test Benjamin Siegrist in the United goal. A glancing header from Allan Campbell was the only real chance for the Lanarkshire side.
United, without talisman Lawrence Shankland, seemed happy to soak up pressure and hit the home side on the break, and Micky Mellon’s game plan almost worked perfectly in the first period, with breakaway efforts from midfielder Ian Harkes and winger Bolton narrowly going wide.
They came out with purpose in the second half, and could have taken the lead through Calum Butcher’s header, but his glancing effort drifted just wide.
However, the away side did not wait much longer for their breakthrough, as Bolton’s low cross evaded the entire Motherwell backline, with Reynolds on hand to fire home the winner at the back post.
Striker Christopher Long squandered a chance to level the game with a close-range header that looped high and wide from five yards.
But apart from that, and White’s late header being ruled out for a push, that was about it for the hosts.
United could have doubled their advantage late on with a rocket of a volley from Dillon Powers, but the effort was tipped on to the bar by goalkeeper Trevor Carson.
Man of the match – Mark Reynolds
What did we learn?
Slow starts in the league are not a new thing for Motherwell under Robinson. In all three of his full seasons in charge, he has failed to win his opening two league games.
However, the worry for Motherwell is this form runs from last season.
The feeling of deja vu will be a bitter pill to swallow for Robinson as well. Like in Dingwall on Monday, Motherwell enjoyed large spells of possession without really hurting the opposition, and this is what the Northern Irishman will be looking to rectify if his side are to come anywhere near replicating the achievements of last term.
As for United, much was made about a lack of maturity in Mellon’s team after last weekend’s second-half performance against 10-man St Johnstone, but this went a long way to dispelling that notion.
They showed resilience and character to soak up Motherwell pressure and shut out a home side who enjoyed the majority of possession for large spells.
And without last season’s 28-goal man Shankland in attack, United were still able to pose a threat on the break, cutting through Motherwell on a number of occasions and capitalising on the home side’s slack passing.
Four points from six games is a fantastic start for the Premiership newcomers, and it sets up a tantalising encounter with Hibernian on Tuesday.
What did they say?
Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson: “The players make young naive decisions, and it’s up to me to change that very quickly.
“I hope players aren’t reading that they are moving here and there, because if they play like that they’ll be moving nowhere.”
Dundee United manager Micky Mellon: “We knew we were going to get asked a lot of questions and I think the players can take a lot of credit for answering those questions. It’s a great result for us.
“Mark Reynolds helps me drive the standard, he’s been brilliant since I came in. I was delighted to see him getting his goal today.”
Motherwell welcome Livingston to Fir Park on Wednesday at 19:45 BST, with both sides looking for their first wins of the season. Dundee United take on an in-form Hibernian at Tannadice on Tuesday at 18:00.