Saturday’s clash with Inverness represents the start of a run which will be pivotal to the success of ‘Well’s season, according to Stuart McCall.
The Steelmen face fellow top-six contenders Inverness, Kilmarnock, Aberdeen and Dundee United in the next four SPL matches, as the race for a top-half berth enters the final straight.
They also face the mouth-watering prospect of a trip to Tannadice for the Scottish Cup quarter-final on March 13th as ‘Well aim for a second trip to Hampden in 2011.
And McCall knows that the next few games could make or break this campaign for the men in claret and amber.
“It’s absolutely vital,” the gaffer acknowledged. “It will make it an exciting four or five games to go before the split, and if we can get positive results then we have an opportunity to get fourth.
“We’ve got five games before the split and they include Inverness and Kilmarnock away, and Aberdeen and Dundee United at home – then we go to Hearts.
“All managers will be thinking the same because down to St Johnstone they all think they can get a top-six spot, and rightly so.
The Caley Jags, managed by a former team-mate of McCall’s in Terry Butcher, have endured a difficult run of form of late, winning just two SPL matches in their last fourteen outings and coming to Fir Park on the back of a 2-0 home defeat to Dundee United.
However, the Motherwell boss is still extremely wary of the threat possessed by the side just four points behind the Steelmen in the table.
McCall continued: “We’re expecting a very difficult game. In one of my first games here we played Caley Thistle and they were unlucky not to be ahead after a good first half.
“Any team managed by big Terry, especially after a couple of defeats, will come out fighting and snarling but we’ve got to match them in the battle and play our football.
“The pitch seems to have held up well so I hope it will be a good footballing game.”
The Motherwell boss described his players as ‘buzzing’ following last weekend’s stunning victory over Celtic, but he has re-affirmed that he wants more of the same this weekend.
A lack of consistency has been a bugbear of McCall’s since his arrival, and it is something he wishes to remedy – starting in the Highlands on Saturday afternoon.
“The training has been sharp and everyone is looking forward to the next game,” the 46-year old insisted.
“After a day off for the lads, I had a meeting with them and said ‘that’s gone now.’ I want them to take the confidence and enjoy the slaps on the back, but we need to focus now on what will be a very difficult game in Inverness.”
The air of positivity around Fir Park is further enhanced by a squad which now possesses a healthy dose of competition, with the likes of Francis Jeffers and Stephen Craigan forced to battle for their place following the terrific performance against Celtic without their presence.
Also, with Stevie Saunders coming back into contention and Steve Jones relatively close to fitness, it seems as though the Steelmen will have something approaching a full strength squad for the race for the top-half.
“We lost four players over the winter period and I think people were getting in the team because of a lack of numbers,” McCall insisted. “Now we have options.
“I left Franny (Jeffers) out last week and Craigan was suspended. Saunders was out and he is coming back and Jones started training again this week – although Inverness will come too soon for him.”
“It’s a great problem to have and it is what all managers want for their team.”