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    Dumbarton win in pictures

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    Dumbarton 0 – 5 Motherwell

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    McCall looks ahead to Sons clash

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    Randolph remains fully focused

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    Hollis satisfied with friendly form

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    McCall reflects on Morton win

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    Morton win in pictures

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    Dumbarton win in pictures

    Pictures from the excellent 5-0 pre-season win over Dumbarton at the Strathclyde Homes Stadium.

    These action shots and more are available to buy online at motherwellPICS.com.

    [svgallery name=”dumbarton090711″]

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    Dumbarton 0 – 5 Motherwell

    [tab:Match report]

    Alan Burrows at the Strathclyde Homes Stadium

    Motherwell continued their pre-season preparations with a comprehensive 5-0 win over Dumbarton this afternoon.

    A first-half brace from Jamie Murphy gave Motherwell a comfortable lead at the break only for Nicky Law, Bob McHugh and Steve Saunders to complete the scoring during the second forty-five.

    Stuart McCall made just one change from the side that overcame Morton four days previous.

    Ross Forbes was introduced to the starting eleven in place of Steven Saunders who had to be content with a place amongst the substitutes. That meant Tom Hateley replaced the Scottish International at right full-back with Forbes occupying his familiar centre-midfield role.

    The SPL side dictated the pace for most of the match but had to rely on the reactions of Lee Hollis early on to keep the score blank.

    The Sons tested the former Airdrie man inside the opening three minutes when Coyne found space seven yards from goal but his low shot was turned away by the Steelmen stopper.

    That appeared to kick Motherwell into life and within 60 seconds, McCall’s men created a great chance of their own. Michael Higdon did well to run the left channel and save the ball from running over the line. He cut it back for fellow newbie Nicky Law but on his right foot, the former Rotherham man blazed high over the bar and the chance was gone.

    Law’s miss only delayed what seemed inevitable though and ‘Well took the lead after just eight minutes; Jamie Murphy the man on the score sheet once again. Law started the move with a terrific cross-field pass for Chris Humphrey who was in acres of space on the right flank. Opening up, he burst clear of the full-back before delivering a deep ball into the area. Higdon caused all sorts of problems challenging for the ball and his hard work allowed the former Scotland U21 man to pounce on the loose ball to prod home from close range.

    Dumbarton, to their credit, weren’t deterred after going behind and forced another terrific save from Hollis some five minutes later. Left-sider Agnew collected the ball on the edge of the area and his low shot was both powerful and on target. Frustratingly for Alan Adamson’s men, Hollis was again on his toes, looking smart to turn the ball away before it was eventually hooked clear.

    Motherwell were still the side making the best of things and a Ross Forbes shot from distance tested Stephen Grindlay, who was well placed to make the catch. A minute later, a lovely one-touch passing move almost allowed Keith Lasley in but Grindlay was off his line smartly to smother as the veteran midfielder was about to pull the trigger.

    If those saves were impressive, the Dumbarton stopper was seemingly getting better with each passing chance. He turned round a bulleting Stephen Craigan effort after good build-up from Humphrey and from the resulting Ross Forbes corner, Higdon’s header was again palmed away by the 29-year old former Celtic and Newcastle youth player.

    The Fir Parkers were now well on top and another excellent Humphrey diagonal cross was dropping perfectly for Forbes and his volley looked goal bound but blocked by a last-ditch tackle at the expense of a corner. However, the Sons’ goal wasn’t as charmed from the resulting corner as Higdon’s flick dropped for Murphy who was sharp to the ball, prodding home from underneath the bar.

    Motherwell were relentless and attacks from Hateley and Murphy came and went with the score staying 2-0. In actual fact, it was a miracle how Motherwell’s lead stayed at two.

    Keith Lasley again broke through and his shot was brilliantly saved again by Grindlay. The rebound flew up for Humphrey and with the goal at his mercy; the Jamaican shot was blocked on the line and somehow screwed over the bar.

    Grindlay was again called into action as half-time approached when he got down well to turn Murphy’s twenty-two yard shot round the post. From the resulting corner, Forbes’ cross found Hutchinson whose bullet header was saved yet again by the home ‘keeper.

    Right before the interval, Michael Higdon almost opened his Motherwell account when he latched on to a clever Law reverse pass. As he was about to blast home, he was quickly closed down and the chance was gone.

    The only change at the interval was in goals, with Lee Hollis replaced by young Willie Muir. The youngster would be a virtual spectator for his first forty-five minutes for the Motherwell first team.

    Down the other end though, Motherwell picked up where the first half left off and Higdon had the ball in the net after yet another brilliant Law pass but he was thwarted by the the assistant referee’s flag.

    New signing Law was pulling all the strings in midfield but not content with creating chances, the Englishman almost scored his first for the club after a lovely move inside the box ended with an attempted chip over the goalkeeper but, almost predictably, the Sons keeper was on hand to save before it was hooked clear.

    However, just two minutes later, in an almost identical move, Law would indeed grab the goal his play deserved. A lovely one-two with Murphy was completed by a delicate chip that nestled in the back of the net bringing the 400+ ‘Well fans to their feet.

    It was almost four-nil ten minutes later when Craigan’s header inside the box dropped for Hutchinson but the Geordie’s stinging volley crashed back off the outside of the post.

    That prompted a raft of changes from McCall with eight players being introduced over a three minute period, amongst them Steven Saunders and Robert McHugh who would both get their names amongst the goals.

    McHugh was first, latching on to a fantastic Jamie Pollock through ball before slamming high past Grindlay for 4-0.

    Further chances fell to Pollock and McHugh before Steven Saunders crashed home a header with virtually the last kick off the ball. It was a fitting end to an otherwise excellent Motherwell performance.

    [tab:As it happened]

    Alan Burrows at the Strathclyde Homes Stadium

    Full Time: Dumbarton 0 – 5 Motherwell (Murphy x2, Law, McHugh, Saunders)

    90+1mins – GOAL – Dumbarton 0 – 5 Motherwell (Steven Saunders). Resulting corner is met by the Scottish International. Bullet header home.

    90mins – McHugh and Smith race clear – five looks on the cards but shot from the former is blocked over brilliantly.

    88mins – Almost five… McHugh breaks the offside trap again but his shot is well saved. Rebound lands at Pollock but his effort is saved.

    84mins – GOAL – Dumbarton 0 – 4 Motherwell (Bob McHugh). Lovely pass from Pollock plays in the youngster. Great finish from the edge.

    80mins – Youngsters have picked up where the senior lads left off. Some excellent football in and around the box but not more goals as yet.

    76mins – Treble Sub now – Law, Murphy and Humphrey are off… McHugh, Lawless and Pollock are the replacements.

    72mins – Quintet of subs – Hammell, Craigan, Lasley, Forbes, Higdon are off – replaced by Saunders, Page, Carswell, Smith and Halsman.

    71mins – Ball looping into the area, flick on by Craigan, for Hutchinson show smashes a volley off the post.

    54mins – Law burst down the left, beats a few before playing a lovely one-two with Muphy. This time his dink ends up in the back of the net.

    54mins – GOAL – Dumbarton 0 – 3 Motherwell. Nicky Law aka GOD

    56mins – Law almost gets his first goal. Lovely one-two on the edge of the area but his attempted dink is palmed away by the GK again.

    54mins – Law bursts into the box and is fouled, ohh, about five times. Alan Muir isn’t interested, again. Welcome to Scotland Nicky!

    50mins – Corner from Hateley met by Hutchinson but header loops wide of the past. Second half picked up where the first ended.

    49mins – Higdon has the ball in the net but the game already stopped for a foul. Another terrific assist / pass from Law again!

    45mins – Second half gets underway – The Sons to get us going again. Lovely sunny day here!

    Half-time: Sub as Lee Hollis is replaced by young Willie Muir.

    Half Time – Dumbarton 0 – 2 Motherwell (Murphy x2)

    42mins – If only PA were here doing the stats!

    42mins – Nicky Law on fire again, slips in Higdon with a lovely neat pass but the big man’s effort is blocked for a corner.

    41mins – Dumbarton keeper Stephen Grindlay is saving his side from a beating. He’s in super form!

    40mins – Resulting corner from Forbes is met by Hutchinson but his header is excellent saved again!

    40mins – Murphy comes close to a hat-trick but his low shot from the edge of the area is well saved. Motherwell are dominating.

    38mins – Nicky Law is having an absolute worldy! His range of passing is frightening!

    34mins – God knows how it is only 2-0 – Humphrey has a great chance, collecting rebound after Lasley shot. His effort is blocked over!

    31mins – Penalty shout for ‘Well there. Murphy breaks the offside trap after Law pass. Round the GK and brought down. No penalty! Hmmmm!

    29mins – Bursting run from Hateley down the right flank. Cutting in, his shot blazes just over the bar. Almost 3-0 but not quite…

    24mins – Announcer gives the goal to Craigan but it looked from here like Murphy. Half Time video will confirm one way or another.

    24mins – GOAL – Dumbarton 0 – 2 Motherwell (Murphy). Corner from the right is flicked on by Higdon for Murphy who bundles home from close range.

    22mins – Another chance from Motherwell – Humphrey’s ball towards the back post is met by Forbes but his effort is blocked for a corner.

    20mins – Resulting corner is met by Higdon but his header is well saved again. Another corner, this time met by Law but shot is blocked.

    20mins – Almost 2-0 for ‘Well there. Corner from Forbes is collected by Humphrey. He tees up Craigan whose shot is brilliantly saved.

    14mins – Long shot from Forbes is comfortably saved by Grindlay! Minute later, Las almost rounds off a brilliant move but shot is well saved

    12mins – Dumbarton almost reply. Good move down the middle – ball eventually spread out to Agnew on the left flank. Low shot well saved!

    8mins – Incredible ball from Law plays Humphrey in down the right. His cross into the middle is dangerous. Higdon bundles to Murphy who slots home

    8mins – GOAL – Motherwell 1 – 0 Dumbarton (Jamie Murphy)

    4mins – Motherwell reply with a great chance of their own. Michael Higdon picks up in the left flank. Pull back for Law but shot blazes over

    3mins – Early Dumbarton chance when Coyne (familiar name eh?) fires low – well saved by Hollis. Wouldn’t have counted though – lineo had his flag up

    1mins – Motherwell kick-off and Humphrey goes right on the attack. His deep ball towards the back post is plucked by the Dumbarton GK


    Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:

    “I was very pleased with the application of the players from the first minute to the last.

    “Lee Hollis had to make to terrific saves early on but when we settled down we played some neat stuff and scored some nice goals so yea, pleasing again.

    “I’d like to think the team that we have got and the quality that is in it; we will create chances. There was some pleasing football as I have said and it was a good workout for us.

    “Most of the boys stepped up from 45 minutes the other day to about 70, 75 minutes today and we’ll look to progress that on when we face Partick Thistle and Leeds next week.”

    Dumbarton manager Alan Adamson:

    “We can take a lot of positives from this performance. Our goalkeeper made some great saves.

    “Scott Agnew did well and looks like he will be a good addition to our squad – but over the piece it was clear that Motherwell were that little bit sharper than we were.

    “There was enough there to suggest we’ve a lot to look forward to this season.”


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    McCall looks ahead to Sons clash

    Stuart McCall has challenged his players to step up their pre-season preparations with a positive performance against Dumbarton.

    The Steelmen kicked of their pre-season campaign with a 3-2 over Morton, in a match which saw 21 players used for ‘Well as McCall gave the majority of his senior squad a run out.

    But the gaffer admits there will be a more conservative approach to this match, as he hones his key players’ fitness and performance levels ahead of the 23rd July kick-off against Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

    [pullquote]If we have a sloppy attitude we will be punished, and that won’t be tolerated. But, to be fair to our boys, they aren’t like that; we have a good group.[/pullquote]

    “Since Tuesday’s match we’ve had another good couple of days training and everyone is looking forward to getting back on a pitch.” McCall praised. “I repeat what I said in the lead up to the Morton game; I am desperate to come out of the 90 minutes with a clean bill of health. I also expect to see things starting to take shape and I want each of the lads to push themselves further and harder.

    “I simply won’t accept anything other than full commitment and maximum respect from every player. If we have a sloppy attitude we will be punished, and that won’t be tolerated. But, to be fair to our boys, they aren’t like that; we have a good group.

    “We are looking for a high level of fitness from the players so they can go from the first minute to the last. Not only that; we also want drive and desire from the players – creating a mentality where everyone works hard for everyone else.

    “Jenno (Steve Jennings) will possibly play but my thought at the moment is get him back involved next week; 90 minutes against Partick Thistle and Leeds rather than a wee bit here and there tomorrow.

    “Other than that, Darren (Randolph) is the only other slight issue we have. Like Jenno, my preference would be to hold him back until Monday then go for it.

    “Apart from that, everyone else is fine. We had a bounce game on Thursday against a French Select side in Glasgow and that gave some of the fringe guys 90 minutes under their belts. That will allow more of the first-team boys to get longer against Dumbarton; quite a few will play the full game as we continue to prepare for Inverness game on July 23rd.”

    The former Bradford boss was also keen to laud the quality within the claret-and-amber ranks as the new season draws close.

    So far McCall has only added – as far as senior players go – Michael Higdon and Nicky Law to his squad but, despite admitting he is looking for another new recruit, the ‘Well gaffer is clearly content with his talented group containing the likes of Steve Jennings, Jamie Murphy and Chris Humphrey.

    The boss said: “Kenny (Black) and I were both saying on the way back from training today that they are not showing us anything we don’t already know; there’s a lot of quality there.

    “They’ve been looking really sharp and they look as if they are enjoying it which is good. We are asking them do to things and they are doing it.”

    One of the shining lights to come from the midweek victory at Cappielow was the performance of some of the younger players in the ‘Well squad, and McCall is keen to continue their development at Dumbarton, and as the season progresses and The Steelmen have to utilize their whole squad.

    “We’ve now got lads like Bob McHugh, who was injured for four months of last season, Gary Smith was on the fringes and Steven Lawless was out on loan and any time he did train at the club it was usually with the reserves.” McCall said, positively. “Add to that young Carswell who has stepped up to the plate; all are now training with the first-team and are visibly improving.”

  • Archive

    Randolph remains fully focused

    Darren Randolph has vowed to put speculation about his future to one side as preparations for the forthcoming season continue.

    The Republic of Ireland International set a club record with nineteen clean-sheets in what was a phenomenal first season at Fir Park.

    And his consistent performances throughout the campaign have reportedly caught the eye of some big clubs both north and south of the border.

    That may put some off, but not this laidback stopper who is taking everything in his stride.

    [pullquote]I just want to play regular games and as long as I am getting that here at Motherwell, I am happy.[/pullquote]

    Asked how he copes with the distraction of speculation, the 24-year-old shrugged, “It’s not really as difficult as some people make out; certainly not for me anyway.

    “All throughout the summer you see different players linked with this club and that club. But until someone actually comes in, then as a player you just treat it as rumour and gossip.

    “I don’t pay any attention to it whatsoever – I’ve really, really enjoyed my time at Motherwell so far; it is a great place to play your football. The dressing room is excellent, everyone gets on and we have a great laugh. I’ve also built a good rapport with the supporters who have been brilliant with me both at games and at events and things.

    “I just want to play regular games and as long as I am getting that here at Motherwell, I am happy. If something happens then that’s for the club to make a call on, my only focus now is getting ready and prepared for the new season.”

    Randolph only returned to training on Monday after a hectic season concluded with International commitments with the Republic of Ireland.

    The Dubliner was set to make his debut appearance for Trappatoni’s men but was thwarted by a niggly elbow injury picked up on the eve of the match.

    The lack of time between returning and the Morton friendly put pay to any involvement on Tuesday night but Randolph already has one eye on this weekend’s game at Dumbarton as preparations for the big kick-off gather momentum.

    “It’s good to be back in at the club but in saying that, I haven’t met a footballer yet who likes pre-season,” he joked.

    “It is also great to see all the lads again, they have been working hard and now that I am back in training, I am keen to catch up.

    “I sat out the Morton game during the week as I had only returned the day before because of my involvement with Ireland in June. I also picked up a slight knock over there so although I would’ve played and was keen to get involved, I was advised, probably rightly, to sit it out.

    “I hated watching the game though as any footballer wants to be on the pitch. But it was only my second day back so I will now look towards the Dumbarton game where hopefully I see some action.

    “Whether or not the physio or the gaffer agree remains to be seen but the injury is nothing at all to worry about though – I’ll be fit and raring to go come the Inverness Caley game on July 23rd.”

    The standout performer from that match at Cappielow was Randolph’s understudy.

    Lee Hollis was in terrific form, making a string of impressive blocks and building on his reputation as a more-than-able deputy following his first outing at Celtic Park last May.

    Randolph was delighted for his mate and reckons the unity between the keepers at Fir Park helps improve him as a player.

    “Lee and I, and the other goalkeepers at the club, get on so well,” he said. “I was absolutely delighted for him when he played so well at Celtic Park and again, on Tuesday, he was outstanding.”

    “We could have been two or three down had it not been for him so he showed exactly what he is capable of.

    “He is a hard worker who pushes me on too so that kind of competition at any club is certainly healthy.”

    Looking towards the season, the former Charlton star is confident Motherwell can actually build on last season’s success.

    The Steelmen qualified for the top-six whilst also reaching the Semi Final of the Co-operative Insurance Cup and the Final of the Scottish Cup.

    There are those who think McCall’s men face a tough task in repeating that feat; not Randolph.

    He said, “Some people are already saying they think it’ll be difficult for us to repeat the success of last year, but I am not so sure.

    “We have retained pretty much all of the starting eleven and added quality in Michael Higdon and Nicky Law and although we did do well last campaign, a few of the boys still talk about certain games during the season where we should’ve picked up more so that shows a real hunger and desire to finish higher than sixth.

    “Although we have lost a few players, we have added quality as I’ve said and in terms of the actual starting eleven, I think we have more competition for places rather than less. I know the gaffer has said he will add one more then look at loans too so there are plenty of reasons to be positive.”

  • Archive

    Hollis satisfied with friendly form

    Lee Hollis was pleased with the workout at Cappielow on Tuesday evening after an excellent personal display helped to secure a 3-2 victory for the Steelmen.

    The 25-year old turned in a marvellous display; making point blank saves from David O’Brien on three separate occasions and denying Archie Campbell with a top near-post save.

    Indeed, the understudy to Randolph was superb whenever called upon, being left with no chance for the two ‘Ton goals.

    But while Hollis’ performance may have caught the eye, the keeper was keen to shovel some of that praise on to his team-mates, after all 20 outfield players used turned in a lively performance despite Allan Moore’s side having already played two full matches.

    [pullquote]I did OK and I thought the boys played well in front of me; the young boys in the second half, too – I thought they were excellent when they came on.[/pullquote]

    “To make saves is what I’m there for, and I was happy to help the lads get the win. It’s a good, positive start to pre-season,” Hollis, who was the only ‘Well player to complete the 90 minutes, praised.

    “It’s nice to be back playing, which is the main thing, and the game was a good workout.

    “I did OK and I thought the boys played well in front of me; the young boys in the second half, too – I thought they were excellent when they came on. All-in-all it was good.

    Despite the challenge of playing understudy to the consistently excellent Darren Ranodolph, Hollis remains upbeat regarding his chances of breaking into the starting eleven at Fir Park this campaign.

    Impressive displays at Celtic Park and then Cappielow, this week, have illustrated the Bellshill-born Hollis’ capability as an excellent shot stopper and his decision to extend his stay in North Lanarkshire for at least another season shows a belief that he can challenge the big Irishman.

    “I signed another year over the summer,” Hollis, signed last season following release by Airdrie United recalled. “And all I can do is keep working hard and see where that takes me. There’s no doubt Daz (Darren Randolph) was outstanding last year – one of the best keepers in the country – so I’ll just keep working hard and maybe my chance will come.

    “There’s a great rapport between the keepers here; me, Daz, Willie Muir and young Tom Bradley all help each other and try to learn from each other so it’s a good place to be.”

  • Archive

    McCall reflects on Morton win

    Stuart McCall was in a philosophical mood after watching his Motherwell side nick a late victory in a thoroughly entertaining pre-season encounter at Cappielow.

    A late Gary Smith header secured a 3-2 victory over Allan Moore’s Morton side in what was something of a game of two halves as far as Motherwell were concerned.

    A recognisable senior side, including the likes of Lasley and Craigan, went in 1-1 at the break thanks to a stunning Jamie Murphy effort cancelling out Andy Graham’s opener.

    ‘Well made eight changes at the break as many of Gordon Young’s former under-19’s were given the chance to shine, and an energetic 45 minutes followed, with plenty of endeavour and attacking intent. Goals from Pollock and Smith rendered Andy Jackson’s goal moot.

    [pullquote]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.[/pullquote]

    Lee Hollis was slightly too busy for the gaffers’ liking, but overall McCall was happy with his charges’ trip to the West Coast to face a team with two pre-season games already under their belt and seven extra days of training done.

    “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.

    Motherwell are still in the market for at least one other player to add to the arrival of Nicky Law and Michael Higdon this summer, but the gaffer has insisted he is happy with the quality which his senior squad possesses.

    And he is looking for the young players in his squad to provide the depth which some felt was missing over the last campaign. The likes of Pollock, Smith and the excellent Lawless certainly made a positive start to the campaign at Cappielow.

    Pollock made it 2-1 for the Steelmen early in the second half, while Gary Smith popped up with a typical striker’s back post header to nick the late win, following some super work wide from livewire Steven Lawless.

    “We’re hoping to bring one more player but we will mainly be looking for the players we have to kick on,” McCall, who is rumoured to still be interested in bringing Gavin Gunning back to the club on loan, stressed.

    “A few of the younger boys really stepped up and that’s great because this season because we know we won’t have the greatest quantity next season so some of these boys will certainly be on the bench and pushing for a place.

    “I thought young Lawless showed up really well and we need the likes of Smith and McHugh to be knocking on the door up front because we are a little light up there. Gary Smith has a proven goalscoring record at youth level, as has Bob.

    “It was no surprise to see Gary get his goal tonight because that is what he does regularly in training.”

  • Archive

    Morton win in pictures

    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.

    [svgallery name=”morton050711″]

  • Archive

    Morton 2 – 3 Motherwell

    [tab:Match report]

    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.

    To follow…


    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:

    To follow…


    [poll id=”57″]

  • Archive

    McCall looks ahead to Morton test

    ‘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.”

  • Archive

    Law lauds the McCall factor

    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.”