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    Hateley relishes European battle

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    Skipper is the latest ‘Well star to commit

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    Midfielder is the second to sign

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    SPL Post Split Fixtures

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    Jennings can’t wait for Celtic tester

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    Hammell rues Falkirk failure

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    In operation at today’s game

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    Hateley relishes European battle

    The post-split fixtures have not been kind to Motherwell, but Tom Hateley insists he cannot wait to commence the battle for fourth place on Sunday afternoon.

    Arguably the most impressive SPL team in the land at the moment are coming to town in the form of Peter Houston’s Dundee United side, and Hateley has absolutely no doubt about the importance of Sunday’s match.

    “It is a massive game this weekend.” Hateley said honestly. “We knew as soon as the Celtic game finished that our match with Dundee United would be huge. We only have two home games after the split so we really need to try and beat United and Hibs and grab that fourth spot.

    “There is a great belief in the squad that we can get that fourth spot and win any match that we play. Results haven’t gone our way in the last three games but hopefully that little bit of luck can bounce back round this weekend.

    “It’s a really close fight for fourth place. Our home games are very important. Hopefully we can win on Sunday and also beat Hibs at home, and they could be vital wins. But it all comes down to results – Hibs could lose this weekend and we could win and we would jump straight into fourth and it would be ours to lose. Time will tell.”

    Tuesday nights defeat in Glasgow means Motherwell have now followed up their twelve game unbeaten run with a three match losing streak. This fact doesn’t faze the versatile Hateley, who expects the club to get back to winning ways if the performances stay at the current level:

    “We’ve lost three games in a row, so our good run before that is a distant memory. We’ll now take every game and hopefully try and get this run back on track over the last five games.

    “You could say at Parkhead we were a bit unlucky as we had some great chances and their keeper pulled off some great saves, so hopefully our luck in front of goal will change and those chances will start going in.”

    A 3-0 defeat to Dundee United a few weeks ago sparked the current run of defeats, and Hateley is characteristically frank about ‘Well’s desire for revenge for a very unflattering score line.

    “We all feel like we really owe them one for the match up there a couple of weeks ago.” He smiled. “We played well at Tannadice. We had some great balls into the box and good chances but we just couldn’t finish them, and 3-0 flattered them a bit.”

    Tom Hateley was crowned Motherwell fans’ young player of the year at a ceremony at Fir Park last Saturday to cap what has been a marvellous campaign, and with his current deal expiring in the summer it is believed renewing his deal is high on the Motherwell board’s priorities.

    In a week that has seen Keith Lasley and Stephen Craigan followed Steven Hammell in signing new deals at the club, the Englishman has made no secret of his desire to stay at the club where he has become a central figure even at a young age.

    “I’m really enjoying my football at the moment.” He said, “I’m only 20 and I wanted to come to Motherwell and play games and progress as a player, and that’s what this club has given me the chance to do. I can’t thank them enough, and I certainly would never say no to staying here.

    “The gaffer has said for a few months now that he wants to get everybody signed up because we have got quite a few players out of contract. A couple more have now put pen to paper and that is good for the club – especially as Lasley and Craigan are players that have been here for ages. So everyone at the club is happy about it.

    “My contract expires this summer. We are just talking at the moment, and the gaffer has told me just to concentrate on playing. I’m happy to do that because I just want to be getting minutes on the pitch then hopefully we can get something sorted.”

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    Skipper is the latest ‘Well star to commit

    Motherwell’s inspirational captain Stephen Craigan has joined Stevie Hammell and Keith Lasley in signing a new deal to stay at Fir Park late this afternoon.

    The Northern Ireland International, capped 46 times by his country, making him Motherwell’s most capped player by some considerable distance, has signed a one-year contract extension to his current deal which will include the culmination of his testimonial season.

    Craigan joined Motherwell in September of 1994 under then boss Alex McLeish. He stayed at Fir Park until May of 2000 before departing for Partick Thistle having played 32 times in Claret and Amber.

    After a successful three-year spell in the West End of Glasgow, including two successive promotions, he returned to his spiritual home when Terry Butcher brought him back to Fir Park three years after departing.

    Since June 2003, he has played a further 262 times for the Steelmen and is now just four games short of passing the 300 game milestone. Craigan was also given the Captain’s armband in the summer of 2008 following the tragic death of Phil O’Donnell and has represented the club in an immaculate fashion since.

    Speaking exclusively to motherwellfc.co.uk, ‘Well boss Craig Brown said: “I am delighted that Stephen has signed an extension to his contract.

    “Crags, along with other experienced guys like Las (Keith Lasley) and (Stevie) Hammell, is hugely influential and the fact the he is remaining with us for at least another year is a massive bonus.

    “I don’t expect this will be the last contract he will sign with Motherwell either as he has proven that he is still very capable of playing at the very top level for a long time yet.”

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    Midfielder is the second to sign

    Fans favourite Keith Lasley has become the second Motherwell player in recent weeks to commit his future to the club by signing a new two-year contract.

    Lasley, who is in his second spell with the Fir Parkers after a brief “hiatus” with Plymouth Argyle, has played 222 for the Steelmen and has been the cornerstone of the Craig Brown revival in 2010.

    After being allowed to leave Kilmarnock in his youth, the one-time Gleniffer Boys Club player came to Motherwell in the late nineties and worked his way steadily through the ranks and into the ‘Well first team.

    2009-2010 is his tenth season in Claret and Amber and the ‘veteran’ was delighted to have his future sorted, “I am thrilled to get everything sorted out. I have never hidden my desire to play for this club; I love it here.

    “Sure, things were hard for the first six months of this season but that has been the only time during my ten years at this club where I haven’t enjoyed coming to work each and every day.

    “Hopefully I’ll be able to see out the rest of my professional career here. There are a few other boys who are out of contract and hopefully others will follow Stevie Hammell and I and we can keep the core of the squad together.”

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    SPL Post Split Fixtures

    The Board of Motherwell FC are deeply concerned about the outcome of the post split fixtures and its implication for the sporting and financial position of the Club. 

    We are seeking an immediate discussion with the SPL on what has happened and why and have a duty of care to our fans, shareholders and employees to ensure that the apparent inequity we have been asked to suffer is remedied.

    We understand that the SPL cannot please everyone with every fixture decision, but the decision making process has resulted in a deeply unfair outcome both competitively and financially and we cannot let that stand.

    All avenues of protest will be considered.

    Leeann Dempster
    Chief Executive

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    Jennings can’t wait for Celtic tester

    Steve Jennings admits it will be a massive thrill to run out at Celtic Park on Tuesday night, and the midfield dynamo can’t wait for the big games to keep on coming when Motherwell begin their post-split fixtures still chasing a spot in the Europa League.

    Jennings was a substitute the last time The Steelmen visited Parkhead and just coming on for the final ten minutes made an impression on the player – now he can’t wait to start!

    “I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “Coming out to big crowds and big occasions is what we come to work and train for and try to better ourselves for.  So to come and play at a ground like Celtic Park is just fantastic.

    “The objective at the beginning of the season was to finish in the top six. We have cemented that now and we can really look forward to the next few games and try to finish as high as we can.”

    Plenty neutrals in Scottish football were cheering on the plucky underdogs from Dingwall on Saturday afternoon, but Jennings admits that his mind was on potential European football next season and he would have like to have seen the men in green-and-white make the final:

    “I didn’t actually see the game. I was a bit disappointed with the result, with the effect it has on our hopes for a Europa League spot. If Celtic had got to the final it would have opened up an extra place for us.”

    All eyes will be on the home side on Tuesday as everyone looks to see Celtic’s response after losing to Ross County, and Jennings is expecting Lennon’s charges to come flying out the blocks:

    “They will be embarrassed by the result against Ross County. I’ve played in games where we have lost to a lower league, and you just can’t wait to get back out on the park to make things right.

    “So for them Tuesday night can’t come soon enough I’d imagine. It will be a really tough test for us.”

    The crowd inside Celtic Park could be a big factor, and Jennings thinks turning the them against Celtic could be one of Motherwell’s best hopes of getting a result:

    “If I were a Celtic fan I would be very disappointed at the way my season has gone. So we will go there and play the best we can.

    Jennings laughed: “If we can upset the home crowd then we have obviously done our job well!”

    Much has been made about the skewed nature of the post-split fixtures as far as Motherwell are concerned, but Jennings is determined to look on the bright side and sees a great opportunity to get at least a couple of massive wins at Fir Park in the race for fourth:

    “Dundee United and Hibs are our main rivals, and getting them at home gives us a really good opportunity to get a couple of big wins. If we can do that we could be in a great position. Obviously, for the club, it’s not worked out and the financial implications will be quite hefty but we’ve just got to keep focused on the task in hand and that is on the pitch.

    Motherwell find themselves in the rather unfamiliar position under Brown and Knox of having lost two consecutive matches, and Jennings in acutely aware of the need to arrest any potential slide and head into the top six in fine fettle:

    “We have no excuses for the Falkirk game,” he admitted.

    “They came here and played probably as well as they have all season away from home. We were just disappointed in our own performance. A lot of us didn’t turn up, and we just have to put that down to an off day.

    “Hopefully we can make up for that against Celtic. We will go to Celtic Park and play our game. We can’t look at the way Ross County played; we will go there and do our own thing.”

    The Liverpudlian midfielder has been in terrific form of late, and renewing his contract ranks high in the clubs current priority list. The player is certainly keen to see his future sorted:

    “I’m still in talks over my contract, but I hope it will be getting sorted in the next few weeks.”

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    Hammell rues Falkirk failure

    Experienced full-back Stevie Hammell admits the squad are still hurting from Saturday’s home defeat at the hands of Falkirk.

    The Steelmen crashed to their first loss at Fir Park since Boxing Day as Steven Pressley’s men ran out 1-0 winners.

    Hammell, who just last week penned a new two-year contract to stay at the club till the summer of 2012, told motherwellfc.co.uk that he is having trouble shaking off the dejection.

    The 28-year-old said, “It’s a massive disappointment; if we have any thoughts of getting into Europe, and with all due respect to Falkirk, we should be looking at winning those types of games. We’re all gutted with such a poor performance.”

    “We are just still really hurting at the moment.

    “It’s all about bouncing back now. That’s what we said when the run stopped, we would find out the character in the dressing room. It stopped against Dundee Utd and we wanted to put that to bed straight away, but it wasn’t to be. We weren’t anywhere near our best; it was a good game for us to have after losing at Tannadice but we didn’t deserve anything on Saturday.

    “We threw a few balls into the box and created a few half chances, but maybe played the wrong pass at the crucial time. I don’t think we made enough clear cut opportunities and that was massively disappointing.”

    The Scotland International cap rejected claims that the break in the lead up to the match at Tannadice has had an impact on recent form.

    Motherwell, who started pre-season in mid June preparing for a Europa League campaign, have now played 41 times this season.

    However, the full-back does admit that a lack of a game perhaps did interrupt the momentum build-up since early January.

    “I think the break came at a bad time for us. We were flying high and then all of a sudden we had two weeks without at game,” he said.

    “To be fair, we were rested and fully fit going into the game, the momentum seemed to stop but there was no excuse for Saturday’s performance.

    “However, we’ve got six games left against the top six teams in the league. That means that in most of the games we’ll be underdogs, which may well suit us. Maybe we are better being underdogs. We were favourites on Saturday and we lost. I think the pressure is really on when you are favourites and we just weren’t on our game.”

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    In operation at today’s game

    As has been the case at recent home matches, turnstile checks will take place around the entrances to Fir Park Stadium at this afternoon’s match with Falkirk.

    These checks will be performed by SIA accredited Stewards as a preventative measure, designed at combating a recent up-turn in controlled containers inside the ground as well as three separate instances of objects been thrown onto the field of play during a match this season.

    However, after consultation and in a change from previous matches, barriers at the East Stand will be laid out in an inverted “T” shape to allow easier and quicker access from both the Knowetop School and Cooper Stand sides of the turnstiles.

    This measure may result in your entrance to the stadium taking slightly longer than may normally be the case. Motherwell Football Club would like to sincerely apologise for any inconvenience this may cause and would appeal to fans to leave an extra five or ten minutes earlier when making their way to the ground.

    All Season Ticket Holders should be aware that today’s match will be Voucher Number 16 in the book whilst guests should use special voucher “F” from the back of the book.