Motherwell manager Stuart Kettlewell admitted his team used the poor Dens pitch to their advantage to secure a vital 3-2 victory over Dundee in the cinch Premiership.

The game only went ahead after two pitch inspections at 11am and 1pm, with Dundee storming into a two-goal lead thanks to Jordan McGhee and Luke McCowan.

However, Motherwell made a dramatic comeback with Georgie Gent, Theo Bair and Moses Ebiye on the mark.

Kettlewell’s men were playing towards the Bob Shankly Stand in the second half and Kettlewell admitted that worked to their advantage.

The manager said: “Did we play on the conditions at that end in the second half? Yeah, that’s something we were taking into account.

“That goalmouth area, there’s a bit 20 yards out that isn’t good so we knew if we could get the ball into that area there’s the potential for slips, bad bounces that might fall in our favour.

“So we spoke about that and aiming towards it.

“Was it playable? When I walked on the pitch there were four or five areas I didn’t think were playable.

“Again I need to be consistent, I’m not going to change now.

“At no point did I speak to anyone or the officials from Dundee, I was prepared to let everyone do their job.

“I didn’t try to have an influence on anyone because we’d prepared to play here at 3pm.

“The referee felt it was playable and we were not endangering the safety of players so it was on.

“I have an opinion on a bigger scale of what I feel about getting to April and dealing with this.”

Dundee boss Tony Docherty admitted the result was a hammer blow for him and his players.

The Dark Blues were on course to secure a top-six finish with St Johnstone beating Hibs until the dramatic late collapse.

However, the manager was irate over the VAR decision that led to the penalty award for Motherwell’s first goal.

The 53-year-old said: “It’s a sore one. We’re really hurting.

“Obviously you don’t know others’ results at the time but we were 14 minutes from the top six.

“Goals change games and they get momentum from the VAR decision. I haven’t seen it back but nobody claims for the penalty.

“We were really comfortable at 2-0 so we should see the game out. Certainly the momentum swings on the VAR decision but I would trust my players to see that out.

“I won’t be critical of them because they have been brilliant all season.

“The one positive to come from the disappointing last 14 minutes is to see the league table and realise we still have an opportunity to do what we need to do.”

Motherwell came from behind to secure a remarkable 3-2 victory against Dundee at a drenched Dens.

The Dark Blues looked to be coasting after Jordan McGhee and Luke McCowan had given them a 2-0 lead.

However, the Steelmen hit back with goals from Georgie Gent, Theo Bair and, deep into added time, Moses Ebiye.

The game only went ahead after two game-day pitch inspections. Despite that, there were still heavily-sanded areas in front of both dugouts and in one goalmouth.

Motherwell issued a statement prior to kick-off expressing deep concern over the welfare of their players due to the state of the surface.

After an even opening, Motherwell had a chance in the 26th minute but Adam Devine could not direct his header on target with the ball flying well over Dundee keeper Jon McCracken’s crossbar.

The hosts then had an opportunity of their own when a McCowan free-kick was headed back across goal towards Mexican defender Antonio Portales but he hit his shot into the side-netting.

However, the hosts took the lead in the 37th minute. Lyall Cameron sent a cross into the box with Amadou Bakayoko heading across goal to McGhee, who powered home a header at the back post.

Dundee doubled their advantage in the 70th minute. McCowan fired an inswinging corner from the right which flew over Liam Kelly and into the net at the back post. The Motherwell players appealed for a free-kick but after a VAR check the goal was given.

However, the game was turned completely on its head in two minutes.

VAR intervened with a penalty check for handball against Joe Shaughnessy in the 79th minute. Referee David Dickinson was called to the pitchside monitor and he pointed to the spot.

Bair stepped up with McCracken making a superb save but Gent reacted fastest to rifle home the rebound with the goal being given after yet another VAR check.

The Steelmen equalised two minutes later when Bair twisted and turned on the edge of the Dundee box, beating McCracken, before finding the back of the net.

The hosts were rocking and Bair had two more chances to give his side the lead but could not take them.

However, Motherwell scored their third to seal an incredible win in the 93rd minute when substitute Ebiye fired home past McCracken.

Aberdeen caretaker manager Peter Leven warned his players that better teams have got relegated after a 1-0 defeat at Dundee left them just three points above the cinch Premiership danger zone.

Luke McCowan’s 66th-minute penalty, following a VAR-assisted handball call against Jack MacKenzie, earned the home side a well-deserved three points at Dens Park as Aberdeen’s run without a league win stretched to 11 matches.

A late equaliser for Ross County against Hibernian edged the Dingwall side closer to the Dons and allowed Dundee to jump back into the top six – leaving the spectre of the play-offs hanging over Leven’s side.

Leven is expected to remain in charge for Saturday’s trip to Motherwell after being put back in caretaker charge following Neil Warnock’s departure and he had some home truths for the players after a fourth consecutive league defeat.

“Not good enough,” the first-team coach said. “First half, really poor. Started well second half and the goal has killed us. But, for me, not enough quality on the ball and we dropped too deep.

“I just said to them, listen, we are in trouble. You have got to find a way. We had some honest words in there.

“We are running out of games and we have got to pick up points. Yeah, I could blame VAR but it’s just not good enough. (The penalty) was harsh, I have only seen one replay, but whatever I can say can’t change it.

“We have got to stand up and be counted now, that was nowhere near good enough for Aberdeen Football Club.

“Better teams have gone down, probably. It’s a big game on Saturday now.

“It’s about desire, playing for the badge, playing for the fans. We never picked up second balls, we never tested them.”

The travelling fans chanted “sack the board” in the closing stages and “you’re not fit to wear the shirt” as the players left the park.

Leven said: “I apologise to the fans. They pay their hard-earned cash to come here and follow us all over Europe and Scotland.”

Dundee manager Tony Docherty was delighted with his side’s display.

“I thought it was a fantastic performance, one of the best of the season,” he said. “We had huge dominance in the first half, I was bemoaning a final pass and cross but the level of performance was outstanding.

“Before the game we were bemoaning the fact we were surrendering too many leads. I felt, when we went 1-0 up, I didn’t have any fear we would lose the game.

“Aberdeen threw a lot at us but the mentality of the team was fantastic and it shows we are learning and developing.”

Luke McCowan’s penalty sent Dundee back into the cinch Premiership top six and left Aberdeen facing a battle against the drop.

McCowan’s fourth goal in six games – and his eighth overall this season – earned Tony Docherty’s side a deserved 1-0 win at Dens Park.

The midfielder netted in the 66th minute following a lengthy VAR check which ultimately saw Jack MacKenzie penalised for handball.

The home side had dominated the first half but some hesitancy in front of goal, good goalkeeping from Kelle Roos and some poor deliveries from corners kept the scores blank at half-time.

Aberdeen were led into the game by first-team coach Peter Leven, who was back in caretaker charge for the second time in six weeks following the end of Neil Warnock’s brief spell at the helm.

But the Dons have now gone 11 league games without victory and the defeat leaves them just three points clear of the danger zone following second-bottom Ross County’s stoppage-time equaliser against Hibernian, which allowed Dundee to jump above the Edinburgh side.

Any slim hopes of a top-six push vanished completely as results on the night left the Dons nine points behind Dundee with four games until the split.

They face another away game on Saturday, against Motherwell, before the anticipated appointment of a long-term successor to Barry Robson during the international break, although the visiting fans clearly had little faith in the decision-makers as they chanted “sack the board” in the closing minutes.

Dundee had Owen Dodgson back in the team after Owen Beck failed a fitness test while Leven named the same team that started in Warnock’s final game, a Scottish Gas Scottish Cup win over Kilmarnock.

The home side were quickly on the front foot and Curtis Main should have converted the rebound after Roos parried Scott Tiffoney’s strike. The former Dons striker took a touch and the goalkeeper smothered.

A brilliant Dodgson cross was just too far in front of Main six yards out before Dundee had a penalty claim for handball when Connor Barron blocked Tiffoney’s shot. Referee Steven McLean delayed and then gave a free-kick to Aberdeen inside the box.

Dundee remained well on top. Roos bravely denied Lyall Cameron as the midfielder slid in to meet Main’s low cross and the Dutchman tipped over Dodgson’s long-range striker.

Angus MacDonald blocked well from Tiffoney and Cameron shot just wide as Dundee continued to probe.

Aberdeen looked slightly better at the start of the second half but they fell behind after initially surviving a free-kick into the box.

McLean kept the 8,215 crowd waiting even after going to his monitor but he eventually pointed to the spot and McCowan sent Roos the wrong way.

Cameron soon had a great chance to double the lead but he dragged a shot wide following Tiffoney’s square ball.

Dundee continued to create chances and Roos saved from Cameron and Main.

There was plenty of effort from the visitors but home goalkeeper Jon McCracken remained untested other than from aerial balls until he held two headers from substitute Ester Sokler in the closing stages.

Derek McInnes revealed that Kilmarnock will appeal against the red card shown to Lewis Mayo during their 2-2 draw at Dundee.

An early own goal by keeper Will Dennis was cancelled out by Killie’s Marley Watkins.

Luke McCowan then netted from the penalty spot for the home side after Mayo was sent off by referee Colin Steven for his challenge on Scott Tiffoney.

Robbie Deas secured a dramatic draw for Kilmarnock in stoppage time but McInnes was still raging over Mayo’s sending off.

The Rugby Park boss said: “I will appeal (against the decision). Mayo can play against Aberdeen in the cup because it is a different competition.

“He will be suspended for the St Mirren game so we will be appealing it.

“We had to dig ourselves out of a hole after a refereeing decision. I went in to see him. There is no infringement in the box, if there is a foul?

“It’s a bit untidy because Mayo has his eyes on the ball, it bounces and he gets himself in a bad position, but at no time does he pull Scott Tiffoney down.

“Tiffoney falls down and it doesn’t look great. I can’t understand why Greg Aitken and the VAR team haven’t asked the referee to look at it.

“I think if he does, he doesn’t give the penalty and I think it actually makes him think twice as to whether there is a foul there or not.

“If he does get called over and sticks by his decision then we can have a go at the referee. I don’t understand.

“They get involved when they shouldn’t and don’t get involved where they should. I am just scunnered with it.”

Dundee boss Tony Docherty was delighted with the response of his players after their hammering by Celtic last week but he insisted his team should have seen the Killie game out.

He said: “I think the overriding feeling is disappointment.

“We have just had a good discussion as a group. I think the thing I want to emphasise is that we had a difficult night on Wednesday.

“But we won’t be defined by a result like that but what we will be defined by is our reaction to it.

“I thought our reaction today was fantastic but we should have seen the game out.”

Kilmarnock salvaged a last-gasp 2-2 draw against Dundee at Dens in the cinch Premiership.

The hosts took the lead courtesy of an own goal by keeper Will Dennis with the visitors equalising before the break through Marley Watkins.

Kilmarnock’s Lewis Mayo was sent off after conceding a penalty on the hour mark, with Luke McCowan converting the spot-kick, but the Ayrshire men rescued a point deep into added time with Robbie Deas bundling home.

It is the third time the teams have drawn 2-2 against each other in the league this season, with the result seeing Dundee drop out of the top six.

The Dark Blues made six changes from the side that were thrashed 7-1 by Celtic in midweek with keeper Jon McCracken, Aaron Donnelly, Lyall Cameron, Josh Mulligan, Mo Sylla and Scott Tiffoney coming in for Trevor Carson, Ricki Lamie, Jordan McGhee, Finlay Robertson, Malachi Boateng and Amadou Bakayoko.

Killie made just one change from the team that lost narrowly to Rangers on Wednesday night with Deas replacing Stuart Findlay.

Dundee made all the early running and it was no surprise when they took the lead in the 11th minute. Tiffoney cut in from the left and hit a snap shot that cannoned off the post but hit the luckless Dennis and bounced back into the net.

However, Killie stunned the home side when they equalised in the 35th minute. Danny Armstrong swung a cross in from the right with Joe Wright heading the ball down to Watkins who netted from close range for his 10th goal of the season.

After the break, Watkins embarked on a barnstorming solo run from halfway into the Dundee box before hitting a shot with McCracken having to make a vital block to deny the striker.

However, Dundee took the lead again in the 63rd minute. McCowan was bundled over just inside the Killie box by Mayo with referee Colin Steven awarding a penalty and then flashing a red card at the defender.

The official’s decision was rubber-stamped after a VAR check with McCowan stepping up to take the spot-kick, hitting it into the back of the net off the inside of the post.

Dundee came agonisingly close to making it three in the 85th minute but substitute Michael Mellon’s 25-yard shot crashed off the crossbar.

However, Killie rescued a point in the 91st minute when Deas reacted first at a corner to bundle home.

Myziane Maolida scored a late winning goal in a 2-1 victory to lift Hibernian to within two points of opponents Dundee in the battle for a cinch Premiership top-six place.

The on-loan Hertha Berlin forward restored the home side’s lead with a fine effort in the 81st minute just moments after Luke McCowan had brought the visitors level.

Hibs had gone in at the break in front after Dylan Vente converted a penalty that came about following an error by goalkeeper Trevor Carson.

Hibs paid tribute to their late former owner Ron Gordon – a year on from his death – with a short video on the large screens inside the stadium before kick-off.

When the action got under way it was the hosts that had to soak up early pressure.

The Leith side were relieved a VAR check went their way after an Owen Beck shot inside the box struck Rocky Bushiri.

Dark Blues goalkeeper Carson made a comfortable save when he kept out Will Fish’s half volley from 12 yards out after Martin Boyle’s corner was kept alive in the box.

Fish was involved in Hibs’ next attempt at goal just after the half-hour mark when he connected with Emiliano Marcondes’ corner but Carson gathered the header at the second attempt.

Hibs then took the lead 10 minutes before the break after a rush of blood to the head for Dundee keeper Carson led to a penalty.

The experienced stopper tried to make amends after flapping at Joe Newell’s corner but he ended up clattering into Marcondes.

Vente stepped up to take the penalty and sent Carson the wrong way from 12 yards.

Hibs came close to a third before the break but Vente’s shot was blocked by team-mate Martin Boyle before Maolida had a shot pushed wide by Carson.

Dundee brought on Rickie Lamie and Michael Mellon at the break but it was Hibs who were keen to put the game to bed.

Carson produced a fine save to keep out Boyle before the Dens Park side were handed a VAR let-off.

Boyle’s cross was tapped in by Vente from inside the six-yard box but the feedback given to referee John Beaton was that he was offside.

Dundee were then denied a goal by the linesman’s flag in the 73rd minute after Mellon flicked in from close range.

The visitors did level in the 78th minute when McCowan rifled a low drive from 18 yards past David Marshall.

But Hibs restored their lead three minutes later with a Maolida strike.

The Frenchman ran on to Luke Amos’ pass and skinned Joe Shaughnessy before sweeping a shot past Carson.

Dundee made it back-to-back cinch Premiership wins with a comfortable victory over Ross County at Dens Park.

Scott Tiffoney was the Dark Blues’ hero with what proved to be a decisive double as the win took Tony Docherty’s side within three points of St Mirren in fifth.

County had chances but failed to take them, with Don Cowie’s strugglers now facing a huge match next week against rock-bottom Livingston who moved to within three points of County with their shock win over St Mirren.

The hosts were the first to threaten in the third minute when Luke McCowan linked with Lyall Cameron, who fizzed a low 25-yard shot just inches past the post.

The Staggies responded immediately with Eamonn Brophy hitting a speculative long-range effort that flew over Dundee keeper Trevor Carson’s bar.

Brophy had another opportunity when he made space for himself inside the home box but his fierce shot was blocked at his near post by Carson.

Dundee then put together a well-worked string of passes that ended with another Cameron shot that was deflected over the bar thanks to a last-gasp intervention by Staggies defender Michee Efete.

The Dark Blues continued to press, with Jordan McGhee the latest player to have a pot shot at goal but his attempt flew well wide of County keeper George Wickens’ left-hand post.

McGhee then came agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock when he was first to a superb Owen Beck cross but his header was acrobatically tipped over the bar by Wickens.

Dundee were enjoying the majority of possession but they survived a huge scare just after the half-hour mark when Carson had to come to the rescue with a great reaction save to deny Staggies striker Simon Murray, whose point-blank header seemed destined for the back of the net.

Instead, it was the home side who finally made the breakthrough in the 45th minute when Dara Costelloe slipped a pass into Tiffoney to send him in on goal and the winger kept his cool, hitting a clinical finish past Wickens.

Dundee doubled their advantage in the 65th minute when the ball broke to Tiffoney on the edge of the County box and the winger took full advantage, hitting a low shot past Wickens and into the bottom corner of the net.

County huffed and puffed for a way back into the game but Dundee comfortably held on to take all three points.

Dundee manager Tony Docherty hailed the spirit of his players after captain Joe Shaughnessy’s header deep into stoppage time secured a 2-2 draw at Rugby Park.

Dundee had taken a first-half lead through Luke McCowan’s sublime low finish but Kilmarnock’s Joe Wright levelled things with five minutes remaining.

In a crazy climax, Rory McKenzie fired the home side ahead in the third minute of added time before Shaughnessy headed home Owen Beck’s corner two minutes later to ensure the match ended in a draw.

Docherty was pleased with the combination of grit and quality shown by his side.

He said: “We saw it at Dens against Kilmarnock and in the last seconds against Ross County and then today.

“That epitomises the squad that I’ve got and especially my captain Joe Shaughnessy. It’s that mentality that there is, that spirit in the team.

“When the dust settles that could be a huge point in our season.

“We’ve had a real consistent level of performance – probably outwith the Old Firm games.

“We’re a competitive team and when you display the ability level that we did in the first half and you ally that to the spirit and mentality to score a goal in the last seconds of the game, I think that’s a good recipe.

“I thought it was very much a game of two halves. I thought in the first half we were outstanding. We just needed that second goal but our level of performance was outstanding.

“I knew they were going to throw everything at us in the second half and they did. Up until four minutes to go, we had withstood that pressure.

“I was gutted we lost the goal and then the second goal goes in, but I can’t criticise these boys because what a mentality they have got.”

Killie boss Derek McInnes was proud of his players for their reaction after a poor first half, though he admitted the sucker punch at the death was “sore”.

He said: “The game is never over until its over. We lost a similar goal late on at Dens – a mistake as well.

“I thought Dundee were good value for their half-time lead. I thought they were better than us. I thought they were brighter than us and I thought they got to the pace of the game better than us.

“As good as Dundee were first half, I thought we were equally good – if not better – second half. I thought we kept asking the question, we arrived in good areas and we moved the ball well.

“I’m really pleased with the level of performance but more so the level of character. It was sheer will to turn this game around for us. It’s a sore one but it happens.

“The fourth official had told me as soon as the long throw was cleared that was the game over, which didn’t happen. But we’ve still got to defend the corner.”

Joe Shaughnessy headed in a late equaliser as Dundee drew 2-2 with Kilmarnock after a dramatic finale at Rugby Park.

Luke McCowan had given the visitors a first-half lead and they looked to be heading towards a victory until Joe Wright’s header brought Killie level with five minutes remaining.

Substitute Rory McKenzie then gave the hosts the lead in the third minute of stoppage time, lashing home after Gary Mackay-Steven’s cross fell invitingly for him inside the box.

But two minutes later, Owen Beck’s corner landed on the head of Shaughnessy who scored a dramatic leveller to ensure the Scottish Premiership match ended in a draw.

Kilmarnock manager Derek McInnes had opted to just make one change following his side’s 1-0 win at St Mirren in midweek, with Wright starting in place of Corrie Ndaba.

Dundee boss Tony Docherty made three changes following his side’s 3-0 defeat to Celtic on Boxing Day, with Josh Mulligan, Mohamad Sylla and Ryan Howley coming into the starting line up.

Killie were fastest out of the traps and they came close in the fourth minute as Kyle Vassell latched on to a flick-on but he could only drill straight at Dundee goalkeeper Trevor Carson.

Dundee’s first effort came in the 17th minute when Jordan McGhee headed well over, but the away side grew into the game and began to dominate possession.

McCowan had been seeing a lot of the ball, coming in off the left wing, and it was the midfielder who broke the deadlock in the 35th minute.

Receiving a pass 25 yards out, McCowan showed composure to work a yard of space before curling a precise shot beyond Will Dennis into the bottom corner of the goal.

It was Dundee who continued to look the more likely to score and Dennis had to be alert to dive at the feet of Scott Tiffoney, who bore down on goal as the score remained 1-0 at the break.

Dundee almost doubled their lead shortly after the break as the impressive McCowan fired low across the box but Amadou Bakayoko was unable to get on the end of it.

The hosts were then inches away from a leveller on the hour mark as Wright headed against the outside of the post from a corner.

Kilmarnock continued to push and Dundee keeper Carson had to come out smartly to block Vassell’s close-range attempt.

The hosts had been the better side as the match edged towards a conclusion and with five minutes to go they managed to get back on level terms.

Dundee keeper Carson was unable to claim a corner cleanly and as the ball popped up in the air it was met by the head of Wright who nodded home to make it 1-1.

The visitors’ lead was very nearly restored just seconds later, however, as the lively Beck jinked forward before striking the crossbar with a powerful right-footed attempt from the edge of the area.

Kilmarnock then thought they had won it deep into added time as McKenzie lashed home to send the home fans wild.

But their celebrations were to be short-lived, as Dundee captain Shaughnessy headed home from the last move of the match.

Luke McCowan was the Dundee hero as his stunning goal secured the Dark Blues’ first cinch Premiership victory of the season against Hearts at Kilmac Stadium.

There was little between the teams in a goalless first half, but the Jam Tarts seemed to have taken a grip of the game after the break before McCowan popped up with his decisive finish.

The victory lifts Dundee up to sixth in the table, level on points with Hearts in fifth.

The opening stages of the contest were even with Dundee the first to threaten in the 14th minute when the ball fell to Zach Robinson, but the striker’s shot flew wide.

Shortly after, Hearts had a chance of their own from an Alex Lowry corner, but Frankie Kent sent his header over the crossbar.

Dark Blues midfielder Finlay Robertson managed to place a shot on target in the 28th minute, but his volley from the edge of the box flew straight at visiting goalkeeper Zander Clark who easily gathered.

Five minutes later, the hosts thought they had taken the lead when a Jordan McGhee shot was deflected in by Robinson, but following a VAR check, the effort was ruled out for offside.

Hearts forward Yutaro Oda then tumbled in the Dundee penalty area under a challenge from Owen Beck, but referee Alan Muir waved play on.

Scott Tiffoney threatened again when he cut in from the left, but his low cross-shot was comfortably saved by Clark as the sides headed down the tunnel at the break with the game still deadlocked.

The visitors made three changes at half-time with Liam Boyce, Nat Atkinson and Cammy Devlin coming on for Oda, Toby Sibbick and Odel Offiah.

And Boyce came close to making an immediate impact in the 47th minute when he hit a shot from a tight angle that was deflected wide for a corner.

Hearts’ tails were up with Lowry dinking a cross from the left towards Kenneth Vargas, but his header was cleared off the line by Beck.

Steven Naismith’s side came close again when Stephen Kingsley hit a superb 30-yard free-kick that looked destined to fly into the top corner, but home keeper Trevor Carson produced a stunning acrobatic save to tip the ball away for a corner.

However, the deadlock was finally broken in the 63rd minute. Hearts’ Aidan Denholm gave the ball away with McCowan pouncing to hit a sublime 30-yard lob over the head of the retreating Clark and into the back of the net.

McCowan almost turned provider in the 80th minute, hitting a cross from the right towards Robinson whose goal-bound header was tipped away to safety by Clark.

Dundee survived a late Hearts onslaught to hold on to all three points.

Dundee have continued to prepare for their cinch Premiership return by securing Luke McCowan on a new two-year deal.

The 25-year-old scored 10 goals last season including an excellent individual effort in the title-clinching victory over Queen’s Park.

The attacking midfielder has played 76 times since joining from Ayr two years ago.

McCowan told the club’s official website: “I am happy to get the deal done and I am looking forward to the season in the Premiership and taking the positives from winning the league last year into this year. I am excited to work under the new manager and for the season ahead.”

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