Motherwell host Kilmarnock tomorrow afternoon in the Ladbrokes Premiership – with the possibility of leapfrogging the Ayrshire side in the table.
On the back of last weekend’s crushing 3-4 home loss against league leaders Celtic, when a last-gasp Tom Rogic strike stole a point away from the Fir Parkers, Mark McGhee and his side will be keen to bounce back with three points tomorrow.
While the manager serves the first of his two match ban tomorrow afternoon, he has taken a number of positives from the performance against Brendan Rodgers’ side.
And assistant James McFadden admits nothing will change for tomorrow, and the manager has conducted his team and prepared as normal.
He said: “It won’t really change too much. Contrary to belief, the manager is actually quite reserved on the touchline and I’m always shouting.
“But the team will be set up the same way, the structures will be the same and it will just be a continuation of what’s happened before.”
He added: “We can take loads of positives from the Celtic game – the first half performance especially where we played well and deservedly took the two-goal lead.
“It was great for the younger players especially, to show that we can compete on our day against anybody.
“We have made mistakes which cost us goals, it’s nothing to do with our style of play, we’ve been playing well but ultimately we’ve been making mistakes which have cost us, so we need to cut them out.
“Even the games we’ve lost and lost comfortably in terms of the scoreline, we’ve ben playing well, so if we keep playing the way we have been with the intensity and the quality of our passing then we’ll be fine, we just need to get the consistency of cutting the mistakes out.”
Kilmarnock come in to the match on the back of a 5-1 loss away to Aberdeen on Tuesday night, but McFadden knows the Steelmen have to be well prepared tomorrow.
He said: “By all accounts Kilmarnock started the game well the other night and the scoreline probably flattered Aberdeen a bit so we need to be ready for the best Kilmarnock turning up and we’ll make sure we’re at our best too.
“We don’t make mistakes every week but generally when we concede a goal it’s down to mistakes or things that we could’ve done better rather than good play against us.
“The team will be set up the same way, the instructions will be the same and it will just be a continuation of what’s been happening anyway.”
Currently two points ahead of the Steelmen, Lee Clark’s Killie side come in to the match on the back of a disappointing 5-1 loss away to Aberdeen.
Prior to that though, a 2-0 win against Dundee sprung the Rugby Park side into the top half of the table, and they still occupy that spot ahead of tomorrow’s match.
Midfield star Craig Clay admits that he wants to add goals to his game ahead of Saturday’s important game against Kilmarnock at Fir Park.
The Englishman may not have found the back of the net in claret and amber yet, but he is making sure to put the hours in to improve his finishing.
Speaking to the press, Craig also revealed that he has settled in extremely well in Lanarkshire since making the switch in summer.
He said: “I know myself that I’m always going to come and put 110% in to what I do. It’s always hard to go to a new team, especially so far away from home, and try and settle straight away.
“The lads have really helped me, everyone has been really accommodating, the staff as well, the gaffer and Faddy, so yes I think it’s gone really well and I’m loving every minute.”
He added: “I do want to add goals to my game as a midfielder, I always say that six or seven is a good return and hopefully the penny will drop for me soon.
“But I can look at Fadds in training and see him put them bottom corner, top corner and it’s true, I don’t need to look too far for tips about shooting.
“The manager gives me tips about my body position and stuff and I have to take that advice on the chin and try and put it in to my game.”
Like assistant manager James McFadden, Craig believes that there are lots of positives to take from the loss against Celtic into this weekend’s league clash.
He said: “The way we performed last week, especially the first half, I like to think will make a lot of teams stand up and take note of our pressing and how good we played and we know we’ve got that in our team and I’ve been saying that since day one.
“It’s disappointing to score three goals against the best team in Scotland and not even get a point out of that game.”
He added: “First half we were unbelievable and then in the second half they upped their game and I guess there were a few mistakes from us too.
“We’ve had chats in the dressing room about finding what system suits us best and on Saturday I think we found it. We can press in people’s faces and play high in tempo and basically if we played like that against any other team I think we’d take all three points.”
For Killie, tomorrow afternoon represents a chance to bounce back to winning ways after they slumped to a 5-1 loss away to Aberdeen on Tuesday night.
Prior to that thought, the Ayrshire outfit found themselves on a bit of a strong run with their last match at home ending in a 2-0 win at home to Dundee last weekend sending them in to the top half of the table.
Rory McKenzie, who bagged the goal against Aberdeen, opened the scoring against Dundee from 18 yards after just 22 minutes when Steven Smith’s shot ricocheted into the youngsters path.
Dundee passed up a huge chance to level when Marcus Haber sent his free header wide of the mark just before the break.
And they were punished when Souleymane Coulibaly all but wrapped up the three points with 20 minutes remaining, when he thundered home from close range to bag his 10th goal of the season in all competitions.
It was an impressive and important victory for tomorrow’s opponents, given Dundee were previously unbeaten on their last five visits to Rugby Park.
After the match, manager Lee Clark said: “I thought it was a dominant performance from start to finish. We created numerous chances. I thought the players were fantastic, stuck to the game plan, we forced Dundee into a system change, albeit towards the end of the game.
“It was a thoroughly deserved victory and it could’ve been by a bigger margin.”
Top scorer Coulibaly has received his fair share of plaudits this term, not only due to the volume of goals he has scored but the nature in which he has bagged them – including overhead kicks and a 44-yard screamer at the home of the Champions, Celtic.
Picking the ball up near the half way line, the Ivory Coast born striker performed a dazzling turn to beat Scott Brown and launched an unstoppable strike past the helpless Dorus De Vries into the top corner.
Clark credited his forward for his performances this season, and said: “The games where we’re playing teams in and around us, we have to have someone in goal scoring form. Souleymane does a lot of unseen hard work for us, but he’s getting his rewards with the goals, the players appreciate what he’s doing.”
It is not just the 21-year-old striker who has been scoring for Lee Clark though, with veteran forward Kris Boyd chipping in with three goals this term despite seeing his game time become limited.
Despite sitting sixth in the table, Killie will be wary of the fact that they are one of lowest scoring sides in the division, with 15 goals, and will be keen to not only continue their run of form, but be prolific in front of goal here at Fir Park this weekend.
Tomorrow afternoon is the second meeting between Killie and the Steelmen after Mark McGhee’s side claimed all three points on the opening game of the season.
While Coulibaly has been scoring his fair share of wonder goals, it was Lionel Ainsworth who stole the show back in August with an outrageous dink over Killie stopper Jamie MacDonald to open the scoring.
After playing the ball in to the feet of Aussie striker Scott McDonald, the winger continued on and received the ball back into his run and, first time, dinked the ball over the keeper.
The Ayrshire side have picked up some impressive results this term, including a 1-1 draw at home to Rangers, a 1-0 win away to St Johnstone and a 2-0 win at home to Hearts.
With that ability to churn out results against teams firmly in the top six, Lee Clark’s side have to be considered serious contenders for a top half finish this term.
That makes clashes like tomorrow’s hugely important for both sides as the season heats up.