Kris Jack at Fir Park
Motherwell crashed out of the Scottish Communities League Cup to Hibernian after a hugely entertaining game was decided on penalties, following an enthralling 2-2 draw.
A Garry O’Connor double either side of goals from Keith Lasley and Michael Higdon sent the game to extra time before the cruel lottery of spot-kicks saw ‘Well crash out.
True to his word, Stuart McCall stuck with the same eleven which were defeated 3-0 against St Johnstone in disappointing fashion at the weekend.
Hibernian made three changes to the side which surrendered a two-goal lead to Dunfermline. Graham Stack, Isaiah Osbourne and Calum Booth made way for Mark Brown, Ian Murray and David Wotherspoon.
The fans in attendance would have been hopeful of a repeat of the magnificent 6-6 all game of May 2010 and, remarkably, it was to be a game of just as many chances as the 12-goal thriller.
Hibs were first to attack when Leigh Griffiths was put through by Martin Scott. Coming from an angle, Randolph made a neat stop with his feet to prevent the opener.
Besides that effort, the opening exchanges offered little in the way of goalmouth action. Griffiths had a 35-yard free kick deflected wide, while Nicky Law tried to get in behind the Hibs defence on a couple of occasions to no avail.
Hibs deservedly took the lead on 19 minutes. Griffiths took on Stephen Craigan on the left flank before playing a telling ball to the penalty spot for O’Connor to prod home.
Hateley then delivered a smashing ball in to the corridor of uncertainty, which Higdon couldn’t quite reach as he slid in between two defenders.
Motherwell were getting back into the encounter and only a desperate Sean O’Hanlon clearance at the back post prevented an equaliser. Lasley sent Humphrey free on the left and his whipped ball across goal was brilliantly cleared by the former MK Dons defender.
The Steelmen did get their leveler on the half-hour mark. Hateley’s corner kick was knocked down by Higdon and Keith Lasley swept home; the talismanic midfielder stroking the ball in to the bottom-corner from around the penalty spot.
Humphrey had a half-shout for a penalty when he looked to be felled in the box by Murray. The ref was decisive in his opinion that the ball was won and no spot kick was given.
Nicky Law gave Brown his first real test when Higdon’s knockdown fell to Murphy. His quick feet released the former Rotherham man, whose 20-yard effort was tipped round the post for a corner.
Motherwell then took the lead in glorious fashion. A free kick between Law and Lasley saw the English midfielder reach the edge of the box. His cutback was then dispatched with power in to the bottom left corner by Higdon, for his first goal at Fir Park.
Murphy and Higdon both brought out decent saves from Brown as ‘Well looked to increase the lead. Murphy hit a stinging volley that was punched clear before Higdon had time to bring the ball down at the back-post, only to be denied by Mark Brown’s knee.
The second half began at a slightly less frantic pace than the first, but Hibs almost equalised when Scott found space in the box, but fired straight at Randolph when it looked easier to score.
Moments later Griffiths and the ‘Well keeper seemed to be competing for the TV cameras’ attention as a thunderous effort from the Hibees forward produced a sensational one-handed stop from the Irish international.
Indeed the popular goalie was proving to be the bane of Leigh Griffiths’ night, also denying the former Dundee man in a one-on-one confrontation.
Lasley and Humphrey carved out an opportunity for Higdon on 62 minutes, with the Jamaican’s inviting cross being headed over by the impressive former St Mirren striker.
O’Connor thought he had levelled the tie after capitalising on a slack Jennings backpass. Griffiths played his strike partner in, but the ref adjudged he had punched the ball in to the net and booked him for his troubles.
The ‘Well goal was leading a charmed life as the action raged from end-to-end, but Humphrey was continuing to give Murray a torrid time. A lung bursting run down the right ended with a cutback to Lasley, whose powerful drive flew inches over the bar.
Hateley was next to try his luck, running onto a nicely weighted Jamie Murphy pass. His shot was too tame though, and trickled comfortably wide.
Humphrey was replaced by Daley with ten minutes left after pulling up with an injury. His impact was almost immediate, latching on to Higdon’s knockdown, before having his shot deflected wide.
His second touch was a crucial block on the edge of the box, leading to Palsson testing Randolph from distance.
Just as Motherwell were looking to see the game out, Hibernian equalised with just four minutes to go. Craigan was caught in possession on the halfway line allowing Griffiths to release O’Connor, who finished past the onrushing Randolph – the goal sent the game to extra time.
Bob McHugh came on for Steve Jennings as extra time began. The young forward set up the Well’s first attempt of the period, laying off for Law, who had Brown at full stretch again.
Another swerving ball in from Hateley had no takers as the home side kept pressing to regain their lead. Law then sent Murphy through on Brown but his dinked effort was grabbed by the keeper.
It was soon Junior Agogo’s turn to bring out a fine stop from Darren Randolph. After working space on the edge of the box, he fired in a goal-bound effort, matched magnificently by the diving save.
At the start of the second half of extra-time young Bob McHugh did well to race clear of his man at the halfway line. He made it to the 18-yard line and teed up Lasley who fired wide from the edge of the box.
Griffiths was once more foiled by Randolph from a 30-yard free kick as the two continued their enthralling running battle.
Down at the Cooper end, Murphy could only steer wide at the back post from Hateley’s delivery. Murphy then got to the byline, finding Nicky Law with a cross – but his shot from just inside the box blazed over.
Then, amid the drama, there was a cruel twist. The lively McHugh thought he’d grabbed the winner with a diving header, as did the Well faithful. However the diminutive striker was flagged for offside – despite the pictures showing that he was indeed onside and the goal should have stood.
Law could have wrapped the game up after Daley’s incisive ball had him one-on-one with Brown, but the former Well stopper made the save to keep the game level.
That was to be the last action before the game went to penalties.
O’Connor, Higdon and Palsson all showed excellent composure to slot home their penalties before Jamie Murphy’s effort was stopped by Brown’s shins.
The Hibees scored their next two kicks, through Agogo and Griffiths, while Hateley and Forbes kept ‘Well in a nerve-wracking contest. And, with the game on the line Motherwell were thrown a lifeline, as Calum Booth’s effort was kept out by Randolph.
Excellent spot kicks followed by McHugh, O’Hanlon, Wotherspoon, Clancy, Hammell and Towell as the contest entered sudden-death and – as is the cruel nature of penalties – there had to be a villain. It was to be Nicky Law, arguably Motherwell’s player of the season so far, who had his kick saved by Brown, giving Colin Calderwood’s side a 7-6 win on penalties in a real cup classic.
[tab:As it happened]
Graham Barnstaple at Fir Park
PENALTIES: Towell scores, Law sees his effort saved , Hibs win 7-6 on pens
PENALTIES: Wotherspoon makes it 6-5, Hammell keeps it going
PENALTIES: O’Hanlon scores, Clancy makes it 5-5
PENALTIES: Randolph saves Booth’s pen, McHugh scores to make it 4-4
PENALTIES: Giffiths makes it 4-2, Forbes keeps us in it – come on Darren
PENALTIES: Agogo scores for Hibs, Hateley makes it 3-2
PENALTIES: Higdon scores as does Palsson for Hibs 2-1, Murphy’s saved
PENALTIES: O’Connor scores – Higdon for us
Pens being taken at Cooper End, O’Connor up first
Full time – Pens here we come – what a game, it has had everything, great advert for Scottish game.
119mins – Law denied by Brown again, as Forbes replaces Lasley.
116mins – McHugh has ball in the net from a close range header but flagged offside.
116mins – Don’t how players are coping but I am suffering from cramp as Murphy shoots into side netting.
115mins – We go on break and McHugh sets up Lasley but he drags his 18 yards shot wide.
105mins – Hibs replace sub Galbraith with Booth as we get underway again, and Hibs start with a corner.
105mins – Half time in extra time – Pens looming??
103mins – This is going from end to end its not good for the nerves, as Randolph saves from Agogo.
99mins – Law released Murphy but Brown reads his attempted dink over him to palm the ball away.
94mins – Law denied by diving save by Brown at expense of corner.
90mins – Well change ahead of Extra Time – McHugh comes on for Jennings.
Full time – We are headed for Extra time, it’s been a great game so far, with Hibs probably just edging it over 90 minutes, all to play for.
90mins – Two minutes being added on before we head to Extra Time.
87mins – 2-2, Craigan doesn’t deal with a long ball – O’Connor goes through to poke ball past advancing Randolph – no more than they deserve I am afraid.
81mins – An injured Chris Humphrey limps off to be replaced by Omar Daley.
80mins – Tonight’s crowd is 3909 – who have been well entertained.
74mins – Hibs make a change with just over 15 to go, Agogo on for Murray, meaning a bit of a re-shuffle for Hibees.
72mins – Only the keepers have stopped this being another 6-6 tonight!! Great stuff, although heart in mouth sometimes for a non neutral.
70mins – Humphrey bursts down the right cut back for Lasley but he strikes a shot just over.
67mins – Out of jail there, Hibs had ball in the net but O’Connor spotted using his hand and getting a yellow for his troubles.
65mins – Humphrey could be the key here for us tonight, he is a great out ball and is leaving Murray for dead when he gets the ball.
63mins – Lasley sends Humphrey to bye-line but his cross is headed narrowly over by Higdon
60mins – We are riding our luck a bit here, Griffiths once again denied by Randolph after he had shrugged off Clancy to go clean through.
54mins – Stunning 25 yard shot from Griffiths is only matched by the save from Randolph low at his right hand post; same start as first half.
51mins – Scott sent clean through but takes too long and is denied by Randolph.
45mins – 2nd half underway, Hibs make a change with Sproule off and replaced by Danny Galbraith
Half time – What a contrast from the first twenty mins to the last 25mins, didn’t see comeback coming after 20 minutes.
43mins – Two more saves for Brown, first from Muprhy then Higdon low down at his far post – a half of two halves!
40mins – GOOOOAAALLLLL – 2-1 Well, Lasley sends Law clear and his cut back is side footed in by Higdon from about 12 yards out, fans happy.
39mins – Brown makes a full length save to keep out a bending shot from Nicky Law.
33mins – Wee half shout for a penalty there with Humphrey tumbling under pressure from Murray as he cut in from the right, nothing given.
30mins – GOOOOAAAAAALLLL – 1-1, Hateley corner headed down by Higdon for Lasley to strike home from about 15 yards out.
30mins – Brown finally called into action as he smothers a Humphrey cross at his near post – things are looking better.
28mins – A bit of pinball from a Hateley corner sees Higdon and Humphrey both have shots blocked.
24mins – A Hateley cross into the six yard box corridor of uncertainty is just missed by Higdon on the slide – closest we have come.
22mins – Randolph saves us from being two down as he somehow manages to stretch to palm away a Griffiths lob, Well fans getting frustrated again.
21mins – Hibs have now had five attempts at goal and we have still to find a way of testing Mark Brown after 21mins.
20mins – Goal Hibs, Griffiths cross from right is met at front post by Gary O’Connor to toe it past Randolph, sad to say a deserved lead.
12mins – A 35 yard free from Griffiths is deflected for a corner – bags of confidence to try that….
2mins – Almost one down on the break but Leigh Griffiths tamely hit Scott’s pass at Randolph.
1min – Hibs kick off and we are shooting towards the South Stand where the Hibs fans are housed in top tier.
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“Hibs started well and we didn’t, but once we got going and into our stride we played some smashing stuff. We needed that third goal after coming in at 2-1 at half-time.
“There’s no doubt that Hibs deserved to take it to extra-time, as Darren Randolph made two or three excellent saves.
“We had chances to win the game in extra time.
“I’ve seen Robert McHugh’s goal and he was a yard onside and that adds to the pain, but that’s football. I understand how tough a job linesmen and referees have and they handled it well tonight.”
Hibernian manager Colin Calderwood:
“We showed terrific guts to come back in that situation; we lost the game for 20 to 25 minutes after we got the lead but the way we started the game, we should have got to half-time ahead.
“As the second half was going on we looked as if we were maybe exposed a wee bit. The players went for it and it was more or less simplicity in the end – when we did that we were better.
“We had tried too many extravagant balls and ignored easy passes but when we went back to that, were able to move the ball quickly and looked as if we had energy in the team, and we’d have felt aggrieved or anxious if we hadn’t scored in that second half as we created chances.”