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    Motherwell 4 – 1 Inverness CT

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    Family ticket offer today

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    TV: McCall expects toughest test

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    Second Hutchinson bid refused

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    Inverness Mag available now

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    International call for ‘Well duo

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    TV: Johansson confirmed as U20s coach

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    TV: Highlights from Levante

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    TV: McCall pleased despite defeat

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    Levante defeat in pictures

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    Motherwell 4 – 1 Inverness CT

    [tab:Match report]

    Alan Burrows at Fir Park

    Michael Higdon scored a hat-trick as the Steelmen cruised past Inverness to move top of the Scottish Premier League.

    ‘Well roared into an early two-goal lead when Tom Hateley scored directly from an 11th-minute corner and Higdon netting a quick second, getting on the end of a superb run and cross.

    Richie Foran pulled got the Highlanders back in the game with a close-range header and at that point the game was wide open.

    But the second half was all Motherwell and Higdon took advantage of a mistake to score his second and then completed his treble with a blistering half-volley after sub Henrik Ojamaa cut it back.

    Andrew Shinnie passed up the chance to make the closing stages interesting when his penalty was expertly turned away by Republic of Ireland International Darren Randolph.

    The Steelmen move a point above Celtic, who have a game in hand, into top spot while Inverness slip to second bottom, one point in front of St Johnstone.

    Motherwell boss Stuart McCall made five changes from the side that performed so well against Levante in Spain on Thursday night. Stevie Hammell, Stuart Carswell, Stevie Hetherington, Henrik Ojamaa and Jamie Murphy all dropped out, replaced by Zaine Francis-Angol, Nicky Law, Tom Hateley, Bob McHugh and Chris Humphrey.

    Inverness midfielder Ross Draper tested Darren Randolph with an early shot but the visitors soon found themselves with a mountain to climb as the Claret and Amber men netted twice within the space of two minutes.

    Tom Hateley’s whipped corner flew over the head of David Raven and deceived goalkeeper Ryan Esson and ended in the net despite the best efforts of the Thistle ‘keeper on the line.

    And it got better for the hosts as Chris Humphrey sensational run and cross found the poaching Michael Higdon who tucked home from just a few yards out.

    It looked as if Motherwell could run away with it at that stage but, to their credit, Inverness bounced back and responded with strikes from Aaron Doran and Owain Tudor Jones but neither posed much of a problem for Republic of Ireland International Randolph.

    But Terry Butcher’s men did eventually haul themselves back into the game and, typically, it came from ex-‘Well favourite Richie Foran.

    Doran’s corner was cleared but Jones returned the ball into the box and Foran got in behind Tom Hateley before directing a header past Randolph and into the corner.

    And the Inverness captain could have levelled before the break but was denied by the brilliant of Randolph who blocked the initial shot before Foran tamely headed the rebound wide.

    Dubliner Foran continued to pose a threat in the second half as Inverness sought to take advantage of any Motherwell tiredness following their Europa League defeat by Levante on Thursday.

    Down the other end and skipper Keith Lasley almost gave ‘Well the cushion they were looking for but a deft chip landed just the wrong side of Esson’s right-hand post.

    Higdon also tried to double his personal tally, but the big striker’s volley was wide after a terrific passing move from the Steelmen.

    But the former Crewe, Falkirk and St Mirren striker took advantage of David Raven’s wayward pass-back and finished well past Esson. It was a great finish by the Motherwell marksman who had very little of the goal to aim at.

    In between times, Motherwell also had a couple of decent penalty shouts denied when Fraser Kerr looked to have been tripped in the area by Josh Meekings and a Jamie Murphy strike came back off the hand of a recovering Caley defender, neither of which interested referee Stevie O’Reilly.

    With the game finely poised, Higdon secured his hat-trick in sensational style, getting on the end of a Henrik Ojamaa cut-back before side-footing an exquisite volley high past Esson to confirm all three points.

    Inverness did have the chance to reduce their deficit after Jonathan Page had fouled Foran in the box but Andrew Shinnie’s penalty was brilliantly saved by Randolph.

    It was to be the last action of a thoroughly entertaining ninety minutes. Motherwell now have two weeks to rest, recover and nurse players back to fitness after a grueling schedule over the last five weeks.

    [tab:As it happened]

    Alastair Reilly at Fir Park

    FULL TIME: Motherwell 4 – 1 Inverness CT. Higgy hat-trick hauls ‘Well to top of the table. Enjoy the view going into International break.

    90mins: Into stoppage time. Tremendous entertainment here at Fir Park. A joy to watch.

    84mins: ‘Well Sub, Carswell on for Humphrey

    80mins: INVERNESS PENALTY: Ooofft, it’s all getting exciting here. Randolph saved it. Wonderfully.

    79mins: Ojamaa with some silky skills down the right, pulls back to Higdon who finishes again with great finesse. 4-1


    77mins: Foran curls a free-kick straight at Randolph. Just under 15mins to hold on.

    75mins: Unbelievable save from Randolph: Close range overhead kick is sailing in until he somehow gets a hand to it to push out for a corner

    72mins: McHugh off for Ojamaa just after goal.

    71mins: Higdon latched on to Raven’s slack back pass before cooly firing it past Esson at his near post.

    GOOOOOOAAALLLLLLLL! Higdon with his second!

    65mins: Another penalty shout! This time Murphy’s side footed shot appeared to have been blocked by a hand. Nothing given!

    63mins: SUBS: Murphy on for Law and an ICT sub, Morrison on for Tudur-Jones

    …have made contact with the ball first. Will be interesting to see that back again!

    59mins: Huge shout for a penalty there. Kerr showing great pace to sprint through on goal. The defender hauled him down but was judged to..

    56mins: Great play from Higdon! Pulled the ball out the air wonderfully on the chest and volleyed goalward. Hits the side netting.

    54mins: Law hits the by-line and clip the ball across goal. Just as McHugh is about to head the ball home, Esson plucks the ball out the air

    51mins: Almost a wonderful goal there from Lasley. Edge of the box, dinked effort had Esson rooted……Just past the post.

    46mins: Incidentally, on Thursday I was absolutely roasting watching the game, today I’m absolutely frozen. Must be a happy medium?!

    45mins: Sides are back out for the second half. And we’re off!

    HALF TIME: Motherwell 2 – 1 Inverness. Quick double from ‘Well enough to give half-time advantage.

    43mins: Foran nearly squares the game. He latched onto a long ball and with only Randolph to beat, drills it straight at the keeper’s feet.

    39mins: Half-hearted appeals for a penalty after Meekings appeared to block McHugh’s shot with his hand. Looked more ball to hand.

    34mins: Higdon tries to clip the ball over Esson’s head from 20 yards. Doesn’t quite have the execution and the ball floats over.

    32mins: Chance for Lasley to restore the 2 goal lead. McHugh found him on the edge of the box but left footed shot blazed well over.

    27mins: Just before that, Raven spurned a great opportunity at the near post, aiming straight at Randolph who saved well with his feet.

    26mins: GOAL: Inverness get a goal back. Richie Foran nodding home from close range.

    25mins: Quick counter from Inverness. Shinnie would have been through but for Francis-Angol tracking back and intercepting.

    22mins:Set-piece corner from Hateley and Law frees space for the Hateley to have a crack on goal. Very nearly found the top corner!

    20mins: Randolph called into action again. This time he’s only required to smother Jones’ tame effort.

    18mins: Inverness have the ball in the net. No goal though as Foran was offside as he nodded the ball back across goal.

    11mins: 2 in 2 minutes for ‘Well! Brilliant work from Humphrey down the wing. He composes himself and slides it in to Higdon for an emphatic finish.

    11mins: GOAL!!!!!!

    9mins: GOAL! Tom Hateley curls a corner straight in!

    6mins: Humphrey cuts back to McHugh who has a box full of men to shoot past. His effort is deflected just past the post.

    5mins: Game being played in the Motherwell half. Foran looked to be through but the linesman stuck his flag up for offside.

    1min: Randolph tested early from a Draper shot. He got down really well to tip the goal bound ball past the post.

    1min: McHugh and Law kick off the first half. Shooting towards the South Stand as usual.


    Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:

    “We talked last week about getting a good start and went 1-0 up in the first two minutes against St Mirren.

    “Today it was two in 12 minutes, but Inverness can cause us lots of problems.

    “It was a really good entertaining game and I thought we got the upper hand in the second half, but even at 2-0 against Terry Butcher’s sides, you’re never comfortable, and they got a goal back [through Richie Foran] which I thought they deserved.

    “Foran gave our two young centre-backs a physical test in the first half but we stood up to it. Just before half-time he was one-on-one with our goalkeeper, and everyone will remember Darren’s penalty save, but his save with his legs at that time was important.

    “I was really pleased by how we came out in the second half. We didn’t want to sit deep and we asked questions of them and got goals that merited the victory.

    “We got a good performance and a good victory.

    Inverness CT manager Terry Butcher:

    “If you give away goals like that in the SPL, you’re going to get hammered. To lose two goals so early in the match, but especially the first one, was really disappointing.

    “We’ve given away cheap goals but we always have to work hard to score. The manner of the goals is very much cause for concern.

    “We played some good stuff and always looked at 2-1 as though we could get something from the game, but it hinged on the second chance for Richie Foran [at the end of the first half].

    “Motherwell scored a couple more and ran out comfortable winners.

    “I’m not happy. Eight goals in two games is not good enough but we’ll work on it, we have two weeks to ponder that now and it’s just disappointing again.”


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    Family ticket offer today

    A reminder of our family offer ahead of tomorrow’s SPL match with Inverness Caley Thistle at Fir Park.

    Any adult attending the match can claim up to two free Under 16s tickets absolutely free of charge as a part of our family initiative.

    Commenting, Chief Executive Leeann Dempster said, “We are always trying ways to encourage children, but more so families, to the match.

    “Sunday is the culmination of an intense four weeks where we have played a mammoth eight matches. We hope this offer will help attract a few more faces to the match this Sunday.

    “We will announce details of a Season Ticket holder offer in the very near future.”

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    TV: McCall expects toughest test

    ‘Well boss Stuart McCall says he expects Sunday’s clash with Inverness Caley to be the toughest domestic fixture of the season so far.

    Terry Butcher’s men have been free-scoring form this season and would come into the match unbeaten but for a 4-2 reverse against Champions Celtic last weekend.

    They banished that from the memory with a fine midweek win over Arbroath at Gayfield to progress to the third round of the Scottish Communities League Cup.

    McCall is sure his side will face a tough afternoon against the Highlanders who have scored twice in all of their three away matches this campaign.

    [pullquote]They’ve had five games this season and in four of them they have scored twice so although they have lost Johnny Hayes and Grégory Tadé they have added a few players that have given them a cutting edge.[/pullquote]

    He told MFC TV: “We’re looking forward to getting back to league action and we want to go into the International break on the back of a good result but I think this will be our most difficult game of the season.

    “If you look at their away games this season they have done ever so well. I watched their game against Hearts when they went down to ten men and came back and showed great character, work ethic and good football.

    “They’ve had five games this season and in four of them they have scored twice so although they have lost Johnny Hayes and Grégory Tadé they have added a few players that have given them a cutting edge.

    “Terry has changed the team, especially the defensive side of it. They’re a big physical side but they can play so I think it will be a big test for us.”


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    Second Hutchinson bid refused

    Motherwell Chief Executive Leeann Dempster has revealed a bid for young star Shaun Hutchinson was once again refused yesterday.

    The offer of £200,000 plus add-ons, although slightly higher than the bid received a few weeks ago, still falls way below the clubs’ valuation of a player who aged just 21, has played 75 times for the first-team, including a Scottish Cup Final appearance, the UEFA Champions League and five in the UEFA Europa League

    Leeann told motherwellfc.co.uk: “Although we are not in the business of holding back our talent, we have a valuation of all our players and the enquiry we received yesterday was still way below what we would expect for a player like Shaun Hutchinson.

    “We wouldn’t name any club who enquire about our players out of respect but Shaun, in our eyes, is close to being a one-million pound player so any offer would need to be in that region. He is gaining experience every week and has played and shone at the very top level.

    [pullquote]We wouldn’t name any club who enquire about our players out of respect but Shaun, in our eyes, is close to being a one-million pound player so any offer would need to be in that region.[/pullquote]

    “The firming up of the television deal means that whilst we are working well with our fans to plug the hole left by the changes in Scottish football, we are not in a position where we need to sell our talent for less than what they are worth.

    “The same is true of Nicky Law – we knocked back a £100,000 bid early in the transfer window as there is no way we would contemplate letting a player of Nicky’s quality leave for such a paltry figure.

    “We were also keen to expand on our squad towards the end of the window; the board having made funds available to the manager to bring in a player or two. But we applaud Stuart McCall’s stance of not filling up the team with players just to take a jersey.

    “It is true that we were very keen to bring Ryan Stevenson to the club but we are not able to compete with Hearts in terms of the emotional pull they have with the player. We wish the player all the best and move on.”

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    Inverness Mag available now

    The 64-page Steelmen Matchday Magazine returns against Inverness CT jammed pack full of features you mustn’t miss.

    After a busy month, including trips to Greece and Spain, ‘Steelmen’ is back to its best with tomorrow’s edition perhaps the top domestic production of the season so far from the club.

    But what can fans expect from the fifth magazine of the campaign?

    ‘Well boss Stuart McCall and captain Keith Lasley both return with the regular columns and both talk about bouncing back from Thursday’s defeat in Valencia and the positive impact our European games will have on the club.

    Capital City Press’ Alan Temple returns to ‘Well proggy duty and has an outstanding interview with youngster Adam Cummins who tells an emotional story of personal tragedy and disappointment turning to triumph and celebration.

    And that’s not where the features stop!

    There is a 13-page section dedicated to our visitors, Terry Butcher’s Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

    Kris Jack goes through four players to watch from our Highland opponents, as we as a player-by-player breakdown of their squad.

    Former Caley defender Richard Hastings is the man in the spotlight in our opposition Q&A and fan Chris Lindsay gives his few on how the Jags are progressing. We also have a scout report from Caley’s last SPL match when Celtic ran out 4-2 winners in the Highlands last weekend.

    ICT ProggyThe features and big names keep coming…

    In our Interview Alumni section, Andy Ross caught up with former ‘Well striker Lukas Jutkiewicz who is hoping to return to action for Middlesbrough this weekend after a summer of injury hell.

    Lukas recalls his time at Fir Park and what it did for his career and goes over ‘that’ goal against Hibs that will live long in the memory of every ‘Well fan.

    The Press Association’s Gavin McCafferty returns with his ‘From the Press Box’ feature and looks at Scottish clubs’ performance in Europe from a realistic point of view. A second new feature is a column from Press & Media Manager who adds his thoughts in ‘The Last Word’ near the back of the publication.

    Nicky Law is the latest to give his top five’s in the iPlayer feature and Jonathan Page tells us his ‘First and Last’.
    In the third of our new features, Chris Humphrey is the first player involved in the ‘Dedicated Follower of Fashion’ where he goes through his best gear and where he picked it up.

    Graham Barnstaple’s Cult Heroes this week focuses on Aussie striker Scott McDonald who will be forever remembered for his exploits on 22nd May 2005 in a certain final day of the season match at a full-to-the-rafter Fir Park. I’m sure you remember…?

    But wait, there’s more! We take a look back at last weekend’s 1-1 draw with St Mirren at Fir Park, 10 tough questions in our Quiz, the latest news section as well as an in-depth statistical look at referee Stevie O’Reilly. We have the latest from The Ticket Office and the Commercial Department and the latest stats, facts and figures for the already busy 2012/2013 campaign.

    The programme is available for £3 and is currently on sale from the Club Shop as well as the usual sellers located in and around the ground pre-match.

    You can also order back editions or take a season-long subscription to the magazine by visiting the website of our publishers – Curtis-Sports – http://www.curtis-sport.com/

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    International call for ‘Well duo

    Motherwell received good news at the beginning of the week as Darren Randolph and Zaine Francis-Angol were both called up to represent their country.

    Darren will form part of the Ireland squad for the forthcoming FIFA World Cup 2014 Qualifier versus Kazakhstan at Astana Arena, Kazakhstan on Friday, 7th September 2012 and the International Friendly versus Oman at Craven Cottage, London on Tuesday, 11th September 2012.

    The former Charlton stopper has been involved in a number of International matches but has yet to win his first full cap.

    Zaine has his first call-up for Antigua and Barbuda’s FIFA World Cup 2014 Qualifiers against Guatemala on both the 7th and 11th of September. Although London-born, Francis-Angol qualifies to play for the Caribbean islands through his mother who was born there.

    The left-back was initially called up to play in the International U20 World Cup Qualification games against Curacao, Granada and Grenada on the 8th,  10th and 12th August but was allowed to miss them to take part in Motherwell’s first ever Champions League game in Greece against Panathinaikos.

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    TV: Johansson confirmed as U20s coach

    Motherwell FC can today confirm the appointment of former Finland International Jonatan Johansson as the new Under 20s coach.

    Johansson, capped 106 times by his country, will be remembered by most Scottish football fans for his three-year spell at Rangers between 1997 and 2000.

    He left Scotland to join the then English Premiership side Charlton Athletic for 3.75 million where he would play 150+ games over a six-year spell. He also spent a short time with both Hibernian and St Johnstone as his career was coming to an end.

    He returned to Finland in 2010 where he rejoined his first club, TPS Turku, doubling up with coaching of the clubs’ young talent before finally hanging up his boots in March 2011.

    [pullquote]It is a great challenge for me as a new coach to join a club like Motherwell who regularly play in European competition; one of the top teams in Scotland.[/pullquote]

    He came back to Scotland where he was doing some youth coaching at Greenock Morton before replacing Gordon Young at Motherwell, who was appointed the clubs’ Academy Director some weeks ago.

    Speaking exclusively to MFC TV, Johansson said: “It is a great challenge for me as a new coach to join a club like Motherwell who regularly play in European competition; one of the top teams in Scotland.

    “We have always been known and have a reputation for producing good young players. You need only look at the first-team just now which is full of talented youngsters that have come through our system.

    “It’s my job here at the club to make sure the progress of the 17, 18 and 19 year-olds are ready for the first-team

    “I am also really looking forward to working with Stuart McCall, Kenny Black and Gordon Marshall; all experienced coached who have been involved at the top level. I knew Stuart a little bit from before so it is great to finally get to work with him.”

    Jonatan’s first game in charge of his new side will be this Tuesday night, as the Steelmen U20s take on Hibs at Fir Park (7pm KO).


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    TV: Highlights from Levante

    Extended highlights from the Ciutat de València as Motherwell battle bravely but lose 1-0 to La Liga side Levante.


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    TV: McCall pleased despite defeat

    Steelmen boss Stuart McCall was proud of his players despite defeat to Levante and elimination from the Europa League.

    A very young ‘Well took it to their La Liga opponents, creating a handful of chances throughout a very decent first-half showing.

    Levante upped the ante and got themselves in front through Greek International Theofanis Gakis before holding out for the 1-0 win, sending them into the group stages of the competition.

    Far from being downbeat, McCall was pleased with how his young side went about their business and challenged them to take the experience into the domestic campaign.

    “I’m really pleased with our performance but disappointed with the result,” McCall admitted.

    “I know in the second half we’ve had two or three chances but at the end we should have scored.

    “Their main strength is their defence and organisation. They are very hard to breakdown.

    “I’ve seen them four times this year even the other night when they lost two goals they were both dubious penalty kicks. It was always going to be difficult to create against them but the other side I thought the effort and endeavor and, at times, the play was terrific.”


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    Levante defeat in pictures

    Pictures from the 1-0 defeat by Levante U.D. in the Europa League Play-Off, Second Leg at Ciutat de València.

    [svgallery name=”levante300812″]