McHugh: Our preparation is vital

Saturday, March 17, 2018
McHugh: Our preparation is vital

As the ball looped high off the head of Christophe Berra, it looked set for Harry Cochrane to hook the ball clear from danger, almost certainly resulting in a Scottish Cup quarter final replay between Hearts and Motherwell.

But Carl McHugh burst forward to control the ball on his chest ahead of the young Jambo’s midfielder, before unleashing one of the most memorable strikes seen at Fir Park in a decade.

On his apparently weaker right foot, Motherwell’s captain thundered an unstoppable volley in to the top corner from 25-yards to send the Steelmen back to Hampden.

It is somewhat fitting that the midfielder scored the goal responsible for securing another semi final, given that he will be suspended for that very fixture on April 14.

For Carl, as always, it isn’t about him.

“It was a special goal, one that will live with me forever, but all that matters is the team,” he said.

Sure it’s frustrating that I won’t be able to play in the semi’s, but the lads will go out there and give it their all like they do every week.

He added: “But to be honest, I’m not thinking that far ahead, because we have some huge games coming up, starting today.

“While we’ve spoke about the Hearts game and the goal in this interview, that’s long gone in our minds now. We just have to be focused on the league and on picking up as many points as possible because we still have a lot to play for.”

With Celtic set for Fir Park this afternoon, Motherwell’s number eight has his sight’s set on three important points.

“Celtic have proved for a number of years now that they’re the best team in the country,” the midfielder said. “We’ll need to be at our very best if we hope to get a result.

“But we’re here at home, where we’ve played well this season. It’s been something we’ve aimed to do; make Fir Park a hard place to come. I think that’s been the cornerstone of what success we’ve had this year.

We’ve had a lot of good results here and we’re going to have to continue to do that if we want to finish the season strongly.

He added: “We put in a really good performance the last time Celtic came here, and we were unlucky not to get more than just a point from the game.

“But we know how hard a game it will be this afternoon so we need to be sure we’re at our best from the first whistle.”

In his second season with the club, and his first with the armband, Carl allows himself to reflect fondly on what has been a season of highs for the club so far.

“I don’t think for a second that anyone in the dressing room would have been surprised if you told them we’d make it to a final, be challenging for the top six and be in the last four of the Scottish Cup,” the Irishman admitted.

“Sure, it may have surprised the media, but for us as a group, we have high standards and huge determination.”

That determination is something that has been ever-present in the dressing room this term.

And following a disappointing defeat in last weekend’s Lanarkshire derby, the skipper knows him and his teammates will need to show that in abundance this afternoon.

He said: “The defeat to Hamilton was a sore one to take, it’s never nice losing a derby match but I just felt we let ourselves down in our overall performance.

We didn’t do enough on the day and ultimately paid for our mistakes, so we’ll need to be sure to be at it today so that we can bounce back.

“We’re big enough to admit that and take it on the chin. To be honest, it’s not just about today, if we can use that to bounce back for the next four hugely important games then it’ll help push us on for a strong end to the season.”

And ahead of today’s clash with Brendan Rodgers side, the Steelmen have been focused in their preparations in training.

“We were gutted after the game last weekend,” Carl admitted. “But the boys always bounce back, we don’t expect anything different.

“We’ve done that when we’ve needed to most this season, we don’t sit around and feel sorry for ourselves. If you do that, you won’t get very far in football!

“But training’s been very good this week, we’ve been working hard to ensure we go in with a game plan to get a result today.”

Those preparations play a big role for the team, Carl reveals.

“We work really, really hard on the training pitch and we have a real togetherness. I think when you go in to games with that sort of preparation and attitude you go in with a bit more confidence.

“We all know our jobs, we all know exactly what we’re doing on the pitch and I think when you can safely feel like the man next to you is just as prepared as you are, it ultimately makes you a better team.”

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