Phil McGhee at Fir Park
A James McFadden inspired Motherwell blast four past Hibs to confirm their spot in the top six.
Despite falling behind to a Tom Taiwo goal to trail at the interval and suffer the loss of both Keith Lasley and Nicky Law in midfield, a superb second half, with Faddy the conductor, produced a performance of real style and determination.
Completing his first 90 minutes since his return to the club, McFadden capped a wonderful display with his first ‘Well goal since August 2003.
That gave ‘Well the lead after 53 minutes but even Hibs boss Pat Fenlon admitted that the Fir Park side should never have been behind.
Dominating the first 20 minutes, Michael Higdon headed over from a McFadden cross, before Henrik Ojamaa darted in behind the Hibs defence only to see his deflected shot blocked at the foot of the left hand post by Ben Williams.
Then, with eleven minutes played, a swerving free kick from Tom Hateley almost deceived the ‘keeper who dived low to his right to block the ball low at his post and then watch as the ball rebounded off the surprised Shaun Hutchison and bounce past the post.
Very much against the run of play, and in their first attack, Hibs took the lead. David Wotherspoon curled the ball in from the right and Taiwo, six-yards in front of goal, stooped to send a header past Darren Randolph.
Motherwell suffered another setback three minutes later when captain Keith Lasley limped off to be replaced by Stuart Carswell.
‘Well had a narrow escape when Hibs almost increased their lead when James McPake headed Leigh Griffiths corner into the side netting.
The home side, though, regained their composure and their attacking threat before half time.
Firstly a quickly taken free kick from McFadden sent Ojamaa racing into box before laying the ball into Hatelely’s path whose low drive flashed across the goal and narrowly past.
On the stroke of half time McFadden headed on a Nicky Law free kick with Willaims grabbing the ball under the cross bar.
If the first half was quite frustrating for the ‘Well fans, the second half was majestic.
Despite the loss of Law in the middle of the park Motherwell took the game to Hibs and were rewarded with an equaliser within three minutes.
And in a second half of notable goals, Higdon grabbed his twentieth of the season, powering a header from McFadden’s floated cross into the six yard box high beyond Williams.
While that strike leaves Higdon only three behind Willie Pettigrew’s post War record, McFadden decided to get his name on the score sheet five minutes later.
Collecting the ball just outside the box, the 48-times capped forward moved toward the box, side stepping Matt Done before sweeping a left foot shot beyond the diving ‘keeper for his first goal since his return to the club.
At the other end Leigh Griffiths’ goal threat had been well tamed by Shaun Hutchison, but the Hibs striker finally produced a save from Darren Randolph with an overhead kick.
Kallum Higginbotham then showed him how to do it as he claimed his first Motherwell goal with an outstanding strike after 66 minutes.
Stuart Carswell out on the right floated a cross to the far side of the box where ‘wee’ Higgy finished with a wonderfully acrobatic bicycle kick sent the ball back across Williams for a stunning goal; a contender for strike of the season for sure.
Hibs were finished but ‘Well were hungry for more and six minutes from time, Tom Hateley drove home the fourth from 25 yards with once again McFadden the provider.
Stuart Carswell could have made it five on full-time when Carswell got on the end of a Zaine Francis-Angol cut-back but his low shot was excellently saved by Williams.
That concluded a super performance, which not only made certain of a top six finish, but also had Stuart McCall setting his sights on a return to Europe.
[tab:As it happened]
Alastair Reilly at Fir Park
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“If there are Motherwell fans out there who haven’t come, he’s finding his best form now and he’s getting fitter.
“Some of his foot-work, we know what he’s about and he showed that tonight. The team were excellent but he added the entertainment value, he was terrific.
“The performance as a whole merited the victory. The park is in a decent condition compared to a few that we’ve been to of late and we got the ball down and moved. All four goals were top quality.
“The next aim is trying to finish in a European spot, which is the top three. The lads have got the bit between their teeth and we’ve got to maintain second place.”
Hibernian manager Pat Fenlon:
“It’s very sore. We got what we deserved tonight; we didn’t deserve anything out of the game.
“We weren’t pleased we conceded three goals within 15 minutes.
“If you concede one it’s bad enough, but you’ve got to make sure you stay in the game and you don’t concede one quickly.
“It’s happened to us three or four times this season and it shouldn’t happen.
“Our confidence should have been good coming into tonight, we hadn’t been beaten in a long time.
“I didn’t think we played well in the first half and I didn’t think we played well for 90 minutes.
“Motherwell are a decent side, there’s no doubt about that, but our performance wasn’t good enough tonight.”