Action pictures from this afternoon’s hard-fought 1-0 win over St Mirren at Fir Park.
Snaps courtesy of SNSPix.
Action pictures from this afternoon’s hard-fought 1-0 win over St Mirren at Fir Park.
Snaps courtesy of SNSPix.
Phil McGhee at Fir Park
An understrength, patched up Motherwell started the new league campaign with a hard earned 1-0 victory over St Mirren.
And despite Saints having the bulk of the play, it was a dream league debut from Lee Erwin whose goal midway through the second half gave Stuart McCall’s men all three points.
While Erwin might have earned the man of the match for his winning goal it was Dan Twardzik, on his second domestic debut, who denied Saints a share of the points blocking numerous attempts on the home goal.
Injuries to Simon Ramsden and Stevie Hammell forced the novel pairing of Fraser Kerr with Stephen McManus at the heart of an understrength defence. Zaine Francis-Angol and Craig Reid both passed late fitness tests to take their place at fullback. While at the other end, John Sutton was partnered with Erwin for the first time.
Not surprisingly, St Mirren, under new manager Tommy Craig, made a furious and direct start to test a nervous looking home side.
However, after surviving a series of crosses from Gregg Wylde it was ‘Well who had the first strike on goal. On his SPFL debut, Josh Law was eager to add to his two Euro goals but his shot was straight at Marian Kello.
At the other end Twardzik had to react quickly to nip the ball off the toes of Callum Ball at the edge of the ‘keeper’s six yard box. As Saints continued to press, Twardzik was the busiest player blocking a couple of efforts from James Marwood before palming a stinging John McGinn drive over his crossbar.
As the first half progressed, Motherwell became more organised and comfortable on the ball and an in-swinging corner from Lionel Ainsworth was headed off the line by Kenny McLean.
A cross from Ainsworth was chested down by Erwin allowing Stuart Carswell to drive a low shot which Kello got down to block.
Another smart exchange at the edge of the box finished with Sutton playing in Law but his curling effort was well saved by the Saints ‘keeper.
That spirited spell from ‘Well before half-time, though, was forgotten as Saints made a blistering start to the second forty-five.
Within a minute Wylde had raced away from the home defence only to watch his angled drive touched beyond the post by Twardzik at full stretch.
The ‘Well ‘keeper then had to deal with two thumping shots from Ball as the Buddies came closer to an opener.
Instead, though, it was the Fir Parkers who snatched the lead after 64 minutes.
Ainsworth unleashed a powerful drive from 25 yards, which Kello leapt to beat out, but Erwin reacted swiftly to stab the ball between the keeper and his left hand post for his first senior goal for the club.
It was Twardzik to the recue again when the keeper punched out a fierce McLean drive.
Saints hopes for an equaliser were dented 16 minutes from time when they were reduced to ten men after Jim Goodwin was shown a second yellow card by referee Calum Murray for an off the ball incident.
To their credit the Paisley side continued to push forward but Erwin came close to a rounding off a very impressive 90 minutes with a second goal, curling a 20 yard free kick over the cross bar.
[tab:As it happened]
Alastair Reilly at Fir Park
FT: Motherwell 1 – 0 St Mirren
90+2mins: McAusland booked for throwing the ball away in frustration
3 minutes added on.
89mins: Motherwell sub, Law off for Leitch
88mins: Another great save from Twardzik, this time to deny Caldwell from the edge of the box
83mins: Free-kick in a decent area for ‘Well. Erwin curls it just over the bar.
82mins: Penalty shouts for Saints after the ball looked like it might have hit a ‘Well hand. Ref waves it away.
80mins: Tesselaar wins Saints a corner, which Sutton heads clear. Still 1-0
76mins: St Mirren sub, Ball off for Caldwell
73mins: Red card! Goodwin receives a second yellow, presumably for dissent.
72mins: Ball AGAIN has a great chance but fires well over the bar from close range!
66mins: Good chance for ‘Well there! Ainsworth got into a good area on the wing and cut it back to Erwin who couldn’t get it under control
64mins: Ainsworth’s shot is palmed straight back to Erwin who pokes it home from 8 yards on his first start for the club!
LEE ERWIN MAKES IT 1-0!!
57mins: Another St Mirren chance. Again, Marwood shoots straight at Twardzik. St Mirren should be a few up but for poor finishing.
50mins: Ball should have burst the net for Saints but yet again it is fired straight at Twardzik. Saints have came flying. out the traps
46mins: Great save from Twardzik to tip Wylde’s shot past the post. Looked a certain goal!
Second half is underway #MFCvSMFC
HT: Motherwell 0 – 0 St Mirren
44mins: Wylde gets plenty of space again in behind the ‘Well defence but again, shoots straight at Twardzik.
43mins: Ainsworth tries to work some space inside the box and manages to get a shot away but it’s sliced well wide from 15 yards.
40mins: Ball falls to Law just outside the box. He tries to place his shot but Kello makes a comfortable save.
33mins: Didn’t look the best challenge there from Goodwin on Lasley. Not unlike the challenge he was booked for earlier
30mins: Booking: McManus is booked for obstruction on Naismith as he looked to sprint past him.
25mins: Ainsworth’s ball in is chested down by Erwin to Carswell. He shoots, but it’s straight at Kello. Bit more positive now.
24mins: Francis-Angol wins ‘Well’s first corner of the game…McManus is inches away from connecting with it at the back post!
23mins: Booking: Goodwin flies into a challenge on Erwin and enters the ref’s book.
20mins: Another good save from Twardzik, this time low at the feet of Wylde. St Mirren well on top here,
17mins: Corner to Saints after Twardzik does well to tip McGinn’s effort over the bar.
15mins: Ball gets his head to Wylde’s cross from then left but it’s not enough to trouble Twardzik. Routine save from 12 yards
9mins: McLean whips in a great cross from the right which Kerr tried to intercept. He missed it and the ball thankfully sneaked just past
7mins: Half a chance there for Saints as a quickly taken free-kick almost falls for Ball in the box but its scrambled away to safety by Dan
3mins: Law pounces on a flick on and from the edge of the box opts to shoot. Doesn’t have the power to test Kello.
2mins: Good spell of pressure for Saints. Wylde has seen a lot of the ball wide on the left, just lacking the final ball.
1min: Marwood and Ball get the action underway. COYW!
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“We had a lot of quality missing and we’ve not replaced the three lads we lost at the end of last season (James McFadden, Henri Anier and Shaun Hutchinson).
“I wouldn’t be making excuses if we lost, but I can say it now we won. It’s been a tough week and three of the lads who started hadn’t trained since the Stjarnan game. “Did we deserve to win? Probably not. “But, because of what we have gone through during the week, we said to them that the important thing was the result.
“We lacked a little bit of quality in certain areas but things will get easier in the coming weeks, when some of the injuries clear up and we get new faces in.
“I wouldn’t say it was a case of smash and grab. There were a lot of our players under par but you have to dig in and find a way. “And it was a terrific debut from Lee Erwin. I’m really pleased he scored the goal and he looked dangerous all day.”
St Mirren manager Tommy Craig:
“Can anyone tell me how we lost that game? If I was going to ask my team how to perform in the next game, I would ask them to give a repeat of that.
“For the majority of the game we dominated. I could cut my tongue out, because I said beforehand how good Motherwell are at getting results when they are not playing so well.
“Stuart has done this over the last three or four years, and you have to say well done. That’s what we need. To go with our performance, we need that resilience to carve out a result.
“My beef with St Mirren for a long time has been that they don’t normally win games they don’t deserve to win. Motherwell showed that determination and resilience to hang in.
“If we can add to what we were trying to do with passing the ball, then we will be fine. The players proved they are right behind me. They looked like a team and I’m enthusiastic and excited about the season ahead. I want supporters to enjoy what they are seeing.”
The first domestic Steelmen Matchday Magazine of 2014/15 is on sale when St Mirren visit Fir Park this afternoon.
But what is inside the 68-page issue?
‘Well boss Stuart McCall and Captain Keith Lasley both return with the regular columns. McCall chats about going into his fifth season at Fir Park and how he keeps himself and the players motivated whilst Las talks candidly about the European result and bouncing back in the domestic competitions.
The feature interview is with last season’s top scorer, and former Saint, John Sutton. The big striker reflects on pre-season as well as his hopes and aspirations for the new season, including potential new strike partners.
Sutty also features as the next in the centre-page souvenir poster collection.
But that’s not where the features stop!
There is an in-depth section dedicated to our visitors, St Mirren.
As ever, Ray Morrison introduces the Paisley side and talks through four vital characters in the Buddies side likely to cause issues.
Graeme McGarry catches up with Brian Martin who played for both clubs during his long career. ‘Buff’ speaks candidly about his time at Saints, the disappointment and suddenness of it coming to and end and his life and times at Fir Park too.
The big features keep coming…
‘From the Press Box’ returns with regular host, the Herald’s Scott Mullen and there’s a new column from ‘Well fan Eddie McGuigan, who heads up the ‘Voices from the East Stand’ blog, who gives a fans viewpoint as the new season gets underway.
Andy Paterson recalls opening day fixtures from previous seasons, including a memorable win at Love Street in Mark McGhee’s first year, and Eddie Ferguson starts a new feature looking at every Motherwell manager in history, starting of with greatest: John ‘Sailor’ Hunter.
Our match reports section takes a look back at the 3-0 closed-door friendly defeat by Spaniards Real Betis. There’s also an in-depth report from the Under 20s 1-0 defeat to Lanarkshire neighbours Hamilton Accies in their season opener.
We have the latest from The Ticket Office, Commercial and Community Departments, and update from the Well Society as well as the latest stats, facts and figures from the 2014/2015 campaign.
We also take a statistical look at the match official and the new GIRFEC sponsored ‘Junior Steel’ kids page returns and is sure to test the youngster’s quiz minds with puzzles and ‘Did you know’ facts.
The programme is available for £3 and is will be 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 – CLICK HERE.
Josh Law wants to build on his goalscoring start to his Motherwell career by hitting the ground running in the SPFL Premiership.
The 24-year old former Alferton Town midfielder hit two quick-fire goals in the ultimately unsuccessful European tie against Stjarnan.
But on the eve of the new league season, Law hopes he can continue some of his own form into the domestic game.
[pullquote]Obviously I want to try and hit the ground running. My brother obviously has a close connection with the club so a lot of focus will be on me to see how I do. My aim so is to carry things forward now into the new season.[/pullquote]
“I was very pleased with how it went for me personally, if not a little bittersweet,” he said.
“I was happy with two goals and an assist, but everyone was hugely disappointed to lose the tie and for the contribution to count for nothing, really.
“Obviously I want to try and hit the ground running. My brother obviously has a close connection with the club so a lot of focus will be on me to see how I do. My aim so is to carry things forward now into the new season.
“From a collective point of view, the team has achieved a lot in previous seasons and our aim is to try and continue or replicate that as best we can.”
Stuart McCall is targeting another strong league campaign as ‘Well prepare to get the 2014/15 SPFL Premiership season underway tomorrow.
The former Scotland midfielder has guided the Steelmen to a Scottish Cup final and three consecutive ‘Best of the Rest’ finishes in his three and a half years in charge, but finds his team written off by most commentators.
It’s a familiar theme, it was the same last year when seven first-team stars headed for exit door only for the re-shaped team to set a new post-war points record in securing a second consecutive runners-up spot with a last-gasp win at Aberdeen.
Despite only a couple of players leaving this year and the prospect of new faces still to arrive, many expect the Motherwell bubble has burst.
However, McCall insists the joy of securing second spot last year can motivate both the management staff and players in what is certain to be an ultra competitive top league.
[pullquote]There will be challenges, there will be ups and downs. There’s no doubt, just like we did last year, we’ll have some massive blips and bad results and fans will say they’re not going back again, but if we can maintain the consistency and keep bouncing back, then that’s what we’ll try to do.[/pullquote]
Speaking to the broadcast press at Motherwell’s pre-St Mirren news conference, McCall said: “We are very much looking forward to the new season.
“We need to start on the front-foot and put the disappointment of the European defeat firmly behind us which we obviously didn’t go the we wanted or hoped for.
“That’s all gone, it’s in the past now and all our focus is on the league season and St Mirren on the opening day.
“People always say ‘what can you do next? You have been there a long while’. You only have to look back at the last minute of last season. That’s what I’m in football for.
“All right, we didn’t win a trophy or do anything outstandingly spectacular, but the enjoyment for the group of players that had produced what they had to get to 70 points and finish second, that’s why we’re in the game.
“There will be challenges, there will be ups and downs. There’s no doubt, just like we did last year, we’ll have some massive blips and bad results and fans will say they’re not going back again, but if we can maintain the consistency and keep bouncing back, then that’s what we’ll try to do.”
Referee for this Saturday’s SPFL Premiership clash with St Mirren at Fir Park is Calum Murray.
Murray is an experienced whistler with well over fifteen years in the top flight. Somewhat surprisingly though, this is his first match at Fir Park for almost eighteen months.
He only took charge of one ‘Well match last term, that was the disappointing 2-0 defeat at McDiarmid Park – Stevie May and Nigel Hasselbaink on the score sheet.
Previous to that, it was February 2013 and a 3-0 for Stuart McCall’s side over Inverness (Michael Higdon double and a Nicky Law strike) at Fir Park.
Murray took charge of another two Motherwell matches that same campaign, the instantly forgettable 2-0 defeat to Rangers at Ibrox in the Scottish Communities League Cup and the 3-2 victory over Ross County at Fir Park.
The season previous it was three matches.
The first was a 2-1 win at Pittodrie with goals from Michael Higdon and Omar Daley.
The second was a 1-1 draw with St Mirren in December, Michael Higdon grabbing Motherwell’s goal and the last was the 3-2 win over St Johnstone, Keith Lasley and a Henrik Ojamaa double separating the sides.
Back in 2011, he also handled the Scottish Cup Final between Motherwell and Celtic at Hampden.
His overall record in charge of the Steelmen is fairly mixed. Of the 21 games he has taken charge of, Motherwell have won nine, drawn four and lost eight. The Fir Parkers have scored 28 whilst 29 have hit the back of the ‘Well net.
61 players have seen yellow on those fourteen matches, 33 of which were shown to a player wearing Claret and Amber.
Only one player has been sent for an early bath, Bob Malcolm in the famous 1-0 win over Celtic back in early 2008.
Calum will be ably assisted by Gavin Harris and Frank Connor with Mat Northcroft on fourth official duties. Brian Cassidy is the Referee Observer and John Connolly is the SPFL Delegate.
The Keith Lasley Testimonial Committee has today released the following brief statement.
“Due to unforeseen circumstances and difficulties surrounding fixture arrangements during this summer, the Testimonial Committee is now planning for a match either later in this year or into 2015.
“The Committee would like to sincerely thank everyone for their backing at the various events thus far and look forward to similar support in the future.”
U20s boss Jonatan Johansson has demanded his young side to learn from tonight’s defeat to Hamilton Accies.
Injury and suspensions carrying from last season meant the former Finnish International had little to choose from and his squad was made up of seven players still eligible to play for the Under 17s.
Hamilton’s side was certainly more familiar and played with a little bit more savvy, demonstrated by player-boss Alex Neil in the middle of the park.
The hosts deservedly won the match with Stephen Hendrie’s goal after just five minutes.
In truth, it perhaps could have been more with the form of Scotland Youth stopper Ross Stewart the real bright spark from an otherwise disappointing night at the office for the Claret and Amber men.
[pullquote]Across the team, we need to be a little smarter. Our decision-making at various stages was sloppy but it’s a learning curve for the players and that’s what we’ll try to take from the match.[/pullquote]
Speaking to MFC TV, now free-to-air on Motherwell’s You Tube Channel, Johansson said: “I was disappointed that we looked indecisive the whole night. I felt our reaction to things that were happening on the pitch wasn’t good.
“They were much sharper than us, they reacted quicker to second balls and throw-ins and stronger than us in set-pieces; all the so-called smaller things that perhaps a young player takes for granted.
“There were a lot of first-years in the team tonight and they’ve got to quickly learn that this is the standard they are going to be up against on the physical side.
“Across the team, we need to be a little smarter. Our decision-making at various stages was sloppy but it’s a learning curve for the players and that’s what we’ll try to take from the match.”
Motherwell U20s started the season with a disappointing 1-0 defeat to Hamilton Accies at New Douglas Park this evening.
Despite starting the game in a positive fashion, the visitors were a goal down inside five minutes when left-back Stephen Hendrie thundered a low shot across goal and into the far corner
It finished that way but Accies spurned a number of opportunities thanks to some excellent goalkeeping from Ross Stewart and some slack finishing, including an 85th minute penalty miss.
‘Well failed to really trouble Blair Currie in the home goal, with a Dylan Mackin shot in the 90th minute the best the Steelmen could muster.
In fairness, it was an extremely young side that was listed by Jonatan Johansson with four players in the starting eleven still eligible to play for the Under 17s.
Experience did come in the shape of Iain Vigurs, who only lasted 37 minutes before having to be withdrawn and Bob McHugh who was replaced the interval.
Accies had the recognisable face of manager Alex Neil in the middle of the park, but he too subbed himself at the break.
‘Well made a positive start and looked up for things in the very early exchanges; Dom Thomas posting early intentions with a nice piece of skill and cross that was cleared.
However, it didn’t take Accies long to settle and they were ahead on the fifth minute. A move across the park landed at the feet of Hendrie on the left flank and he took a touch to set himself before drilling an unstoppable shot into the far corner.
It could have been worse for ‘Well three minutes later and only a superb double-save from Stewart kept the score at 1-0.
Danny Armstrong’s cross was headed goalwards by Andy Ryan, which the Steelmen stopper somehow blocked from point-blank range. Incredibly, he was up like a flash to block Greg Docherty’s rebounded shot with his legs.
Johansson’s men looked rattled at this point, with Accies creating and passing up several chances with Eamonn Brophy, Ryan and Armstrong all denied by Stewart with Docherty firing a shot wide.
It took Motherwell until the midway point to create; Craig McCall seizing on Neil’s headed clearance but his hung up cross for Dylan Mackin was headed over by the big striker.
As the half wore on, both teams had half chances. Brophy fired high and wide and Thomas had Motherwell’s only effort on target during the first forty-five with a low shot comfortably held by Currie.
The hosts did have the ball in the net again before the interval; Armstrong’s curling shot was palmed out by Stewart only for Ryan to tuck home the rebound. However, assistant referee Matthew MacDermid’s late flag ensured the game remained at 1-0.
Motherwell introduced Higgins for McHugh at the break and he caused immediate problems with his pace. After just three minutes, he latched onto a short back pass but after cutting it back for Mackin, Accies had managed to get enough men behind the ball to block.
However, it wasn’t long before Stewart was back in action and he had to look smart to tip over Armstrong’s swerving effort. Four minutes later, the Scotland Youth International was at it again, this time denying Docherty from distance.
The game ten hit a lull with neither side creating much in the way of clear-cut chances. Both had some sniffs, Ross McLean almost connecting with Chris Cadden’s ball into the area at one end, Jesus Garcia Tena bringing out another smart stop from Stewart with a bouncing free kick from twenty yards.
With ten minutes left, Accies again spurned a golden chance from the penalty spot when Adam Cummins was adjudged to have tripped Ryan. Docherty stood up to take but his low shot came back off the base of the post and spun clear.
That should have provided ‘Well with the shot in the arm that they needed to rescue the match but, in truth, only a ninetieth minute turn and shot by Dylan Mackin caused Currie any concern.
It was a flat opening for Johansson’s side who admittedly were up against it in terms of experience and numbers, with several key players injured or suspended. Frustratingly, there is a two-week gap until Dundee United’s youths visit Fir Park.
Motherwell: Stewart, Cadden, McMillan, Cummins, Watt, McCall, Thomas, McLean, McHugh (Higgins – 46mins), Vigurs (R.Leitch – 37mins), Mackin
Subs Not Used: Currie, Campbell, Watters