Motherwell 4-1 Hearts: Review by Well fan Lewis Birrell

Written by Lewis Birrell.

After two poor Motherwell performances, Stuart McCall’s side bounced back with a convincing victory against Hearts.
Steven Hammell and Henri Anier unfortunately joined Ramsden, Kerr, Lawson, Moore and Erwin on the casualty list. Meanwhile Lee Hollis, returning from injury himself, replaced Gunnar Nielsen between the sticks. The lengthy injury list meant that youngsters Euan Murray, Dale Shirkie, Dom Thomas and Christopher Cadden occupied places on the bench and Jack Leitch featured in the starting eleven.
McCall got a quick reaction from his players as they looked to attack Hearts right from the start, rather than standing off their opponents as they have done recently.
I believe that a key factor in diluting the Jambos' threat was the return of Lee Hollis. Our defence had looked slightly shaky recently, conceding 9 goals in three games. It was evident to all that the defence weren’t entirely comfortable playing in front of Nielsen due to his slightly unpredictable nature. Lee Hollis though, is much more solid, consistent and reliable which fills the backline with more confidence.
Hearts 'keeper, Jamie Macdonald, had a very busy first half as John Sutton and Lionel Ainsworth both came close. Craig Reid and Zaine Francis-Angol, who were really effective on the overlap, piled on more pressure. So much so, that Hearts struggled to pose any real threat to Motherwell in the first half. Their only real moments of danger came from free kicks and corners, one of which saw a Brad McKay header go over the bar.
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Motherwell: Mid-season review

Written by Lewis Birrell.

Having obtained European Football and second place in the SPL in season 2012-2013, it was always going to be extremely difficult for Stuart McCall’s men to find a way to equal or even better this.

This mammoth task was not helped at all by the fact that many of Motherwell’s most influential players decided to further their careers in both the lower leagues of England and abroad. Darren Randolph, Tom Hateley and Chris Humphrey transferred to England, while Michael Higdon and Henrik Ojamaa moved to Nijmegen and Legia Warsaw respectively. Nicky Law chose to drop down the divisions to join Rangers.

The ‘Well support were heartened though upon learning that we had acquired Iain Vigurs and Paul Lawson from Ross County – both of whom had earned rave reviews in the Highlands. The return of fans’ favourite, John Sutton, reassured them that Michael Higdon’s boots could be filled, and they felt in safe hands following the signing of former Manchester City goalkeeper Gunnar Nielsen, who had a loan spell at Fir Park previously. Although we seemed to be fairly stable in this position, former Celtic skipper Stephen McManus arrived to bring his extensive experience to the defensive line. Estonian Henri Anier and Rotherham’s Lionel Ainsworth were also brought in on loan to boost the attacking line.
It was also pleasing to bring the ‘will he?/won’t he?’ McFadden saga to an end, when it was finally announced that he had signed for the forthcoming season. This gave everyone a huge boost before the highly anticipated Europa League clash with Kuban Krasnodar.

The team had a fairly average pre-season schedule which included home games against Newcastle United and Nottingham Forest and away run outs against Doncaster and Morecambe.

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Motherwell blog: Stuart McCall's cup disaster

Written by Lewis Birrell.

When quizzed about how he could improve on last season's brilliant league campaign, Stuart McCall's answer was simple, “Improve in the Cups”. How these words must now be haunting him, as this has not been the case at all this season!

So far the team has been knocked out of the League Cup by Aberdeen in the quarter finals and suffered a humiliating Scottish Cup exit at the hands of Albion Rovers.

The result is that ‘Well are now ejected from any Cup football even before Keith Lasley’s November Calendar page gives way to December's Simon Ramsden. Not much of an improvement on last year then!

Stuart McCall's choice of line-up came in for some criticism, ultimately though, it was accepted that it was strong enough to see off Albion Rovers. The Motherwell section of the stadium filled up very quickly and was around ¾ full at 2.30pm. Therefore, fans had the opportunity to witness the very relaxed attitude adopted by some of the 'Well squad. The Albion Rovers lads arrived on the field to warm up at just past 2 o’clock, whereas the Motherwell team only wandered out at around 2.25pm and lots of laughing and smiling ensued.  It was slightly alarming, and, in retrospect, a sign of what was to come, particularly when compared to the serious, focussed and professional approach taken by the Albion players and staff.

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Motherwell Blog: Right desire shown at Kilmarnock

Written by Lewis Birrell.

Having had a fortnight's worth of training to mull over the dreadful 4-0 defeat by Dundee United, Stuart McCall’s men certainly produced the reaction their gaffer desired by earning a 2-0 win at Rugby Park!

Shaun Hutchinson returned from suspension and promptly re-entered the First Eleven. 19 year old Craig Moore was given his starting debut after some impressive substitute appearances and Paul Lawson replaced the injured Stuart Carswell.

However, I think it would be widely agreed that the defensive line up was still far away from being our strongest. Francis-Angol isn’t highly rated amongst the ‘Well support as a left back, the general feeling being that  he is much more suited to a more attacking role on the left flank. Along with this, Fraser Kerr’s occasional lack of discipline (through inexperience) has led to the fans labelling him a weak link on occasion.

So it was incredibly pleasing to see the makeshift backline keep a clean sheet on Saturday!
Francis-Angol showed a much more no-nonsense approach refraining from the overplaying he did against Dundee United which led to an unfortunate goal. Fraser Kerr put in a very solid shift also, linking up well with McFadden in the first half and Ainsworth in the second.

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Stuart McCall managerial masterclass breaks Hearts

Written by Lewis Birrell.

AFTER a fairly encouraging international session for Scotland, Motherwell returned to domestic football on Saturday against a youthful Hearts side at Fir Park .
If the old cliché ‘a game of two halves’ was ever applicable, it was here. The 5350 supporters almost fell asleep during the first half but were sparked into life by the action of the second half.
Motherwell were missing some of their firepower with James McFadden absent with a hamstring injury and Lionel Ainsworth also nursing a knock. This probably contributed to the frustrating first half as ‘Well posed a significant threat but struggled to find that cutting edge. Zaine Francis-Angol caused Hearts the most problems and looked the most creative while Iain Vigurs also saw a fair amount of the ball, but struggled to make an impact.
It is taking Vigurs a little while to settle at Motherwell, although having seen him at Ross County , and witnessing some competent play in his Motherwell career, it is evident that he is a really good player. On Saturday he was doing really well, receiving the ball in plenty of space, then spoiling his efforts by cutting inside and shooting a bit too often, rather than finding Sutton or Anier. Maybe when he starts to use his undisputed talent a bit more constructively, he will cement his place in the starting 11 and prove to be the highly influential player that he looks capable of being.
While Motherwell looked distinctly lacklustre, Hearts weren’t exactly setting the heather alight themselves! I think Gary Locke was more intent in sending the healthy Hearts support of 1200 home with a point rather than opening up and trying to win the game.
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John Sutton now making an impact again at Motherwell

Written by Lewis Birrell.

St Mirren’s woeful run of form continued on Saturday as they suffered at the hands of a strong Motherwell outfit.

Unlike some of Motherwell’s previous visits to Paisley, St Mirren were very cautious throughout the early stages of play. Often, in the past, we have seen Gary Teale causing problems down the right wing then crossing the ball into the box, however, yesterday Saints rarely put any significant pressure on the back four.

With Stevie Hammell playing at right back, I felt that St Mirren might have exploited us more down the flanks than they did. Stepping in for the suspended Simon Ramsden and injured Fraser Kerr, Hammell handled himself well. While it was obvious that it felt unnatural to him – he had to regularly cut into his left foot - he wasn’t caught out once throughout the afternoon.
This went against the predictions of many ‘Well fans who thought that McCall would field young Adam Cummins in this position.
Once the starting eleven was announced, it was then widely anticipated that Zaine Francis-Angol would be asked to play there, but McCall and Black made a good decision as overall, playing Hammell here posed a much smaller risk than fielding a younger, less experienced player.

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Motherwell not quite hitting the right note

Written by Kris Jack.

"This season just hasn't been good enough...The Steelmen must quickly rediscover their form..." Is the tag line that BT Sport are using to advertise this weekend's televised match between Motherwell and Kilmarnock. With little to no focus on Killie in their promo, they seem to be hyping it as a must win game for Stuart McCall's side, an angle that's merit at this stage in the season is up for debate.

There are elements of truth in what they are saying. Having finished second last season, with the SPL's top scorer amongst the ranks, there is an expectation that a similar campaign is needed to keep the fans happy. Over the last few seasons, the Fir Park faithful have witnessed some of the most exciting and creative football seen in Lanarkshire for quite some time.

The loss of pretty much all of the flair players though, minus James McFadden, was always going to mean that the replacements would take time to bed in and that seems to be the case. However, with a full pre season for the players to gel behind them, the European disappointment was exactly that. While being almost a brand new team, the first leg was almost a carbon copy of last year's Europa exertions, with the same flaws the downfall. The away leg looked like it could set The Well up for glorious failure until McManus' own goal and McHugh's penalty miss subtracted any possible glory from it.

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Motherwell show a bit more steel against Thistle

Written by Lewis Birrell.

ON Saturday, with a 1-0 victory over newly promoted Partick Thistle, Motherwell began to recover from what can only be described as an indifferent start to their Scottish Premiership campaign.
Overall, the spectacle was not terrifically exciting, as both teams seemed rather cautious. While Motherwell were not prepared to take many risks for fear of being caught out defensively, Partick seemed to freeze in front of their 1300 strong travelling support.
Knowing that Partick had already scored 3 goals away from home this season, and aware that our defence had been severely pushed over recent weeks, many feared that Thistle would carry a significant threat to our back line. Fortunately, this prediction never came true, as the Glasgow outfit rarely held possession outwith their own half of the pitch and provided Lee Hollis with nothing more than a few routine catches.
After John Sutton turned a low ball across the box into the net, Motherwell looked to be finding their good old form - playing with a high backline, allowing wide players to run at the full-backs, creating chances for Sutton and Anier.  This style continued in the early stages of the second half which saw James McFadden show tantalising glimpses of a return to his former brilliance. This was especially pleasing for the ‘Well support, as this season, Europe in particular, he hasn’t been as effective as we need him to be.
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