Pictures from the 3-2 pre-season win over Greenock Morton at Cappielow.
These action shots and more are available to buy online at motherwellPICS.com.
Pictures from the 3-2 pre-season win over Greenock Morton at Cappielow.
These action shots and more are available to buy online at motherwellPICS.com.
Alan Temple at Cappielow
A late Gary Smith winner secured a 3-2 win for Motherwell over Morton in an excellent pre-season encounter at Cappielow.
The encounter was always more about fitness than the result, but Stuart McCall will have been delighted to grab a late winner and the manner of the performance turned in by all 21 players used over the course of 90 thoroughly entertaining minutes.
Andy Graham was first to trouble the scoresheet, rifling a fine volley past the impressive Lee Hollis. Motherwell leveled relatively soon after through stunning Jamie Murphy curled effort, before Steven Saunders had a goal chalked off.
The second period was punctuated by changes – Motherwell changing all ten outfield players – yet continued to be an excellent spectacle. Jamie Pollock converted a super Stevie Saunders cross early in the second half before Morton finally breached Hollis’ defence through Andy Jackson.
But there was enough time for ‘Well to grab the win as Steven Lawless jinked past a challenge inside the box before hanging up a wonderful far post cross for Gary Smith to nod in the winner with four minutes to play.
Any sense of pre-season rustiness wasn’t apparent in the opening stages, as Motherwell produced a lively opening which saw them rattle Colin Stewart’s near post within two minutes. Tom Hateley produced a fine near post cross and new-boy Michael Higdon was unlucky to see his header come back off the woodwork.
Chris Humphrey also looked lively in the early stages, hitting the bi-line regularly and being found in one occasion, in particular, with a wonderful raking pass from Nicky Law who was looking comfortable on his first appearance in claret-and-amber.
Despite a good opening from McCall’s men, it took a moment of last-ditch defending to stop Morton from taking the lead within the opening ten minutes. Ex-St. Johnstone forward spun Shaun Hutchinson inside the area before cutting a lovely pass back to Michael Tidser with an apparent tap-in eight yards out – only for captain Craigan to clear off the line.
Allan Moore’s side, with seven days extra training under their belt in comparison to ‘Well, gradually came into the game as the half progressed, illustrated as Lee Hollis was forced to be at his very best to rush from his line and block a David O’Brien effort when the winger was played clean through by the busy Peter MacDonald.
And the ‘Ton pressure paid off just before the half-hour mark, from the boot of an ex-Hamilton defender. Andy Graham was the sharpest inside the box to volley home a fine Peter Weatherston free-kick from 12 yards.
That opener seemed to kick the Steelmen back into life and they were level within five minutes, and in the most sublime fashion. Jamie Murphy picked up a loose ball 20 yards from goal and, with no real options, shifted the ball on to his right foot and curled in a stunning effort past the desperate Colin Stewart.
Murphy, obviously with his eye in, tried his luck minutes later from even further out – about 30 yards – with a low drive which had to be parried wide by ex-Killie stopper Stewart.
‘Well, firmly on the ascendancy as the half drew to a close, were only denied the lead by the linesman’s flag on the stroke of half-time. Steven Saunders rose highest at the far post to nod into the net but, with the Morton defensive line pushing up, Mark McLean gave the home side the benefit of the doubt and raised his flag.
After a very watchable first half, there was a reminder that it was very much a pre-season encounter as Motherwell made eight changes. Ross Forbes, Jon Page, Jordan Halsman, Jamie Pollock, Stuart Carswell, Steven Lawless, Gary Smith and Bob McHugh took the field, leaving Hollis, Saunders and Hutchinson as the only starters still on the field for the second period.
Morton made a comparably tame two changes, with Creag Little coming on for Andy Graham and a Trialist goalkeeper coming on between the sticks. And the keeper was immediately in action, parrying away a deflected drive form Bob McHugh.
Despite the plethora of changes from the visitors, Motherwell continued to press in the second half, with the heart of Gordon Young’s under-19’s squad impressing early in the second period. That enterprising start was rewarded with a goal. Jamie Pollock, who signed a one-year extension this summer, cushioned a Steven Saunders cross into the net, via the far post.
Lee Hollis was further cementing his place as a highly thought-of understudy to Darren Randolph, and the ex-Airdrie United keeper made another great save, denying David O’Brien again as the winger bore down on goal.
Motherwell completed their ten outfield changes as Steven Howarth and Ross MacKinnon replaced Saunders and Hutchinson. But it was the one remaining player from the starting line-up, Lee Hollis, who continued to impress, pushing away an Archie Campbell drive with twenty minutes left on the clock.
The excellent Hollis was finally beaten with 15 minutes still to play as Andy Jackson slotted a calm left-footed finish past the ‘Well keeper from the edge of the box, following a fine pass from former Rangers youth Archie Campbell.
There was one more moment of drama in this friendly encounter, and it handed Motherwell the victory. The waspish winger Steven Lawless turned his man inside-out before hanging up a super cross for Gary Smith to nod home at the far post.
[tab:As it happened]
Alan Burrows at Cappielow
FULL Time – Morton 2 – 3 Motherwell (Murphy, Pollock and Smith)
86mins – GOAL Motherwell! It’s now 3-2 Motherwell. Lovely play by Lawless – skins the full-back before hanging up to the back post. Gary Smith heads home. Surely the winner!
84mins – Long shot by Forbes goes over the bar. Great build-up from Lawless and Howarth.
79mins – Andy Jackson almost puts Morton ahead but is thwarted by the feet of Hollis. Another good save by ‘Well’s backup GK!
74mins – I’ve heard it all now. Morton’s physio was announced on to the field by the enthusiastic PA guy. Bizarre!
73mins – GOAL Morton! 2 – 2 as Morton equalise. Campbell slips in Andy Jackson and the striker coolly slots past Hollis.
72mins – Ross Forbes almost adds a third with a long shot from distance but Morton’s trialist GK makes another good save.
71mins – Morton sub Archie Campbell races clear but, one-on-one with Hollis, the ‘Well stopper makes another great block.
68mins – Double sub for ‘Well! McKinnon and Howarth in place of Hutchinson and Saunders. Forbes takes the captains armband.
64mins – Good move by ‘Ton. David O’Brien’s shot is good but Hollis’ save is better! Still 2-1 for ‘Well!
59mins – Ross Forbes free-kick from distance goes inches over the stand. Not even a single ‘ohhh’ from the crowd…
56mins – Saunders almost gets amongst the goals himself but his back post header, from a Lawless cross, is saved at the back post.
53mins – Gary Smith almost makes it three. Collecting inside the area, the big striker was denied by a cracking sliding block from McCaffrey.
51mins – GOAL Motherwell! Jamie Pollock. Lovely ball from Saunders across the corridor of uncertainty. Young Pollock meets and tucks home! Good goal.
46mins – Carswell almost makes it 2-1 – His low shot is very well saved by Morton’s sub keeper – the evergreen Tony Rialist.
Second Half XI: Hollis, Saunders, Hutchinson, Page, Halsman, Carswell, Forbes, Lawless, Pollock, McHugh, Smith – Eight subs!
Half Time: There’s going to be a raft of changes in the second 45mins. New team to be listed shortly…
45mins – Half Time – Morton 1 – 1 Motherwell.
45mins – Motherwell have the ball in the net but Saunders’ looping header is ruled offside. Need to see TV evidence… Well, maybe not.
38mins – Another long range effort from Murphy. This time Stewart gets a good hand to it to turn it away. Better from ‘Well!
34mins – GOAL Motherwell! 1-1 and a belter from Murphy. Curler from edge of the box into the postage stamp. Applause from both fans. Belter!
34mins – Almost 1-1 as Humphrey’s cross and Higdon’s flick is almost turned into his own net by goal scorer Graham. GK Stewart saves blushes.
28mins – GOAL Morton! Free-kick by Weatherston is met by Andrew Graham and his first-time effort beats Hollis. Decent goal from ‘Ton.
26mins – Andy Jackson blasts a shot from distance the goes way over. Down the other end, Murphy sends a tiddler back to the GK…
25mins – Great chance for O’Brien. Put through by MacDonald, the winger was thwarted by an excellent Lee Hollis block 1-1.
23mins – Turn and strike from Higdon from the edge of the area sails high over the bar. Good feet on the edge of the area though.
19mins – David O’Brien double chance for ‘Ton. First effort well blocked by Hutchinson. Second curler is comfortably saved by Hollis.
12mins – Another header inside the area by Higdon but this one squirms away, Humphrey tries to keep it in but is beaten by the lineos flag.
8mins – Wee chance for Morton. McDonald turns Hutchinson in the area, His cut-back for Tidser was good but Craigan blocks on the line.
2mins – Tom Hateley’s corner from the right is met at the front post by Higdon but his header comes back off the post. Unlucky!
1mins – Game kicks off! Motherwell wearing the new 2011/12 training kit. Looks nice actually.
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“There were pleasing aspects in both halves and also things that we can work on,” McCall admitted. “It’s nice to have won the game and (Nicky) Law showed that he’ll be an asset for us and big (Michael) Higdon, I’m sure, will start getting the goals when we get the service to him.
“If I’m looking at it negatively then big Lee (Hollis) has had too much to do; he’s made some great saves and we’d prefer to have tightened up a bit. But it’s the first game of the season and everyone has come through unscathed so I’m pretty happy that it was a good workout.
“But I’ve been at clubs where we’ve had shocking pre-seasons and lost five out of five and then been superb at the start of the season, likewise I’ve been at clubs where we’ve been great in pre-season then won the first four out of five at the start of the season.”
Morton manager Alan Moore:
‘Well boss Stuart McCall admits he can’t wait to get back into games after seven days of intense training.
The first-team squad returned for pre-season last Tuesday and have faced a gruelling week of double and even triple sessions.
And whilst McCall is adamant that side of pre-season is crucial, he couldn’t hide his want to get back in the dugout for matches.
“It’ll be good to get off the training ground and back on to a pitch tonight,” said the former Bradford boss.
“Obviously, we are only about two-and-a-half weeks away from our first SPL game and despite the lads only being back for a week, they are already desperate for a game.
“We’ll probably play two teams tonight; one in the first-half and the other in the second. In these games, the players all want to get a touch of the ball and any manager will tell you that it’s not all about the result; it’s about fitness and sharpness.
“I am desperate for the lads to remain injury free after getting a good 45 minutes under their belt and finish the match after a good performance by all 22 players.”
McCall is also hoping to use the game to not only work on SPL preparations, but also as a springboard for some of the younger talent in the Motherwell squad.
Plenty of promising youngsters are on the fringes of the Fir Park first-team and the 46-year old former Scotland International is desperate for them to make a mark on the senior team.
He explained: “As games progress, you start to work more towards what you plan on being your shape and personnel for the opening games of the season.
[pullquote]Morton are good side who will be looking to push themselves in the First Division this year and I expect a very stern test[/pullquote]
“By the time the Partick Thistle game comes around, we’ll probably be working more on how things are going to work as opposed to now, which is all about the lads getting their touch and their fitness and sharpness back.
“You’ve also got to remember that we only have two new players at the minute – the rest of the squad is very familiar with how I like to play and how their teammates play. It’s different if you have six or seven new players and you are essentially trying to gel a team together. Having said that, we are pushing some of the kids like Carswell, Smith, Pollock and Lawless and others who I hope will make more of an impact at first-team level this season.
“These lads, having played very little or never under Kenny and I, have to get used to how we operate and how we want things done.”
With the Steelmen not finishing the campaign until after the Scottish Cup Final in May and the 2011/12 SPL season having been brought forward three weeks, it is perhaps the shortest close/pre-season ever.
McCall admits that fitting things in has been a challenge but praised the professionalism of his squad, all of whom reported back for training in good shape.
“I’ve been involved in an eight-week pre-season as a player, and that was with seven or eight weeks of a close-season too,” he recalled.
“This year, the players got five weeks off; we finished after the Cup Final on the 21st May and we returned on the 28th of June.
“Most teams have probably been back a week before us but we started last season before everyone in Europe and finished last in the Cup Final so it was important for them (the players) to rest both mentally and physically. We only have four weeks of pre-season and we’ve tried to cram a lot into the first week with morning and afternoon sessions.
“Gone are the days though when players report back a stone overweight. I think it was Arsene Wenger who really started the trend of having his players come back in good physical condition so they can start using the ball almost on the first day of pre-season, as opposed to running for the first week to get guys back into shape and lose weight. We’ve managed to do that and, allied with the hard fitness top-ups we’ve done, the lads look in good shape and I am positive about things.”
The Steelmen face a tough test against first division side Morton at Cappielow tonight and the ‘Well boss is expecting a stern test, “I think they’ve already had ninety minutes under their belt and were back in training before us so they might be a little sharper at the get go than us.
“Morton are good side who will be looking to push themselves in the first division this year and I expect a very stern test. I am sure the playing surface will be excellent and both teams will enjoy getting the ball down and playing some football.”
Nicky Law was full of praise for ‘Well boss Stuart McCall following his first weekend training with his new teammates.
The former Sheffield United, Bradford and Rotherham midfielder joined the Steelmen on a two-year deal on Friday.
Three training sessions later and the 23-year old was fulsome in his praise for the Motherwell manger.
“I know the manager here at Motherwell, Stuart McCall, really well; I’ve worked with him at Sheffield United, as a kid, and again at Bradford City,” said Law.
“He was a massive part in me coming to this club, that and the chance to showcase my football on a platform that gets more coverage. The early signs have been good; I have a really good feeling about the move already.
“He (McCall) was there when I made my debut for United when I was just seventeen; he was assistant manager to Neil Warnock at the time. When I was 18, I made my Premiership debut with the Blades and played in six or so games which was amazing.
“I’ve always been very grateful to Stuart for the role he has played in my career and hopefully I can repay some of that faith here at Motherwell.”
Law has never ventured out of England to ply his trade; indeed, the Thursday night before he joined on at Fir Park was his first ever time north of the border.
He admits he has a lot to learn about the game in this country but has heard nothing but compliments from people who have previously experienced the SPL.
“Being in England my whole career, I’ve got a lot to learn about the game up here,” Law explained.
“I watched a lot of Motherwell last year whenever they were on Sky because of the connections with Stuart. My opinion, from a far, is that it’s a good league with some really good teams in it – on par with the bottom half of the Championship or the top of League One.
“I know Gavin Gunning who came on loan at Rotherham and Steve Jones was on loan at Bradford at the same time as me and both spoke very highly of Motherwell and the people who work at Fir Park.
[pullquote]I’ve always been very grateful to Stuart for the role he has played in my career and hopefully I can repay some of that faith here at Motherwell.[/pullquote]
“They told me the fans are so passionate and the club means a lot to so many people locally and I can relate to that. I’ve been playing regularly for about fifteen years now and what with my dad being involved in the game, football is in my blood.
“Others who I know who have played up here told me it would be a good move and I would enjoy it so I am certainly looking forward to seeing what is in store. I did have options at some League One clubs but after sitting down and speaking to Stuart McCall, this was my only choice.”
Whilst Law doesn’t know much about Scottish Football, it would be fair to say that ‘Well fans may not be overly familiar with the midfielder either.
When news of his imminent signing came to light in the days leading up to his official parading on Friday, fans have been reading up on the player who certainly has an impressive résumé.
The description of his attributes is perhaps best left to the player himself though: “I am a midfield player who likes to get forward,” said Law, smiling – “I would say I am most comfortable through the middle but I have absolutely no problems playing on the flanks – I have done so many times before and enjoyed it.”
“My main strength would probably be setting up goals. I am looking to get amongst the goals this year too – it’s something I am aiming to improve on.
“I’ve spent most of my career creating and assisting goals and not grabbed as much as I probably should have myself.”
Motherwell are today delighted to confirm that midfielder Steve Jennings has signed a one-year contract extension.
The former Tranmere midfielder has been sensational in his two seasons at Fir Park and knocked back offers from another SPL club and England to stay on at the Steelmen.
Jennings has been at the heart of two successive top-six finishes, playing 76 times in Claret and Amber, including several outstanding performances in Europe and a Scottish Cup Final last season.
Speaking exclusively to motherwellfc.co.uk after penning his deal late this afternoon, Jennings said, “I am delighted to be staying at Motherwell; it’s a fantastic place to play your football.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time working under Stuart McCall and he’s one of the main reasons why I wanted to stay here.
“The whole thing dragged on a little longer than it should have to be honest. I should’ve signed a few weeks ago but I’ve had a wee bit of a fall-out with my agent and that held things up slightly.
“But I am glad it’s all sorted now and I concentrate on playing football again. I really think we’ve got a real chance of doing even better than last season and I want to be a part of that.”
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Motherwell have today secured the signing of midfielder Nicky Law from English League Two side Rotherham United.
The 23-year old has signed a 2-year deal with the club after his contract expired at the Don Valley Stadium.
Law, subject of a £150,000 offer from Blackpool eighteen months ago, previously played under ‘Well boss Stuart McCall at Bradford City, enjoying two separate loan spells between 2007 and 2009.
The Nottingham born player started his professional career with Sheffield United, progressing through their Youth Academy before making his Premiership debut against Newcastle back in 2006, aged just seventeen.
He played ten times for the Blades over a four year period, the majority of which he spent out on loan at both Yeovil and the two aforementioned separate spells at Valley Parade.
He eventually left Bramall Lane in the summer of 2009 to join Rotherham where he became an immediate hit with a string of impressive performances. He was reportedly chased by bigger English clubs but remained with the Millers, playing 101 games in their promotion bid from League Two.
However, when his contract expired, he opted to move north of the border to once again align himself with Stuart McCall.
Speaking exclusively to motherwellfc.co.uk, Law said, “I am really pleased to be joining Motherwell and lining up with Stuart McCall again.
“I have worked with the manager twice before, both at Sheffield United and at Bradford. He is one of the main reasons why I opted to move here and not stay down south.
“That and Motherwell are a team on the up. Competing in Cup Finals and playing in Europe on a regular basis is something which the club has enjoyed in the past few years and I am desperate to be a part of that.
“I just can’t wait to get going now; the first game can’t come quick enough.”
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The Scottish Premier League and Mitre today announced a four year partnership that will see Mitre continue as official ball supplier until 2015.
Mitre has supplied the SPL with top quality match balls since the start of the league in 1998 and the Mitre TENSILE ball will continue to be used for the 2011/12 season, with each club having a personalised ball printed in club colours and displaying their club badge.
As well as continuing as official ball supplier, Mitre’s partnership with leading sports retailer ACA Sports will enable supporters to purchase each club’s TENSILE ball as Mitre’s Official Online Retail Partners for the SPL.
On the announcement, Neil Doncaster, Chief Executive of the SPL said: “Mitre has been a valued partner of the SPL since 1998 and I am delighted to announce their continued commitment to the SPL for the next four seasons.
“This year the SPL distributed over £17 million to Clydesdale Bank Premier League clubs. We remain focused on supporting SPL clubs financially as much as possible. The partnership with Mitre is an important piece in that jigsaw.
“Over the past 13 seasons of the SPL, 7,651 goals have been scored with Mitre balls and I hope to see many more over the coming seasons.
Gary Hibbert, Managing Director of Mitre, commented on the deal, “The SPL is as passionate and exciting a competition as any and we’re thrilled to extend the deal to be the official ball supplier, continuing our long standing involvement in the Scottish game. We’re looking forward to further successes with the SPL over the next four years and with the additional partnership with ACA Sports – meaning fans can buy replicas of their club’s footballs – this only enhances our offering to fans and clubs.
Mitre’s partnership with leading sports retailer ACA Sports will enable supporters to purchase each club’s tensile ball as well as other ranges of replica balls as Mitre’s Official Online retail partners for the SPL.
ACA Sports Managing Director, Alistair Cameron, said; “We are delighted to be working in partnership with the SPL and Mitre. This landmark deal will allow every fan in the SPL the opportunity to buy their clubs match and replica balls for the first time in the league’s history – something we are all very excited about. “
Steelmen boss Stuart McCall was pleased with how his side looked as the players returned for the first day of pre-season training.
After a mammoth 53-game season, the battle-weary ‘Well squad were given exactly five weeks to recover from what was an excellent 2010/11 campaign.
However, the nature of modern football is that each player works on individual programmes during the close season meaning the days of gut-bursting running during early training sessions are, by and large, a thing of the past.
Talking to motherwellfc.co.uk, McCall said, “Today was the first day; everyone came in this morning, weights were taken and, thankfully, they’ve (the players) all came back in good shape which, to be fair, I expected.
“Gone are the days when I used to play when you would have eight weeks off and come back in a stone or so overweight.
“Players are more sensible and are given programmes to do throughout the summer and first impressions today are positive to say the least.”
There were plenty of familiar faces amongst those being put through their paces at Dalziel Park this morning.
Indeed, the only new addition was that of former St Mirren ace Michael Higdon, who replaced striker John Sutton who opted to join Hearts at the tail end of last month.
McCall explained, in detail, his thoughts on the squad and his hopes and aspirations ahead of the season starting on July 23rd against Inverness Caley at Fir Park.
“I am pleased in one respect that we’ve not lost too many who had such a successful season last year,” he said.
“John Sutton was perhaps one who we would like to have kept but we’ve already replaced him with the excellent Michael Higdon.
“You look around the league and Kilmarnock and St Johnstone are bringing a lot of faces which can obviously be good for any club. But you’ve got to remember that they’ve lost quite a few, particularly in the case of Kilmarnock.
“We’ve managed to retain the core of our squad which I am really pleased about. Again, this season we’re probably going to look at carrying a squad that is possibly small in quantity but large in quality. When you go down that road, you’ve obviously got to be lucky with injuries and suspensions but I am happy with what we have.
“We’ll add a midfield player at the end of this week who is still under contract in England. That’ll leave us strong in that area of the park, particularly as young Stuart Carswell has pushed himself into contention and Ross Forbes has returned for pre-season in great shape.
“Beyond that, our budget extends to one, maybe two more faces. We’ve only really got five defenders so that remains a priority. Of course every manager would like more players but we’ve got a budget that the club simply won’t go beyond and rightly so. As much as our overall budget from last season has remained the same, we took the conscious call to tie a lot of our younger talent down to two and three year contracts.
“In that instance, players’ wages increase in the second and third year and that has happened to us, so much so it’s probably the combined equivalent of a first-team player. Our fans, I am sure, are sensible enough to grasp that and it’s a strategy that will, I am absolutely certain, pay-off and bear fruit in the long term.
“Every year you’ve obviously got to try and improve your squad but there’s no point filling the place with players who aren’t good enough; just to have numbers. Particularly if you are hopeful that some of your more promising kids, like Carswell, will break through and give you something extra. Some of the fringe guys – players like Jonathan Page and Robert McHugh – will also be given a chance to prove themselves as the club have invested in these guys.”
Motherwell’s first-team squad returned for pre-season training as Stuart McCall’s men aim for a repeat of last season’s success.
As ever, our friends from SNSPix were at Dalziel Park to capture the best and worst of the action.
Gordon Young’s Under 19s side will start the new season with a home clash against Hearts on Saturday August 13th.
The Jambos narrowly missed out on the title last season, losing out on the last day despite beating Rangers 1-0 at Riccarton, and will prove sturdy opposition for the young Steelmen side.
The youths will then face Kilmarnock away the following week before St Johnstone visit the Creamery Park at the end of August.
Other notable fixture include Celtic at home in early December, the only scheduled game that month, and Rangers on the final day of the season at the end of March.
Please note that dates are subject to change.