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    Hateley gears up for ‘Biggest game’

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    Keeper disappointed with return defeat

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    O’Brien concentrates on the job at hand

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    Motherwell U19’s 4 – 0 St Johnstone U19’s

  • Archive

    Jutkiewicz relishes Celtic tester

  • Archive

    Sutton is certain of latest goal…

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    Saunders in dreamland

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    Sutton aims for Tynecastle triumph

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    Hutchinson on the mend

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    Saunders commits till 2013

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    Hateley gears up for ‘Biggest game’

    Saturday’s defeat against Celtic is already old news, and Motherwell are looking forward to the biggest game of their season on Wednesday night according to versatile midfielder Tom Hateley.

    ‘Well go into the match knowing a win against John Hughes’ men will guarantee a Europa Cup spot for The Steelmen next season, and Motherwell’s young player of the year is under no illusions about just how important the final home match of the season will be for the club.

    “It’s all got to come down to Wednesday now.” Hateley said bluntly. “We came here believing that we could get something from this game but it wasn’t to be. We just need to look forward to the Hibs game now – it’s pretty much like cup final for us!

    “Four points ahead of Hibs going into the last day would be just beautiful! Perfect! You can’t predict what the game will be like. Both teams will be going at it from the first whistle – it’s their cup final too. I’m sure it will be a great game to watch.”

    Fourth place is now close enough to touch for Craig Brown’s men; an achievement which would have been dismissed as ridiculous when ‘Well stumbled into January – and Hateley is quick to point out what a massive effort the last few weeks have been from the players and new management team.

    “At the start of the season we said top six was the aim. The new gaffer came in and we went on a great run to get into the top six. Now what we are all desperate and striving to do is get that fourth spot – which would be a magnificent achievement for the boys.” The 20 year old praised.

    “It’s great to have it in our own hands. We don’t need to look elsewhere and it’s just down to the boys on the pitch.”

    Goals from McGeady, O’Dea, Keane and James Forrest condemned the men from Fir Park to their heaviest defeat under the stewardship of Brown and Knox. But Hateley insists the score flattered the home side, and he has no doubts ‘Well will bounce back against Hibs.

    “We had a couple of chances to maybe get a foothold in the game. There was a chance from a corner that hit the post and Saunders had a volley cleared off the line that would have gone in any other day.” Hateley reflected.

    “It’s just one of those things. The game could have been different but we ended up getting battered 4-nil.

    “We now just think about Wednesday.”

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    Keeper disappointed with return defeat

    Motherwell fans would’ve been delighted to see John Ruddy make a shock return yesterday – but the big keeper admits it’s wasn’t exactly a dream comeback at Celtic Park.

    The on-loan Everton stopper has been in stunning form this season with 15 clean sheets, but shipped four on his return from injury at Parkhead as Celtic punished a lacklustre performance from The Steelmen.

    A visibly deflated Ruddy said: “It’s always a disappointment to concede goals, regardless of how many. But to capitulate like that in the second half was really disappointing for everyone involved.

    “I thought we were good in the first half, so there was no indication that was going to happen.

    “We just didn’t come out at the start of the second half. We were a bit sloppy and you just can’t afford to do that at places like this. We got punished.”

    No-one would have foreseen such a heavy defeat for Motherwell as the teams left the pitch at half time. Celtic struggled to get a foothold in the match in the first period and ‘Well even hit the post just minutes before the break.

    More of the same would have been the order of the day at half time from Brown and Knox, but Ruddy thinks they were made to rue a slack start in the second half.

    “The first goal was a massive blow.” He admitted. “I wouldn’t say it was to blame for us losing 4-nil but if you lose a goal so early in the second half it is a big issue. If you can ride out the first ten or fifteen minutes then maybe the story will be different.  

    “The talk in the dressing room before the game was that we could get points here. Celtic played a slightly weakened team…if you can call it that – so we fancied our chances. But when they can bring people like Robbie Keane and Diomansy Kamara off the bench it shows the quality in depth Celtic have got.

    “We’ve got to bounce back – it’s a simple as that.” A determined Ruddy insisted.

    Ruddy and Motherwell will now turn their attention to Wednesday night, and a massive game against Hibs in the battle for fourth spot. A win for ‘Well will see The Steelmen confirm the final definite Europa Cup berth for next season and the young keeper is in now doubt about just how vital the match will be:

    “If we let Hibs beat us on Wednesday then it (fourth place) is well out of our hands. Wednesday is our biggest game of the season and we’ve got to turn up first and second half this time.”

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    O’Brien concentrates on the job at hand

    Flying winger Jim O’Brien insists his only focus just now is helping Motherwell qualify for Europe for the third successive season.

    Reports in one of today’s tabloids suggested that the former Celtic and Dundee United man had actually signed for Championship side Barnsley.

    However, O’Brien, speaking exclusively to motherwellfc.co.uk, has confirmed that he hasn’t put pen to paper on anything and is concentrating on helping ‘Well through three massive games.

    “Reports in today’s papers are somewhat premature; I haven’t signed anything.

    “I have been down this week, on our day off, to speak with Mark Robins and to see the place at Barnsley and it has all been very positive. But, nothing has been finalised. I have had chats with other clubs since the turn of the year so nothing changes whatsoever.

    “Whilst I am a Motherwell player, my 100% focus is doing my best for the team, the supporters and the manager. Every player in the dressing room knows what we have to do and that has my undivided attention.”

    The Steelmen face a tricky trip to the East End of Glasgow to take on a Celtic side rejuvenated since Neil Lennon took up the reigns.

    The teams met a few weeks ago with the Steelmen unlucky to run out 2-1 losers despite taking the lead through a Mark Reynolds goal.

    O’Brien, a former Celtic player, knows how tough tomorrow will be but reckons the side are travelling along the M74 in confident mood.

    He said: “Going to Parkhead or Ibrox is always tough, no matter how the Old Firm are playing. The fact that Celtic have won the last five league games doesn’t make it any easier, that’s for sure.”

    “In saying that, we done well at Tynecastle last weekend and will be looking to try and pick something up. Obviously, the fourth spot is still up for grabs and that could lead to European football for the club next season. That’s big and whilst that carrot is still there, we’ll be doing everything in our power to take as many points from the last three games as possible.”

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    Motherwell U19’s 4 – 0 St Johnstone U19’s

    A Robert McHugh hat-trick and Gary Smith’s seventeenth of the campaign ensured ‘Well finished the season with all three points against St Johnstone this afternoon.

    A 28-minute treble from McHugh in the first-half gave Gordon Young’s men a commanding lead at the interval. The second-half was more even but Smith stole the show with a brilliant individual effort that added the exclamation point to an impressive win.

    It means Rangers will now need to win both of their remaining games against Falkirk and St Mirren to overtake the Steelmen for the runners-up spot.

    Young stuck with the same starting eleven that overcame Hearts on Tuesday and ‘Well started the better side. However, it took just over nine minutes to create the first decent chance at goal.

    A quick-thinking Jamie Pollock wasted no time with a free-kick on the edge of the box, rolling in Robert McHugh. The striker took a touch before firing a fierce low effort that forced Saints keeper Zander Clark into a superb save from point-blank range.

    However, just three minutes later, the same player wouldn’t be denied when he opened the scoring in spectacular style. Ross McKinnon was fouled on the edge of the area presenting ‘Well with a chance at goal. Pollock was again hovering over it, but it was McHugh who took the free-kick, curling a beautiful effort around the wall and in off the inside of the post with Clark at full-stretch.

    Saints were creating little, if anything, in the way of a chances; only a trickling low shot at Ross Hyslop gave the young ‘keeper a touch of the ball in the first twenty minutes.

    Down the other end though, Motherwell were creating problems and it was almost two when Pollock’s corner found Meechan at the back post, but the midfielder’s blistering low effort was somehow blocked for a corner by one of the melee of St Johnstone defenders inside the eighteen-yard-box.

    The resulting kick from the quadrant again wasn’t cleared allowing Dan Parker to tee up McHugh who drilled a twenty-yard effort off the top of the bar.

    It was turning into a one-sided affair and Clark, in the visitor’s goal, was keeping things respectable. On the half-hour, he made two fantastic saves in quick succession to deny Captain Peter Innes and full-back McKinnon.

    Both players tried their luck from distance, Innes’ shot turned round the post and McKinnon’s dipping drive somehow turned over the bar as ‘Well turned the screw.

    The pressure finally paid off as McHugh scored a quick fire double to not only win the game, but secure his hat-trick. The first, after 37 minutes, was a predator’s finish when the Scotland U19’s hitman was well-placed to prod home after a bit of a stramash inside the penalty area. The second, three minutes later, was another terrific goal. Picking up from a neat Meechan pass, he side-stepped the last defender before coolly slotting it past Clark for a 28-minute-treble.

    Incredibly, he (McHugh) could’ve added his, and Motherwell’s, fourth just before half-time when he finished a fantastic sweeping move but the shot was again saved by Clark and Saints got in at half-time with the scoring just at three.

    Bizarrely similar to Tuesday’s win at Hearts, the second half, compared to the first at least, was a bit of a non-event. Saints started the half with their first and only real effort at goal when Stephen Reynolds hit a low shot that was fairly easy for a well-positioned Hyslop to gather.

    The only other thing of note in the second forty-five was Gary Smith’s goal on the hour mark which was arguably the best bit of play of the match.

    The big striker picked up on the right flank and, hugging the by-line, danced round two challenges before somehow tucking it past Clark from the tightest of angles.

    A brilliant individual strike from the former Queens Park man, and probably the pick of the seventeen he has netted for the Steelmen this term.

    Young threw on three late subs with Sloan, Brown and McDonald all getting a run, but there wasn’t any change to the score with the game finishing 4-0.

    It represents the final game of the 2009/2010 season for the Under 19’s and, sadly, the end of the road for a few in the ‘Well team. The likes of Ross Hyslop and Dan Parker will leave the club next Sunday and go with the best wishes of everyone at Fir Park.

    Motherwell: Hyslop, Halsman (Sloan – 66mins), Quinn, Parker (Brown – 73mins), McKinnon, Meechan, Innes, McHugh, Smith, J.Pollock, Lawless (McDonald – 78mins)

    Subs Not Used: Muir, G.Pollock

  • Archive

    Jutkiewicz relishes Celtic tester

    Motherwell’s on-loan striker Lukas Jutkiewicz reckons the Celtic Park fear factor has somewhat diminished for teams visiting the East End of Glasgow this season.

    The Steelmen lost 2-1 the last time the teams met despite, arguably, having the better of the chances and the 21-year-old says ‘Well are heading to Parkhead in confident mood – and gunning for revenge:

    “I think a lot of the fear of going to a place like Celtic Park has gone now, and we are confident,” said the optimistic on-loan Evertonian.

    “Celtic have picked up lately and got a great result last time out at Dundee United, but we still believe we can go to there and get a good result. Our previous match against Celtic was a bit of an injustice in terms of the result because our performance was really good but we just let ourselves down in a couple of silly areas.

    “I got a little bit of a kicking last time at Celtic Park, but I’d expect nothing less – that’s a centre backs job!”

    Parkhead isn’t the only place where the big striker has felt like he’s been through the wars.

    Jutkiewicz has been playing through the pain barrier of late, and has led the line admirably despite a persistent knee injury. A fact made all the more heroic given the fact he is only at the club on a year’s loan.

    Not that the player feels like he is ‘only on loan’: “I don’t feel like I am here temporarily. I feel really comfortable here; I’m enjoying myself and it’s somewhere I’d like to be to play my football.” The player admitted.

    “I’ve been carrying a knock for a few months now. The problem started at the beginning of February after the Rangers game here, so it’s been a long while and a frustrating couple of months. I’m assured it won’t be a long term injury so I’m happy to take painkillers and play whenever I can.”

    ‘Well fans everywhere will be delighted at the Englishman’s desire to stay at Fir Park, where he has enjoyed a run of matches and a rich vein of goal-scoring form before the injuries hit.

    Unfortunately there is a suggestion the decision may be taken out of the hands of both Jutkiewicz and Motherwell as the striker’s contract with the Merseyside club peters out.

    “If I have another years loan here next year then Everton risk losing me for nothing, so they might want to get some money for me,” he said solemnly, “but I’m really happy and if I could stay here it would be great.”

    “If it was possible for myself, Steve (Jennings) and John (Ruddy) to all stay then that would be brilliant. We’ve all really enjoyed ourselves up here and would love to stay on.

    “It would be a shame if Everton were to price me out of a move here. It wouldn’t make sense to ask too much because I’m obviously out of contract next year.

    “So, as I’ve said; next year I’d love to see myself here. Fingers crossed that can happen. I expect I’ll be having a meeting with the manager (David Moyes) at the end of the season to see exactly what his plans are.”

    Regardless of whether Lukas is still at Motherwell next season, he is determined to leave the club with the gift of European qualification to remember him by, saying: “Even if I’m not a part of it next season it would mean the World for me to leave here having helped the team to a place in Europe, but ideally it’s something I’d like to be a part of.”

    The Steelmen’s terrific win at Tynecastle last week all but assured at least fifth place, which will mean a Europa Cup place should heavy favourites Dundee United win the Scottish Cup. However there is no suggestion that complacency could be a factor at the club.

    “I would be a massive achievement to get a European spot, but the players don’t just want to finish fifth – we want fourth place. Partly because fifth place means the players are back two weeks earlier for the early stages of the Europa Cup whereas you go in a round later if we finish fourth, so the management team don’t need to give us any more added motivation than two weeks extra holiday!” He laughed.

    “I’ve had some great European experiences just being in some Everton squads in the UEFA Cup runs, but haven’t managed to play. So I’m now keen to get some games from the start in Europe. It’s every player’s ambition and I know all the lads are desperate for another shot at it after not getting to the group stages this year.

    “I’ve been to Fiorentina, Nuremburg in Germany was an amazing purpose built World Cup stadium, AZ Alkmaar was a great atmosphere – so it’s absolutely something I want more experiences of.”

  • Archive

    Sutton is certain of latest goal…

    John Sutton selflessly told motherwellfc.co.uk before the weekend that he would give up personal glory for a team victory against Hearts.

    Well he needn’t have offered, as he scored his third goal in two games at Tynecastle – and the team got a vital victory.

    Sutton’s goal extended ‘Well’s lead just before the interval to 2-0, after young Steven Saunders had scrambled The Steelmen in front just minutes before. It takes the big Englishman’s tally in the SPL to nine goals this season.

    Considering Sutton was apparently nonplussed before the match with whether or not he scored against Hearts, it was ironic to see his first priority after the game was to make sure everyone knew he was the one that grabbed the second goal.

    Some media sources initially gave the goal as an own goal after Sutton headed home in a packed penalty area, an assertion the striker was having none of: “When you do know that you have headed it, you want to make sure it’s yours.” He admitted. “I’m glad we’ve got the new video guy, Greg Thomson, to clear the situation up for us. It was such a good delivery, I just managed to get half a yard away and get my head on it.

    “I thought I was being nice and thanking Tom for his delivery, but maybe I should make sure everyone knows that it was my goal!” He laughed.

    The Steelmen can now look to put their winless streak behind them, and look to build the type of unbeaten run which has put them in this lofty position in the first place as the season draws to a close.

    Sutton insists he never lost faith with the clubs form throughout the clubs recent barren spell: “We’ve been playing well but we were just relieved to get the win and our fans have been really good. They have followed us everywhere and it’s nice to say thank you to them.

    “Hopefully we can keep fourth place. We know it’s going to be difficult, we have got Hibs at Fir Park and that will be a make-or-break game for us.”

    The win over Hearts means Motherwell have effectively built an insurmountable lead over the Gorgie side, and can now begin to look at finishing above the other Edinburgh side too. The result takes ‘Well above Hibs into the coveted fourth spot (at least until Sunday afternoon) – which will be the final European spot if Dundee United fail to win the Scottish Cup.

    It is hard to avoid the ‘E-word’ when you talk to the players at the club, as it is absolutely clear they are all desperate for another crack at Continental football. Former St Mirren hit man Sutton is equally determined to get a European place – for the players and for the fans.

    “This game certainly hasn’t got us a European place just yet because Hibs are just one point behind, but we will keep going and hopefully finish in a Europa position.” A steely Sutton said. “It would be nice for the fans because when you speak to them, they always talk about European football and trips to Bucharest or Nancy. So that would be fantastic.”

  • Archive

    Saunders in dreamland

    A contract extension and his first goal for Motherwell probably represents one of the more enjoyable weeks in the young career of Steven Saunders.

    But the player himself is the first to admit that the goal which broke his ‘Well duck is unlikely to win any awards for finesse.

    Saunders broke the deadlock at Tynecastle at the weekend by scrambling the ball over the line in the midst of an almighty goalmouth free-for-all, after his initial header from a Stevie Hammell corner was blocked.

    “It wasn’t exactly a 30-yard thunderbolt, but I’ll take any kind of goal to start me off!” Saunders smiled. “To be fair I think the ball crossed the line a couple of times, I’m fairly sure my first header was actually in. I just followed in to make sure. To be honest I just flew in for the ball swinging legs at it! I was desperate for that first goal.

    “I’ve been looking to get my first goal for a while now, and it’s just a case of relief.”

    Regardless of the aesthetics of the goal, it was a massively important one for The Steelmen and set up what was ultimately a comfortable victory over a Hearts side that harboured pre-match hopes of overtaking Motherwell in the run-in.

    After the 2-0 victory, ‘Well now possess a healthy seven point cushion and favourable goal difference over the Gorgie side with just nine points left to play for. All but the most pessimistic of fans would say fifth place is now secured – and the promising stopper is looking upwards now.

    An optimistic Saunders said: “Instead of looking backwards we can look ahead and try to go out and get that fourth place. We will just concentrate on winning football matches, but it’s in our hands now.

    “This result makes our position over Hearts much more secure, which is important because they are a good team and could have put us under real pressure.”

    Much has been made of the Lanarkshire side’s recent run without a win, perhaps because it came on the back of such a marvellous unbeaten run. But, much like his gaffer, Saunders wasn’t worried for a moment and knew the results would return if ‘Well kept their performance levels up.

    In fact the promising defender thinks there is still even more to come from Brown’s men as they chase a fourth spot finish: “We had lost four games in a row, but to get back to winning ways was always going to be about mentality and determination.

    “We played very well here, but we know that we can play much better. Next week we will hope to get another win and play even better.”

    Of course fourth place is the clubs target because it provides guaranteed European football for next season, and that is something that drives Steve Saunders on. Like much of the squad at Motherwell he has experienced European football in small doses – and those little tastes have only served to whet his appetite for more.

    Looking back on his outings earlier in the season he said: “I played in four European games early on this season, and it was a great experience. I was only 18 and I was lining up against full internationals in a superb Steaua Bucharest team, and that’s the type of learning curve I want to be on.

    “European football would be brilliant. Every player wants to play on that kind of stage and I’m no different.”

    Regardless of whether it is in Europe or the SPL it seems certain Saunders will play an increasingly important role in the Motherwell first team next year, a fact effectively confirmed this week as the club offered him a new deal which will see him stay at Fir Park until 2013.

    It might seem like a hard decision for a young footballer to make, but the player insists his answer was never in doubt: “When the club offered me a new deal I didn’t need to think about it twice. It’s another year on top of what I already had and it gives me that bit more security as I’m playing my football.

    “The club seems to be happy with the way I’m playing, and I just hope that continues.”

  • Archive

    Sutton aims for Tynecastle triumph

    John Sutton’s towering headed brace against Dundee United last week saw him become Motherwell’s top scorer this season, but the big front man admits he would forsake another goal at Tynecastle this weekend if it meant ‘Well would get a vital three points in the race for Europe.

    Sutton is expected to lead the line again against Jim Jefferies men in the Capital after an impressive – albeit ultimately futile – performance against The Arabs, and getting back to winning ways is the only priority for Sutton:

    “The main thing is to win games.” He insisted. “It felt good to score in the last game, but I have to admit that it doesn’t count for a lot when the team doesn’t win. Playing in a winning team is much more rewarding than scoring goals for yourself.

    “I’m just as happy setting up chances for Jamie (Murphy) or Lukas (Jutkiewicz). As long as the team are creating chances, we are playing good football and scoring goals that is all that matters.”

    Motherwell are currently enduring a run of four matches without a victory since the clubs magnificent 13-match unbeaten run came to a halt. This is despite the fact the team have turned in a series of very respectable performances.

    Although some cynics might claim ‘the bubble has burst’ for ‘Well the English striker has seen enough from his team in recent matches to remain confident about The Steelmen’s chances in the run-in.

    “When you look at our performances in the last few games it is quite obvious we aren’t a million miles away. We just hope we can cut out the silly errors at the back and be a bit more clinical up top in order to get the result on Saturday.” Sutton confidently stated.

    “We can take the positives from the way we are playing, at the same time just improve our concentration. I believe we will pick ourselves up because we have some big games coming up and lots to play for before the end of the season.”

    Craig Brown has admitted that as well as vying for a Europa Cup place he sees Motherwell’s presence in the top six as a perfect rehearsal for a season in the upper echelons of the SPL next year. The trip to Gorgie will undoubtedly serve as a testing examination of the squad’s current state in relation to, traditionally, one of the most powerful clubs in Scotland out with the Old Firm.

    The former Spurs trainee Sutton acknowledges that Motherwell aren’t spoken in the same breath as some of the ‘bigger’ clubs in the country, but thinks there is evidence that the club could be heading that way:

    “Motherwell is a really excellent football club, but I don’t think we are regarded as being of the same stature as clubs like Hearts, Hibs, Dundee United or Aberdeen.

    “So if we can finish fourth and play in Europe for the third consecutive season it would be a fantastic achievement and would make a real statement about the potential Motherwell Football Club has.”

    With Motherwell defying expectations in fifth spot and the goals flowing freely for John Sutton, you would forgive him for not having many regrets from the current campaign, but he openly admits that Europe is playing on his mind.

    ‘Well were defeated by Steaua Bucharest this season and were eliminated by French side AS Nancy-Lorraine the year before, and those brief forays into continental qualification have made Sutton all the more desperate to qualify again this season – and perhaps right some wrongs.

    “I don’t think we have done ourselves justice in previous campaigns.” The striker said frankly. “We all feel like we have a lot more to give in Europe, and we are all desperate to play on that stage again and that certainly helps drive us on.

    “Scottish clubs get a bad press for not doing well enough in European competition, and that just makes us all the more keen to qualify and see if we can get a scalp or two next season!”

    The fact John Sutton was able to talk about the prospect of Europa Cup football at Fir Park next season to the assembled press is testament to the miraculous job Craig Brown and Archie Knox have done since taking the reins at the turn of the year. At that moment in time turning Jim Gannon’s relegation candidates into genuine European contenders would have seemed farcical, but a win in Edinburgh would see it a step closer to becoming reality.

    Like everyone else at the club, Sutton was glowing in his praise for the management duo, and expressed his relief that they would be carrying on into next season.

    “They have made a massive difference. The atmosphere at the club is fantastic now and the enthusiasm they bring to training is fantastic; and as well as that their experience and tactical knowledge is just fantastic.

    “Everyone was really pleased when they signed new deals and we can now really look forward to next season knowing we will have great men in charge.”

  • Archive

    Hutchinson on the mend

    Motherwell’s talented defender Shaun Hutchinson made his long-awaited return in a bounce game against St Johnstone this afternoon.

    The Geordie defender, missing for most of this season, hasn’t played a game since December 20th but after months of rehabilitation, managed the first forty-five minutes in a comfortable 2-0 win.

    ‘Well, who included a number of trialists, amongst them Chelsea youngster Liam Bridcutt and Perth Glory’s Adriano Pelligrino, ran out two-nil winners courtesy of a brace from Ross Forbes.

    Craig Brown, who was in attendance along with assistant Archie Knox told motherwellfc.co.uk, “It’s yet another fantastic exercise for us and although results are not important in these games, we’re pleased with another win.

    “Shaun Hutchinson coming back is a major boost and you can see his qualities. We gave him forty-five minutes and he coped well. He’ll need more time and more games but when we get him fit, which will probably be next season, it will be like having a new player.

    “We also took the opportunity to look at one or two trialists and we will continue to monitor progress.”

  • Archive

    Saunders commits till 2013

    Young star Steven Saunders has today (Wednesday) signed an extension to his current contract, tying him to Fir Park till the summer of 2013.

    Saunders, who has played 28 times for the Fir Parkers this term, has won rave reviews for his performances prompting the club to extend his stay by another year.

    And the former Queens Park man was delighted with his new deal, telling motherwellfc.co.uk, “It has been a pretty decent season for me and to cap it with an extension to my contract has been brilliant.

    “I had set a target, at the start of the season, to play in about ten to fifteen games so to have played almost three times that has been excellent.

    “There are few better places to learn your trade than Fir Park and under Craig Brown and Archie Knox; hopefully I will continue my development.”