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    Steve Jennings interview

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    Hamilton Accies: Us and Them

  • Archive

    A modern derby

  • Archive

    From the Dressing Room: Alan Gow

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    Pot Shots: Jamie Murphy

  • Archive

    I’ve always remained a Hamilton fan

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    Young pleased with ‘Steely’ resolve

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    U19s St Johnstone win in pictures

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    Motherwell U19s 1 – 0 St Johnstone U19s

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    No split loyalties for Hamilton fan Brown

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    Steve Jennings interview

    As a youngster Steve Jennings dreamed of featuring in a somewhat grander derby than the one which sees North meet South in Lanarkshire, and he insists that the derby-day passion he experienced growing up in Merseyside stands him in good stead for what’s to come this afternoon.

    Jennings is a lifelong Everton fan and chased his dream as a boy, joining The Toffees’ youth team as a talented young midfielder.

    At that point it was thoughts of Everton v Liverpool under the Goodison lights that drove the gifted teen on.

    “Everton were great with the young lads. They would take us to every home game so we could get the experience of what Goodison was like on a match day,” Jennings recalled.

    “I’m a football fan and always have been. I had seven or eight season tickets at Goodison Park as a kid before I joined the club and I loved the derby experience.

    “The nerves are unbelievable when I watch every Merseyside derby; even now I can hardly watch any time Liverpool get the ball in the Everton half – especially Gerrard; my heart starts pounding ten to the dozen, so I know what the fans feel on these occasions.”

    Things weren’t to work out with the blue half of Merseyside and Jennings moved on to Tranmere Rovers, where he excelled in their School of Excellence before graduating into the first team – even winning the clubs’ Young Player of the Year award in 2008.

    Yet, as an Everton supporter and former Everton youth player, the Liverpudlian midfielder obviously has not lost that appreciation of a good derby, and the move up north has given him the chance to excel in Motherwell vs. Hamilton encounters. 

    He is grateful to former boss Jim Gannon for that opportunity. The former boss brought Jenning’s up to Motherwell, and despite initial injury problems Steve was to end up playing a starring role last season:

    “It has been an unbelievable turnaround from missing out on the play-offs down in England to coming up here and playing in Europe, local derbies, and the latter stages of cup competitions,” he said, referring back to his time with Tranmere Rovers.

    It certainly didn’t take the 25-year old long to get into the groove of the Lanarkshire derby. In his first taste of the rivalry Jennings turned in a dynamic display – complete with booking – in an utterly enthralling 2-2 draw at New Douglas Park.

    Two more starts, and one more booking, would follow as Motherwell managed to complete an unbeaten 09/10 season against their rivals from down the road.

    You can’t help but look at the way Jennings’ plays the game and think that it is simply made for high-intensity, passionate derby football. Crunching tackles, impeccable work rate and an eye for a pass in the most manic of midfield battles is a must – and the former Tranmere player ticks all the boxes.

    In a typically tenacious assessment, Jennings confirmed: “I’m a straight-forward guy and I wear my heart on my sleeve and work hard, and going into games like this it might sound daft but if you get a couple of good tackles in straight away that can set you up for the game.

    “On these occasions if you can start the game well then you can kick on from there and put in a good performance.

    “So on Saturday we need to start sharply – which we’ve done the last few games at home – and get a grip of the game.”

    There is little doubt that a match against Hamilton is very different from most other SPL encounters, and there are just certain types of players who seem to thrive in a derby-day cauldron. This is confirmed with the enthusiasm with which he talks about this afternoon’s encounter.

    “I know what this type of game is all about,” he smiled. “The tempo is cranked up, the fans are up for it and whole experience is more hyped up than a lot of other matches.

    “With that in mind we’ll come out with all guns blazing and give it a really good go.”

    Hamilton visit Fir Park on the back of a difficult start to the season. Billy Reid’s men haven’t won a match in six attempts, and were defeated 2-1 at home last week thanks to a Danny Grainger goal for St. Johnstone.

    The Accies currently sit second-bottom of the SPL, just two points ahead of bottom side St Mirren.

    The Steelmen, on the other hand, are flying high. Brown’s men are lying in third spot – best-of-the-rest – and have only lost two games in the SPL all season; utterly understandable defeats to Rangers and Celtic – the latter an unlucky reverse thanks to a late, and somewhat dubious, penalty.

    Nonetheless, you all know how the cliché goes: when rivals meet form goes out the window.

    “Hamilton can come in to this game knowing Motherwell are perhaps the slight favourites to win,” Jennings noted. “That could give them a boost.

    “We’ll go into the game with the utmost respect for Hamilton; there’s not one player in that dressing room who doesn’t give every opposition team the respect they deserve – the management team make sure of that.

    “Hopefully if we play as well as we have done recently then the game will go by the form book, but that isn’t certain.”

    The midfield dynamo’s insistence that the team must be ready for a battle today further emphasises the need for the team to have sole focus on the SPL. It seems Motherwell’s season has been punctured with distractions; firstly the Europa League qualifiers and now Tuesday’s Co-operative Insurance Cup quarter-final victory over Dundee United.

    So far the players – in a remarkably small squad given the amount of games they have played – have coped well with bouncing back to SPL duty following a midweek challenge, and Jennings knows that is the task once more.

    Putting a trip to Hampden out his mind he said: “The gaffer and Archie said straight after the cup game that we have to focus on the league now. Saturday is a massive game for everyone here and we all know that the SPL is our bread and butter.

    “We’ll be fit and ready for it. Because of the Europa League we started our pre-season a little earlier, and I think you are seeing the benefit with how fit and strong we have been in the second half of games.”

    Last season the midfielder was part of something of an ‘Everton mafia’ with Toffees’ loan stars Lukas Jutkiewicz and keeper John Ruddy, before this summer saw both players sold on by their parent club to Coventry and Norwich respectively.

    It was undoubtedly a blow to Jennings to see two talented players, and good friends, leave Motherwell but he has dealt with the disappointment and carried on the form of last season.

    “I lived with Jukes (Lukas Jutkiewicz) last season, and we speak pretty much every day. I’ve just booked a holiday next summer with him, Jim O’Brien and a few of the lad’s here now – it just goes to show the great bunch of guys we had last season, and the great atmosphere you get at this club.

    “But the nature of football is that people leave. You could be at one end of the country one day and at the other end the next day – you just have to get your head down and get on with it.”

    His own determination to keep performing mirrors the achievement of the current Motherwell team, which has collectively shaken off the loss of all the quality which departed Fir Park over the summer; not just Ruddy and Lukas, but Jim O’Brien and Giles Coke too.

    It’s something Steve acknowledges: “I spoke to a few of the lads who left and they were asking whether we had brought anyone in. At that point we were trying but we couldn’t get any deals done – and I thought it could be a really tough season.

    “A lot of the lads knew they had to stand up and be counted with other players leaving and the results show that everyone has done that.”

    One constant which remained over the summer was the presence of Craig Brown and Archie Knox, and they are quickly proving that players may come and go, but with good coaching, man-management and tactical awareness they can keep ‘Well performing.

    “Craig and Archie coming in have helped my game a lot,” he said.

    “It’s not just me; a lot of the guys in that dressing room have come on leaps and bounds since the new management team came in.”

    The next test for Craig, Archie, Steve and the rest of the lads will be to illustrate that progress against Accies who will, no doubt, be right up for it.

    Alan Temple

  • Archive

    Hamilton Accies: Us and Them

    In May 1886 representatives of Glencairn and Alpha met in Baillie’s Pub in Parkneuk and decided to form a new club altogether; Motherwell Football Club.

    The first match of the club we know and love saw us defeat today’s opponents Hamilton Accies 3-2. Motherwell’s first ever goalscorers were Kemp with a brace and McMaster. There is no truth in the rumour that ‘Fergie’ was thrown out of our Roman Road ground that day for foul and abusive language!!

    Between 1926 and 1934 Motherwell were never out of the top three, and won an amazing fourteen out of sixteen against the Accies in that time! Our only defeat came on New Year’s Day 1931 at Douglas Park, the home side securing a 1-0 win.

    However that period was one of Motherwell domination, with two 5-1s and three 3-0s amongst the fourteen wins over our near neighbours. George Stevenson’s Motherwell side reached the final of both domestic trophies in the 1950/51 season, and en route to the Scottish Cup Final they easily despatched Accies 4-1 at Fir Park, with cup final hero of 1952 Archie Kelly amongst the goals.

    With both sides in different divisions for many years, league meetings were few and far between.

    So the Lanarkshire Cup was the best chance of a derby, and sadly for Accies they met the full force of the Ancell Babes in 1961, suffering a 7-0 hammering at Fir Park. Accies made a brief return to the top flight in 1965, but it was business as usual as far as Motherwell were concerned. The lads from Hamilton were relegated with a miserable return of only eight points, with Motherwell turning them over 4-1 and 4-2.

    Motherwell’s demotion in 1968 saw the sides lock horns once more, and as luck would have it the League Cup sectional draw paired the sides together too!

    It was two league wins for a rampant Motherwell, but it was Accies who held sway in the cup with a win and a draw early in the season. It would be another ten years before the sides would meet again following Motherwell’s pitiful relegation in 1979. In truth it took Motherwell some time to adjust, and Accies took advantage by winning the first derby 3-2 at Douglas Park. Happily Motherwell won the next two clashes at Fir Park, showing the Accies who was boss!

    The next season went the way of Accies though, with two wins to one in the league. The most infamous was the New Year’s Day clash of 1981 when, with Accies leading 2-1 at Fir Park, ‘Well’s cult hero ‘keeper Shuggie Sproat went upfield at a last minute corner. Sadly for us and hilariously for our visitors, the ball was cleared and with Shuggie unable to deal with the swift counter attack, Accies forward Neil Howie netted easily to clinch victory.

    Motherwell finally won promotion back to the Premier League in 1982, but once again Accies proved a tough nut to crack. Both teams won a game each with the first encounter ending level.

    Peter Elder

  • Archive

    A modern derby

    Graciousness and gratuity may not be the first two emotions going through the heads of die-hard ‘Well fans when they think about Billy Reid ahead of this afternoon’s derby, but they should be. If it wasn’t for the Accies gaffer then this occasion wouldn’t even be taking place.

    Motherwell against Hamilton Academical isn’t a fixture that would historically get Lanarkshire pulses racing. Accies have spent a yo-yo existence bouncing between the different levels of Scottish football; they were in the third division as recently as 2001.

    Promotions to the top flight in ’53, ’65, ‘86 and ’88 were quickly followed by immediate relegations as the men from down the road struggled to arrive at the top table of Scottish football.

    Thankfully Motherwell’s history is more stably rooted in the upper echelons of the Scottish game, meaning there has been something of a gulf preventing any real rivalry to manifest itself between the two neighbours.

    Generally Airdrieonians was always the more tumultuous rivalry.

    It is generally accepted that if The Steelmen were to face up to the reincarnation of Airdrieonians, Airdrie United, a little more often, that would be the biggest derby in Lanarkshire. The clubs have only met once in a competitive match, in the Scottish Cup in 2007 at New Broomfield. Motherwell won 1-0 that day and the crowd of approaching 6000 remains the record attendance for an Airdrie United match at New Broomfield.

    The fact that people still feel that Alan Gow’s arrival at Motherwell from a now-defunct Airdrieonians (via six other clubs mind) is noteworthy is testament to the fierce rivalry between these North Lanarkshire rivals.

    Graham Barnstaple, a Lanarkshire-based journalist and lifelong Motherwell fan, recalls: “The Lanarkshire Derby for the majority of Well fans was always against Airdrieonians rather than the Accies, mainly due to the frequency – or lack – of the games against the New Douglas Park side.

    “Motherwell fans would watch our home games and then the following week travel over to Douglas Park to watch The Accies.

    “As Chick Young would have said they would be seen by many as the “cuddly toy” of Lanarkshire football at that time.”

    Yet Hamilton – and, in particular, Billy Reid – have succeeded creating a real interest in this ‘new’  Lanarkshire derby following the Accies’ promotion back to the big time in 2008. It helps that this time they have managed to hang around for more than one season.

    Although the ‘banter’ between the sets of fans isn’t quite as vociferous as it used to be in the Airdrieonians days, there is certainly a buzz about Fir Park when the visitors from two miles away in South Lanarkshire come to the north.

    The derby experience is made all the more pleasurable for The Steelmen by the fact that Motherwell have had to cope, until 2008, with having no discernable top-flight rival. Granted, Fir Park is a cauldron when either half of the Old Firm visit from Glasgow, but nothing quite compares to the local pride which comes from beating an opponent from just down the road.

    Motherwell pride themselves on being a community club; the links with the local area are strong, and with that in mind it is all the more special to be able to enjoy a real local derby.

    It also helps that since the North-South Lanarkshire derby came to the SPL both clubs seem to have embraced the passion, energy and desperation to win which defines all the best derbies.

    The first two encounters between the teams back in the top flight saw both teams win their home games 2-0. Braces from Chris Porter and James McCarthy respectively settled two very watchable matches as the two foes got to know each other and began to redefine the rivalry.

    Motherwell would go on to dominate the derby that season. A 1-0 win on Valentines’ Day 2009 was followed up by a spectacular 3-0 win at New Douglas Park, as a youthful ‘Well side including Hutchison, Quinn,  Paul Slane, Murphy and Cillian Sheridan decimated their hosts.

    In November of last season the two sides served up an absolute cracker at New Douglas Park in the first derby of the season. An effervescent 90 minutes ended with a share of the points in a four-goal thriller. A match that had pretty much everything even saw a red card for Guillaume Beuzelin after just half an hour.

    That match was even more memorable as the over-exuberant celebrations of Mr. Reid saw him take a spectacular tumble in the dugout when Marco Paixao made it 2-1 to the home side (it’s a job for YouTube if you haven’t yet had the pleasure). This was all the more embarrassing for the Accies gaffer as it didn’t even turn out to be the winning goal; a spectacular Jamie Murphy strike secured a point for Jim Gannon’s troops three minutes from time.

    In fact Hamilton only have one win against ‘Well since their promotion. That follows a pattern which sees Motherwell with a better than 50% record in head-to-heads, stretching over a little more than 100 encounters.

    This is a derby day which is very much still evolving, but nearly 5000 fans attended the last Hamilton match at Fir Park (above average for non-Old Firm and European matches in the SPL at Fir Park), proving that there is certainly an appetite for the fixture.

    That appetite should be exascerbated by the fact both sides have plenty riding on this match. Accies are scrapping at the wrong end of the table and Motherwell are desperate for points to keep them clear in third; it’s all set up for a cracker.

    You get the feeling ‘Well fans will be gracious in their thanks to Hamilton and Billy Reid for bringing a derby back to Lanarkshire – as long as they don’t have the audacity to try and usurp Motherwell; or, as Graham Barnstaple says: “As long as they remember we are still Lanarkshire’s premier club! With a 25 year unbroken run in the top flight, a cup win, a League Cup final, a second place finish and regular trips to Europe.”

    You see, gracious.

    Alan Temple

  • Archive

    From the Dressing Room: Alan Gow

    It was very pleasing to get my first goal for the club in the midweek Cup win against Dundee United.

    It was a bit of a sucker punch, it killed them at the end. But they nearly had a chance actually so the boys did great to defend as well.

    They are a good side, Dundee United, and we’ve done well and proved we can beat anybody on our day.

    I thought we deserved it. They had spells in the game where they were better than us but at the start of the game I had a wee chance and a few other boys had chances.

    I’ve had to work hard for a few weeks to get my fitness up, but after the 4-1 defeat at Ibrox, I managed to get in the side. I knew when I came the team was playing well. We have a lot of good, young players. The manager just said: ‘Bide your time’.

    I thought I played well enough at the weekend (against Dundee Utd) and I got a goal on Tuesday so hopefully that will be enough to keep me in the side for Hamilton.

    It’s only one goal but it means a lot scoring the first goal for a new club. Hopefully I will keep scoring and go on a run.

    I was asked by some of the press if I wanted to stay at play a part in the Semi Final at the end of January. The simple answer to that is yes. I love it here, all the boys are great and the management is great as well.

    I’m happy being here but it will be up to the club if they want to keep me. I’ve not spoken to the management (Craig Brown) of the club yet. It will be up to them if they want to contact me. But I’ve played a semi-final before whilst with Falkirk but it didn’t go too well. It was here at Fir Park actually.

    We got beat and my mate Steven Naismith (then of Kilmarnock) done us over. Hopefully we can progress into the final once it comes and I would love to be part of that.

    Alan Gow

  • Archive

    Pot Shots: Jamie Murphy

    VILLAIN >> Steve “Tiger” Jennings and Stevie Hammell beating me and Keith Lasley at golf a few weeks back… I was gutted!

    HERO >> Jenno somehow carrying Hammell, as well as his clubs, on his back that whole round. A great achievement.

    BAD DEAL >> Big Esteban being stuck up the gym all the time with all the different Scottish accents! He’s no chance of understanding or picking up the language.

    STARK REALITY >> Got a scare the other night when I went down injured. I thought I was done. You realise all it takes is one bad injury and it could be over.

    FIRST GOAL >> Playing for Westwood Rovers Under 8s. It was only 7-a-side but I felt on top of the world at the time.

    PLAYED WITH HIM >> Will always remember Ross McCormack for being a great player and handing me the ball to score my first ever goal for ‘Well from the penalty spot at Easter Road a few years ago.

    FIRST CAR >> It was a Peugeot 306 from the car auction. I had it for a few months before someone crashed into me on the way home from my debut. I spent the night getting X-rays on my neck.

    COACH >> Jenno is the man on the park who’s always getting people to do their job. Because I’m usually next to him, I get it the most!

    FIRST TROPHY >> I remember winning the Cup with my Primary School team. We won 14 – 2 and I managed to get eight goals.

    REASON TO BE PROUD >> Playing professional football which is what I have always wanted to do.

    FIRST MISTAKE >> Forgetting to take the 1st team footballs to training in my first week in the YT’s. Never did that again…

    HEARTACHE >> Getting beat by Iceland U21s a few weeks ago was hard to take. We’ve got a right decent U21 side and going to the Championships would’ve topped it off.

    IF I WASN’T IN FOOTBALL >> I would be at Uni studying hard. Winning the Motherwell programme quiz will have to do!

    GOAL OF THE MONTH >> Maguire’s goal from halfway line for the Scotland U21s takes some beating.

    SAVE OF THE MONTH >> Mark Reynolds against Dundee Utd during the week. He ended up lying on the goal line, taking kicks from everywhere but still somehow managed to stop the ball going in the net.

    ASSIST OF THE MONTH >> That would be myself for Maguire’s aforementioned goal against Iceland. Great weight of pass.

    TACKLE OF THE MONTH >> The ball hitting me on the face, making me go over on my ankle midweek. Still don’t quite know how I managed it.

    MUG OF THE MONTH >> Big Nick is struggling with the new FIFA.  He is still looking for a win against me.

    LOOK-A-LIKE >> The boys say Fizzy, young Stuart Carswell and I all look like brothers. I can’t see it myself…..

    Jamie Murphy

  • Archive

    I’ve always remained a Hamilton fan

    I think it is fairly well known that I was brought up in Hamilton and my father insisted that I supported the local team. It was a pleasure in those days to go to the old Douglas Park and watch Accies and I’ve always remained a Hamilton fan.

    However, unlike Motherwell, Accies never ever employed me so my allegiance is firmly with the ‘Well. Naturally, I wish Billy Reid and his side every success, as I always do, but certainly not in games against their Lanarkshire rivals.

    I am well aware that Hamilton are in a false position in the table. I look for their results, TV Clips and match reports with great interest. Clearly, they are much better than second bottom of the SPL but again, I repeat, I hope their recovery begins next week and not here at Fir Park.

    Anyway, enough about Hamilton!

    My sole concern is the welfare of our club. Along with my colleagues on the staff and the players, we are desperate to appease our loyal fan base. We received great support right to the end of the game and that was influential, I am sure, in us getting that winning goal.

    Some people have complained about the quality of our play in the second game with Dundee United but I am sure most agree that there were mitigating circumstances. We lost Keith Lasley before the game, Jamie Murphy early in the game and playing a team for whom we were very familiar. The same obviously applied to Peter Houston’s men given the experience of the league match four days earlier.

    Inevitably, we cancelled each other for most of the match but I still think we shaded it. The stats indicate that we were well ahead in terms of possession, had more chances and scored that all important goal.

    We invariably have as many as eight or nine U21 players in the squad for any one SPL game but, with the reduced listing in Co-op Cup ties, we only listed seven last night; six of those played. Getting past a team as good as Dundee United with such a young squad is an excellent achievement.

    Moving on, it’s difficult to avoid the contentious subject of referees although I must admit, I often hope that it is never an issue. However, as winners of the Fair Play award last year and the team who currently sit top of this year’s table, I feel we’re in a pretty solid position to comment.

    I have always been hugely supportive of Scottish officials having had experience of sixteen years of International football, getting the alleged best referees Europe has to offer. Believe me, Scottish officials are as good, if not better, than their counterparts on the continent and that also goes for the full-timers in England!

    I thought our game in midweek was very well handled by Willie Collum in difficult circumstances. I always insist that referees are respected as are their decisions and that’s the way it has got to be.

    Just finally, I would like to welcome Gavin Lawson, an Accies season ticket holder, along with his son Fraser, Robin Fisher and Jim Finlay who are my guests at Fir Park this afternoon. Gavin is a great family friend and I hope they all enjoy the game, but not too much!

    Thanks again
    Craig Brown

  • Archive

    Young pleased with ‘Steely’ resolve

    Gordon Young was pleased with his players’ spirit as they bounced back from two successive defeats to win against St Johnstone today.

    The youths crashed to back-to-back 5-0 reversals at the hands of both Rangers and Hearts in recent weeks and confidence took a knock.

    However, speaking after his side’s 1-0 win against Saints, Young insists his players have as much to learn in defeat as they do in success.

    “I think we just about deserved the win today,” said Young.

    “We had a feel sorry for ourselves attitude to start off with which is natural. It’s as the golfers say, ‘There’s no picture in a scorecard’; you just look at the score and don’t take into consideration the goalkeeper getting sent off or the players being available, or in our case, unavailable. That is all a part of their apprenticeship and a couple of defeats of that nature won’t do them any harm.

    “It can play on players’ minds though, particularly if winning has become a habit. When it doesn’t work out, it is hard to deal with and it’s up to the players to show character. In saying that, I think we have played some decent football amongst those defeats, indeed, I thought we were better against Rangers, and lost 5-0, than we were today yet we picked up all three points.”

    Young was delighted with not only the wonder strike that won the game, but also the quality of defending at the back.

    Grant Brown’s thirty yard thunderbolt gave goalkeeper Neil Duff no chance whilst Tom Bradley and his defenders were solid at the back to pick up their fifth clean sheet of the campaign.

    He said: “It’s been very good, over the course of the season, to keep as many clean sheets as we have.

    “Although the goalkeeper didn’t have too many saves to make, his overall commanding of the area was first class.

    “The goal was richly deserved and right out the top drawer. Sometimes opposition teams restrict our passing game and that, combined with the conditions, mean we have to chance of philosophy at times. You can’t win games on a tactics board but we will continue to try and play the game in the correct manner which will, hopefully, benefit these players in the long term.”

    Young finished by highlighting his disappointment at the location of next Sunday’s SFA Youth Cup game with Livingston.

    Traditionally, Youth Cup games are played in the teams’ home ground but Livi have opted to play on their Field Turf (Astroturf) pitch, adjacent to their Almondvale home.

    The Motherwell coach couldn’t hide his disappointment saying, “I think this (playing on the Field Turf pitch) devalues things but it certainly won’t devalue our preparation.

    “As there are only two professional teams at every club, certainly in the SPL, this is the showcase tournament for the Under 19s and it is heavily sponsored and heavily publicised. You’ve also got to take into account that a game like this could be the biggest one of our lads may play.

    “Not everyone can make it, getting the opportunity to play in nice grounds. We try and retain the integrity of the tournament and give it its place.

    “Every Youth Cup game we’ve had at home has been played at Fir Park and that will continue. But I’d like to think Motherwell will take a decent wee support through there. There were over 400 at our last game against Stirling and I hope we get some of them returning for this match.”

  • Archive

    U19s St Johnstone win in pictures

    Pictures from the 1-0 victory over St Johnstone U19s in the Clydesdale Bank U19s League at the Creamery Park. These action shots and more are available to buy online at www.motherwellpics.com.

    [svgallery name=”stjohnstoneu19291010″]

  • Archive

    Motherwell U19s 1 – 0 St Johnstone U19s

    Motherwell Under 19s return to winning ways this afternoon with a hard fought 1-0 victory over St Johnstone at a rain-soaked Creamery Park.

    After a stunning start to the season, Young’s men have faltered in recent weeks, losing 5-0 to both Rangers and Hearts.

    However, they stopped the rot this afternoon thanks to a stunning Grant Brown strike midway through the second half.

    It was a quiet opening to the game, with both sides doing their best to cope with the slippery surface at Bathgate Thistle’s Creamery Park. Indeed, it was a credit to the Bathgate side that the game was even on given the deluge of rain in the previous forty-eight hours.

    The hosts thought they had taken the lead some seventeen minutes into the game when Jamie Pollock’s free-kick from deep was headed home by Euan Murray, but the 17-year-old was denied by the assistant’s flag; adjudging the defender to be in an offside position.

    St Johnstone replied through with a free-kick from range, and although it had some swerve, Tom Bradley was well placed to make the catch in the middle of his goal.

    Motherwell were continuing to create the better openings and Saints had their goalkeeper Neil Duff to thank for keeping the scores level after saving brilliantly from Howarth. A sweeping move culminated in a lovely Brown ball towards the back post. A misjudged defensive header allowed the former Clyde striker in, but his shot was saved by the ‘keeper with the rebound hooked clear.

    If that save was good, Bradley’s nine minutes later was even better. Aiden Henry and Steven May combined on the edge of box allowing the latter to smash a lovely effort at goal. It looked to flying in but for the fingertips of Bradley who helped it over the bar and away from danger. It was a let-off for the Steelmen with #9 being allowed the opportunity too easily – a point Gordon Young wasn’t shy of making when the ball was eventually cleared.

    Further chances came and went for Scanlan and, on the stroke of the break, for Brown but neither troubled the Saints backline too much.

    Into the second half and the Steelmen came out of the traps flying. Josh Watt almost rounded off a wonderful passing move just minutes after the restart but his curling effort from just inside the area took a coat of paint off the right hand upright.

    Saints were showing an ability to cause problems of their own, as was the swirling wind, and the two combined to almost give the visitors the lead. A bursting run and long-range shot by Ricky McIntosh looked harmless enough but a gust of wind changed the direction forcing Bradley to scramble the ball over the bar. The resulting corner was cleanly taken by the young keeper.

    But it would be ‘Well who would push and push but despite efforts for Moore (which flew over the bar) and Pollock (deflected wide), it remained goalless. That was until Grant Brown scored one of the goals of the season.

    A corner from the right by Pollock found Murray in the six-yard box but his downward header was bundled off the line and hooked clear. It landed at the Greenwich-born youngster some 35-yards out, and after a terrific first touch he lashed home an unstoppable volley in off the underside of the crossbar.

    He was mobbed by his teammates and rightly so, it was a goal right out the top drawer.

    St Johnstone, to their credit, refused to give in and created a number of chances in search of an equaliser. Edinburgh-born striker Chris Kane had a shot from distance well saved by Bradley and, five minutes later, the same player would again be denied when Bradley got down low to thwart a goal-bound header from just inside the six yard box.

    Jamie Pollock almost wrapped it up for Motherwell with a bounced shot from distance which was again well held by Duff. Down the other end, the dangerous Kane turned provider minutes later with a great ball across the face which was narrowly missed by the sliding May.

    It was to prove to be the last chance in an otherwise entertaining match that was played in difficult conditions but excellent spirits.

    Motherwell: Bradley, Brown, McKinnon, Sloan, Murray, Lynch, Scanlan (Halsman), Pollock, Watt (Erwin), Moore (Connor), Howarth

    Subs Not Used: Muir, McLean, McGachie

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    No split loyalties for Hamilton fan Brown

    There’s guaranteed to be one Accies supporter hoping for a resounding Motherwell win this weekend – Steelmen manager Craig Brown.

    The gaffers’ Hamilton persuasion is just an extra facet to what is bound to be a fascinating Lanarkshire derby for as high-flying ‘Well face relegation-threatened Hamilton in a match which is special for fans, players and staff alike.

    “I’m looking forward to this weekend’s Lanarkshire derby; it’s especially good when you are an Accies fan managing the opposition!” Brown laughed.

    “Seriously, a Lanarkshire derby is always going to be a major test from the club and something we thrive on. We weren’t at our best in midweek and we will be looking for an improvement, otherwise we will be punished

    “The Lanarakshire derby is very important for the area. The Motherwell fans feel that way, and the Accies’ fans feel that way – so you can be sure of a competitive match.”

    With the South Lanarkshire side struggling at the wrong end of the table, and coming to Fir Park on the back of a home defeat to St. Johnstone, some may have Motherwell asfavourites – especially after banishing the memories of poor early season home form with two wins at Fir Park on the trot.

    However, the former Scotland boss doesn’t agree and insists it could be one of the toughest games of the season so far.

    The experienced boss said: “We don’t always like to be favourites at Motherwell. We’re certainly not getting excited by our current position.

    “The table at the end of the year will tell us how good or otherwise we have been over the course of a whole season.”

    Accies boss Billy Reid praised the resilience of Craig Brown’s troops this week, following The Steelmen scraping past Dundee United in the cup, describing being able to beat teams when not playing well as the mark of a good team.

    Whilst accepting of the compliment, Reid’s opposite number was keen to point out that Motherwell have not made a habit of ‘not playing well’ this season.

    “I love wee Billy,” the ‘Well gaffer smiled. “In some respects he is right; we didn’t play well on Tuesday night – although I’d say the game was even.

    “However we have played very well for much of this season, and sometimes we haven’t actually got the rewards; we battered Hibs at Fir Park and lost, for example.

    “Every team will win games that they perhaps did not deserve to, but I think you’ll find we have not won a match that we have not deserved this season – certainly in terms of chances and possession. We even lost 4-1 at Ibrox when the statistics said we had more of the ball!”

    The ‘Well gaffer was speaking to the press from his old stomping ground of Hampden, as he attended the draw for the Co-operative Insurance Cup semi-final, where The Steelmen were paired with Rangers in the last four.

    Brown admits to a level of excitement ahead of squaring up to the Glasgow giants at the beginning of February, but he is typically pragmatic when insisting on absolute focus ahead of the weekend.

    “It’s something we can look forward to.” The Steelmen boss admitted. “But our focus is absolutely on the SPL.”

    “We have dealt with the distraction of the Europa League earlier in the season, and now we must forget about the Rangers match. These occasions are fantastic for the fans but the league is our bread and butter, and the most important thing for us is bettering our fifth place from last season.”

    Two players who will be absolutely key if ‘Well are to finish above fifth in the SPL are Jamie Murphy and Keith Lasley, both of whom are doubts for this weekends’ match.

    However, their gaffer remains hopeful both players could make the tie.

    “We’ve got our physio working around the clock,” Brown confirmed. “Keith and Jamie are both influential players and both are last-minute decisions ahead of Saturday.”