Phil McGhee at Fir Park
Motherwell clocked up a fifth consecutive home league win thanks to a Stephen McManus goal midway through the first half.
But having missed a number of great chances to kill off Hibs in the first half, ‘Well fans were nervously left on the edge of their seats for the final ten minutes of play as ten man ‘Well held on after Shaun Hutchison was ordered off.
Stuart McCall had warned that it would be difficult to lift both sets of players after their respective midweek League Cup defeats, and both teams had quiet spells before that nail-biting finish.
And although it was an unusual time for a kick off on a Sunday, at least the players and 3864 fans were blessed with glorious sunshine, especially compared to the monsoon conditions 24 hours previously.
‘Well fans, though, were more hopeful that the inclusion of James McFadden, for his first start in five games, and Lionel Ainsworth would also help lift the gloom following Wednesday’s cruel defeat to Aberdeen.
However it was Hibs, perhaps stung by Pat Fenlon’s midweek resignation, who started the brighter and Paul Heffernan had a hat-trick of chances inside the opening 15 minutes, the third forcing Gunnar Neilsen into his first save.
Ironically an enforced early substitution, with Simon Ramsden limping off to be replaced by Fraser Kerr signalled an improvement in the home side.
Ainsworth suddenly found space on the right and his pace and crosses posed problems for the visitor’s defence. After 21 minutes the winger’s trickery earned a corner and when Ainsworth delivered the ball to the front post McManus powered home a header for his first goal for the club.
‘Well’s confidence suddenly rose and the Hibs goal had a charmed life until the interval with their keeper Ben Williams having an amazing escape after 31 minutes. John Sutton slipped the ball in for Henri Anier whose low drive went through the ‘keeper’s legs, clipping his heel to deflect the ball along the goal line and beyond the post.
Anier had another great chance seven minutes later when he delayed his shot but with the Williams grounded the Estonian striker rattled his shot off the ‘keeper’s legs.
Stuart Carswell was next to curse his luck when he raced on to Ainsworth’s angled pass but having nudged the ball past the ‘keeper the ball trundled inches past the post.
Then, just before the break, Keith Lasley’s volley took a deflection to dip agonisingly over the bar as somehow Hibs reached the interval only a single goal behind.
After their midweek mugging, their was a fear the ‘Well might pay for those first half misses but in truth the Edinburgh toiled until 58 minutes when another injury forced Motherwell to make another change in their back four. Stevie Hammell came off worst in challenge with Tom Taiwo and was replaced by Zaine Francis-Angol.
Although Hibs had more of the play after that, until the closing stages, the home goal faced only one threat,when Nielsen dived low to his left to push Liam Craig’s drive round his post.
However, the composure in the home defence was transformed after 86 minutes when Hutchison tripped Heffernan right on edge of the penalty box and although Motherwell survived penalty claims they were down to ten men when the defender was shown a straight red card.
There was then some frenetic defending from the Fir Park men as the referee added five additional minutes of play.
The ‘Well goal survived, though, as James Collins sliced a great chance wide before Nielson brilliantly leapt to his left to beat away a Heffernan snap shot to earn a clean sheet and his side another home win.
[tab:As it happened]
Ally Reilly at Fir Park
Not a classic and not the usual goalfest but a well ground out win and a big three points!
FT: Motherwell 1 – 0 Hibernian
94mins: Corner to Hibs…last chance surely?
93mins: Gunnar to the rescue with a great save from Heffernan!!
90mins: 4 minutes added on. #nervy
90mins: Collins should have burst the net to equalise but fires wide!
89mins: Corner to Hibs….Thompson’s delivery headed away by Sutton
88mins: Motherwell’s wall stands strong and the free-kick is cleared to safety
88mins: Hibs Sub, Maybury off for Collins
Free-kick in a dangerous position now for Hibs..
86mins: RED CARD: Hutchinson off for denying a goal scoring opportunity,
81mins: Anier hits the deck outside the box after Hanlon appeared to block him. No free-kick given!
79mins: Corner to ‘Well….Ainsworth swings it in and Williams gathers
78mins: Maybury and Anier booked for a little bit of afters after Anier is fouled
75mins: Hibs sub, Vine on for McGivern
73mins: Motherwell sub, McFadden off for Vigurs
70mins: Hibs on top for most of this half to be fair. ‘Well gone quiet.
68mins: Corner to Hibs as they ramp up their search of an equaliser…
66mins: Nielsen tips Craig’s shot past the post. Was maybe going to sneak in at Nielsen’s right-hand post
64mins: Hibs sub, Zoubir on for Taiwo
63mins: Hutchinson booked for a challenge on Stevenson
59mins: Hutchinson does enough to divert Robertson’s shot out for a corner.
58mins: Motherwell sub, Hammell limps off for Francis-Angol
56mins: Sore one for Hammell. Looks in some pain after a boot on the ankle from Taiwo.
Hammell whips it in but it’s easily headed clear by McGivern
52mins: McFadden does well to win a free-kick 30 yards out…
48mins: Ainsworth drags his shot just past the post after Lasley played him in, just inside the box
Second half underway
HT: Motherwell 1 – 0 Hibernian
45mins: Anier gets on the end of Sutton’s flick on but his volley from just inside the box is straight at Williams
43mins: Taiwo gets enough on Lasley’s shot on goal to take it over the bar. From the corner, Williams punches clear
39mins: Inches past from Carswell! Good effort with the outside of this boot whistles just past the post
39mins: Golden opportunity for Anier from Nielsen’s long ball. Ball got caught under his feet and Hibs get back to block
37mins: Kerr does well to slide in and block from Robertson after he weaved his way through our defence into the bpx
34mins: Hammell gets a decent ball into the box from the left but Williams gets in ahead of Sutton to gather well
32mins: Just past from Anier! His shot had enough power to squirm past Williams, however the stopper got enough on it to put it wide
22mins: McManus bullets in a header from Ainsworth’s corner!! 1-0
20mins: Shot on target from Anier, straight at Williams on his left foot though
16mins: Ainsworth goes inside Hanlon then outside and gets a ball in across goal. No takers, though
15mins: Motherwell sub, Kerr on for Ramsden. Looks like he’s pulled his hamstring.
14mins: Another chance for Heffernan! Just 12 yards out he shoots straight at Nielsen
11mins: Heffernan passes up another good chance. Wild attempt on goal from just inside the box curls well wide
8mins: Heffernan just past the post from Thompsons cross. Was a good chance!
4mins: First attack of the day for ‘Well. Ainsowrth swung in a cross but it was to deep for Anier and goes out for a goal kick.
1min: Carswell and Lasley kick us off! #COYW
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
Hibernian caretaker manager Jimmy Nicholl: