Stuart McCall lauded another clean sheet and another three points as Motherwell regained top spot in the SPL with a 1-0 win over Hearts in a tempestuous encounter at a rain-soaked Fir Park.
A second half goal from Jamie Murphy was enough to secure the victory after Ian Black saw red for a reckless challenge on Keith Lasley. Lasley himself made the long walk to the dressing room five minutes from time for a trip on Arvydas Novikovas, but Motherwell closed out the game with aplomb.
As well as earning top spot, the result represents the Steelmen’s third consecutive clean sheet in the league this campaign.
“I’m delighted with another clean sheet,” McCall praised. “We know we’ve got players up front that can change a game, so it’s vital to keep it tight at the back. I said to the boys at half-time that it could be a 1-0 win and that we needed to defend well.
“It’s a good start and something that we’re delighted with – but it’s nothing more. We’ll try to keep building on that as we go to St. Mirren next week.
“We said at half-time that we had to raise it because the first half was a non-event. And although it was a nervous end we’re delighted with the three points.
“You have to realise that Hearts are a good side and won’t just let you play, but I thought we did well in the second half and played some really good stuff.”
[pullquote]Hearts are a good side and won’t just let you play, but I thought we did well in the second half and played some really good stuff.[/pullquote]
The game was a very even contest up until Ian Black’s red card – at which point Motherwell took control of possession and dominated the game, scoring 15 minutes later.
And while McCall – a tenacious midfielder in his day – admits the challenge was dangerous, he has sympathy for the former Caley midfielder; a sentiment which he shares when looking at the late dismissal of the excellent Keith Lasley.
The former Bradford boss analysed: “I’ve watched it again and I think they both go in for the ball, fully committed on the greasy surface, and Keith Lasley has got there split seconds before Black. I don’t think there is any malice at all. It looked reckless and I think that’s why the ref has sent him off.
“In these conditions when you slide in like he did you’ve got to make sure you get the ball.”
Similarly looking at Lasley’s dismissal, he said: “Sometimes fouls are just fouls. I can understand why the referee has given the booking, but not every foul automatically has to be a booking.”
Another blistering performance from Jamie Murphy seems unlikely to dampen the fervour surrounding the gifted 21-year old, with the best part of a month left of the transfer window.
That, allied by a terrific display from several players who could be attractive to other clubs, with do nothing to cease the grinding of the rumour mill. While the former Rangers midfielder is acutely aware of the realities of modern football, he isn’t inviting bids for his star players – a group which has rocketed to the top of the league and is yet to concede a league goal.
“We’re not encouraging bids and I’m hopeful everyone will still be here at the end of August,” McCall challenged. “I genuinely believe we have a few boys that will go on to play at a very high level, but playing regularly for Motherwell is good for them.
“We’ve not had one enquiry about any of our players, and long may that continue. I like to think the boys enjoy coming to work, and we’ve worked hard to create a good environment at the club. All of us should enjoy coming to work and I don’t think there is anyone chomping at the bit to get away.”