Stuart Kettlewell senses Callum Slattery produced a big moment in Motherwell’s season after the substitute’s last-minute free-kick earned a point at Kilmarnock.
Slattery curled a brilliant strike into the top corner from more than 25 yards to maintain Kettlewell’s unbeaten start.
The former Ross County manager was appointed Motherwell boss on a permanent basis on Wednesday after winning his two matches in caretaker charge and named the same team for the third game running.
The first-half performance was flat, though, and Killie deservedly led through Scott Robinson’s effort from a goalmouth scramble.
Motherwell grew more threatening as the game progressed and Sam Walker made a series of impressive stops before being beaten by Slattery’s special strike, which moved Well seven points above bottom club Dundee United and kept a three-point gap between themselves and their opponents, plus Ross County.
On Slattery’s intervention, Kettlewell said: “We can probably sit here and say it will be massive, what comes in the next 11 games will define whether it is, but I genuinely feel that it could be a big moment in our season.
“It would be really easy for us to go under with the first-half performance and not acquit ourselves as we did in the second half.
“Obviously Callum Slattery comes up with an absolute wonder-strike but we probably had five really good opportunities before that where we see the whites of their goalkeeper’s eyes. He ends up getting man of the match but it wasn’t for his first-half performance.
“Yes, I speak, and I speak a lot, at half-time, because we weren’t happy with the first-half showing, but a lot of the times you are hearing the bits you are going to say yourself.
“It’s important you have got a group who understand where they have gone wrong in the first 45. They took ownership of it and it’s my job then to tweak certain aspects of the game, which I hope we did, even with our changes. We changed our system, which helped us.
“That maybe is the reaction, that the players took responsibility for what was a poor first-half showing. But it was a far better one in the second half.”
Killie manager Derek McInnes felt his side had contributed to their late blow.
“A lot of times this season we have been guilty of not putting the game to bed and I think that was a case in point in the first half,” he said.
“I thought it was a very strong performance and we managed the game great up until the last five minutes or so.
“The one thing we were guilty of was a wee bit of naivety in giving away one too many fouls in the last five minutes.
“All it does is give them another opportunity to throw the ball forward and make it a fight, and the game being about second balls, and we gave that foul away in the last part of the game.
“He has still got a lot to do, Slattery, but every team in this league has got a player of that quality.”