Kris Jack at Fir Park
A heroic hat-trick from MICHAEL HIGDON ensured Motherwell another three points in a gripping 4-3 win over Hibernian.
The visitors had led 1-0 at half time thanks to an Isaiah Osbourne tap in, but when HENRIK OJAMAA was upended in the box by Graeme Stack, two minutes in to the second half, Higdon slammed home the first of six second half goals.
It what was an end-to-end game, Higdon put the Steelmen back in front with a stunning overhead kick before completing his hat-trick from the penalty spot after Doherty brought down Ojamaa inside the area.
Hibs made in a nervy finish with Ivan Sproule poked home from close range but the Steelmen hung on for another terrific victory.
This fixture was initially played as part of the SPL’s Friday Night Football experiment, which ended rather abruptly on Friday 2nd December, due to a small electrical fire in the South Stand. Hibs had been leading 1-0 thanks to a Gary O’Connor strike in Pat Fenlon’s first game in charge, when the match was abandoned at the interval. The vouchers handed out to the disappointed fans meant they had free entry to this rearranged tie, swelling the crowd to over 8,000 for the midweek outing.
Stuart McCall’s hand was forced in changing the side that dispatched of Hearts with so much gusto at the weekend with KEITH LASLEY missing through suspension. Omar Daley came in in his place, meaning Motherwell set up with a very attack minded starting eleven. Hibs made three changes to the team that lost 5-0 to Celtic at the weekend, with Sproule, O’Connor and Stevenson back in the starting line up.
As always seems to be the case, Gary O’Connor and Leigh Griffiths were intent on being thorns in the Motherwell side and Griffith’s had two great chances early on to get on the scoresheet, but both efforts failed to test Randolph.
Higdon looked hungry for a goal and blazed over when he should have tested Stack, when played in by Daley. Down the other end, the pacy Griffith’s then tested Darren Randolph after turning in the box, but his shot was deflected up in to the goalie’s arms via TIM CLANCY. However, on his next attack, he set up the opening goal.
A header back by Clancy was pounced upon by the on-loan Wolves forward. He rounded Randolph and squared to the waiting Isaiah Osbourne, who slotted home from all of six yards. Incredibly, shortly after, it could have been 2-0 to the visitors when Osbourne again found space after good interplay with O’Connor and Griffiths, but his effort went wide of the goal.
Higdon showed his intent for a goal when he went close with two headers, forcing Stack to save on each occasion. His opposite number Garry O’Connor almost helped himself to a headed goal when Sproule’s cross landed on his forehead, but his effort drifted past the post.
Within a minute of the restart, the game was turned on its head. Consternation in the Hibernian defence allowed Ojamaa to latch on to a bouncing ball in the box, before he was taken out by Graham Stack. Referee McLean pointed straight to the spot, and Higdon stepped up to grab his eleventh goal of the season. It was a goal that his work rate in the last few games deserved, and he was to go on to make more of an impact on the game.
Hibs looked shaken by the equaliser, but could have regained the lead when Griffith’s was picked out on the left hand side by Sproule. However, he dallied too long and Randolph made a vital save to keep the game level. Ojamaa, Daley and STEVE JENNINGS all had chances to put Motherwell ahead, but that glory fell to Jamie Murphy, just after the hour.
Jamaican Daley utilised his pace and speed to capitalize on a slack ball out from the Hibs defence, before cutting to the bye line and firing a cross at the onrushing Murphy who slid the ball home from almost underneath the crossbar.
Motherwell had the impetus after coming from behind to take the lead, but managed to concede just four minutes later, when a corner from Francomb was bundled in at the second attempt by Doherty. The fans had little time to breathe between those goals, but were treated to a third Motherwell goal soon after.
Ojamaa’s trickery was causing Hanlon and McPake no end of bother and after creating room at the edge of the box, the Estonian struck the top of Stack’s bar. The rebound was volleyed back across goal by Murphy to the waiting Higdon, who slammed home a glorious overhead kick from eight yards to send the home fans delirious. It was picture-perfect bicycle kick from the big striker, and one he won’t soon forget.
Hibernian were lucky to finish the game with eleven men when substitute Scott led with what looked like an elbow in an aerial challenge with STEVIE HAMMELL, which grounded the left back for some time. A yellow card was shown, much to the ire of the home dugout.
However, on 75 minutes, Motherwell were dealt the perfect opportunity for a clincher, when Doherty upended Ojamaa inside the box for their second penalty of the night. There was only one man worthy of taking the spot kick and Higdon showed no mercy in driving the ball in to the same spot as his first of the night, to claim his hat-trick.
The goal scoring wasn’t finished though as Ivan Sproule bundled in a third for Hibs from yet another corner with five minutes remaining to set up a grandstand finish. The Hammell/Scott collision meant there was to be five minutes of added on time, but try as they might, Hibernian could not force an equalizer and Motherwell held on for all three points.
[tab:As it happened]
Alastair Reilly at Fir Park
95mins: IT’S FULL TIME!!! 4-3 to Motherwell! Superb stuff all round and a great 3 points!
92mins: WELL SUB: Craigan on, Law off.
90mins: 5 minutes added on!
88mins: A nervy finish awaits. Come on, hold on!
85mins: 4-3 now, another goalfest. Sproule the scorer after a scrap in the box.
85mins: GOAL- Hibs
82mins: WELL SUB: Murph off, Carswell on
79mins: Hibs bring on Kujabi, the self confessed new Roberto Carlos. Who’s faster, him or Humphs?
78mins: A chance here from a free-kick. 25 yards out… Straight into the wall. 12 minutes left!
73mins: Ojamaa hauled down, it’s Higgy for the hat-trick….GOAL!!!!!
71mins: What a game this is. The goal came from Ojamaa striking the bar, Murphy back heel volleyed it back across and Higgy overheads it!
70mins: Big Higgy with an overhead kick! 3-2!
65mins: GOAL – Hibs , Doherty
64mins: It’s Jamie Murphy after superb link up play from Higdon and Daley. The Jamaican’s ball in eludes stack and Murph pokes home!
64mins: GOALLL!!! MOTHERWELL
57mins: Randolph to the rescue with a crucial stop from Griffiths..while straight up the other end Ojamaa goes close! Well blocked though.
50mins: Ojamaa has the ball in the net….but he’s already been flagged up for a shirt pull. Booked afterwards.
47mins: Ojamaa hauled down by Stack. Higgy to take…. GOAL!!! Slotted into bottom left hand corner
47mins: PENALTY TO ‘WELL
45mins: Second half has just kicked off.
45mins: And it’s half time. Disappointing stuff.
40mins: Osbourne is unlucky as his 20 yard effort skims past the post. Up the other end, a corner…. Which is too deep for everyone and goes out of play.
34mins: And again we go close. Daley this time with an angled shot which Stack does well to turn out of play and not into the path of Murph
32mins: So unlucky there. Daley swings it in deep and Higdon’s header is floating in until Stack gets a hand on it.
28mins: Hibs go close. O’Connor with a near post glancing header which whistles just past the post.
26mins: Bit of pressure now from the ‘Well. 2nd corner in a row coming up…….cleared by O’Connor
18mins: Less said about that the better. Slack back pass allows Griffiths to round Randolph. He then squares the ball to Osbourne who taps in
18mins: GOAL: Hibs – Osbourne
15mins: It’s a bit scrappy getting. Neither side creating a good chance since Higgy’s.
7mins: A great chance! Daley dribbles his way towards the area, his drive across goal is straight to Higgy but the big man blazes over.
4mins: Bright start for both sides. A chance a piece with balls cut across goal with no takers.
1min: And we’re kicked off! ‘Mon the ‘Well.
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“We weren’t despondent at half-time and we told the lads that we would get chances, that turned out to be the case.”I just thought the two goals we got apart from the two penalties were good goals and the build up to the two penalties was great too.
“I am delighted for Higgy (Michael Higdon), he gives everything he has got and is a vital part of the team here.
“Hibs deserve immense credit, they came here and gave us lots of problems, they played their part in a cracking game of football.”
Hibernian manager Pat Fenlon:
“We are disappointed, we have came here and scored three goals and got nothing out of the game. I thought we killed ourselves, we gave away sloppy goals and put in rash challenges at time when we should stay on our feet in the penalty area.
“You would think before the game that if we came here and scored three goals then we would win the game but instead we have left with nothing.”