The Steelmen face local rivals Hamilton tomorrow afternoon in the final match of the calendar year – looking to go in to the January break in winning form.
And on the back of a hugely important 2-1 win over Inverness on Wednesday night, Mark McGhee’s side could not only move in to the top six with a win tomorrow, but could also put some breathing space between the bottom sides in the table.
This is the second Lanarkshire derby of the season, following Louis Moult’s historic four goal haul back in September, when the ‘Well won 4-2 at Fir Park.
The Steelmen have picked up five points in the last four games whilst Accies arrive on the back of a four game losing streak.
The derby match will provide an opportunity for the hosts to put an end to their poor recent run whilst exacting revenge on the loss against Motherwell earlier this season.
‘Well boss Mark McGhee feels that the win earlier this week will give his side an element of optimism and is looking to end the year on a high.
He said: “We didn’t train yesterday, we were travelling back down the road after a pool session yesterday morning so we need to get the energy back up.
“It’s a short turnaround so we did it right, we stayed over after the game, we got straight to bed and then had the pool session yesterday morning. We’ve done the best we can to prepare so we’ll see how things are today.
“I think on the back of that result they should go to Hamilton, a local derby, full of optimism.
On the back of that result they should go to Hamilton, a local derby, full of optimism. You can only win the two games if you win the first one, so we’ve won the first one and that’s half the job done.
[pullquote]If we could get another result and go in to the break on the back of two wins, then I think we can reassess, we can get people fully fit hopefully and then go in to the second half of the season full of optimism.[/pullquote]
He added: “You can only win the two games if you win the first one, so we’ve won the first one and that’s half the job done.
“We’re not trying to prove to anyone else, we’re only trying to prove to ourselves that what I’m saying about the boys is true – that we’re competitive with everyone in the division.
“In order to keep saying that we have to have got decent results in these two games.
“If we could get another result and go in to the break on the back of two wins, then I think we can reassess, we can get people fully fit hopefully and then go in to the second half of the season full of optimism.”
‘Well skipper Keith Lasley will likely miss tomorrow’s match as he works hard to recover from his shoulder injury.
Dougie Imrie and Scott McMann will miss out through suspension for the Accies while Greg Docherty will likely be out through injury.
Out of action for four months now, Carl McHugh is back and hungry to help his side to another victory.
The Irishman vows to make up for lost time after suffering a head knock in the opening league game of the season against Kilmarnock.
The combative midfielder has been battling symptoms of concussion since then but made his long awaited return to action on Wednesday night.
Ahead of tomorrow’s big derby match, Carl is the one to watch as his influence on the team continues to shine.
Hailed by manager Mark McGhee as the man of the match during his side’s 2-1 victory on Wednesday night, Carl admits he is delighted to be back in the team.
He said: “It’s great to be back after being out for so long and to come back in for a win was great too so I’m delighted.”
The 23-year-old revealed some of the challenges he faced with such a complex injury. He said: “It’s been really tough, it was a tough period because it was a strange injury.
“It wasn’t a hamstring injury or something like that where you know when you’ll be back – there’s no real time scale on it and I was lucky with the support I had from the club.
[pullquote]It wasn’t a hamstring injury or something like that where you know when you’ll be back – there’s no real time scale on it and I was lucky with the support I had from the club.[/pullquote]
“From the gaffer and Alan Burrows to the medical staff of Aileen and JP, and Andy Boles too, the support was brilliant and I can’t speak highly enough of them.”
He added: “I had great support at home from my family too and that made things a little easier for me.”
Despite being out of action for four months, Carl managed to get himself back to match fitness in time for the Inverness match with only around a week of training.
And the Irishman added that he initially wanted to play on during the Kilmarnock win back in August, but if he had, it may have caused him even more problems.
He said: “It was strange to be honest because when I played the game against Kilmarnock I had that scar on my face but I felt all right after it, I felt grand.
“It was about four days after that I just kind of went downhill, I started getting the symptoms of the post-concussion syndrome like the headaches and the dizziness and it just went from there and the symptoms just wouldn’t leave.
“In a way I think getting the scar during the game was a blessing in disguise because that forced me to go off because at the time I didn’t feel anything, I didn’t feel like I was concussed and if you play on that’s when you can be in trouble.”
[pullquote]When you sign for a new club you want to make an impression on everybody. Hopefully I can make up for lost time in the coming months and show that I’ll be a good signing for Motherwell.[/pullquote]
He added: “There were some tough days and everybody can go through tough times but I’m just lucky now that I’m able to go out in the morning and do what I love doing, go to training and be involved in games so I’m just so, so happy that I’m back involved.
“Hopefully it’s over me now, it’s behind me, I can move on and have a good start back to my career.”
Looking ahead to tomorrow’s derby, the summer signing said: “It won’t have an affect on my game though, that’s the type of person I am.
“It was a really important game on Wednesday night and it was a tough game too with the conditions and everything but it was just great to come out with a win and hopefully now we can kick on and get a bit of momentum before the break.”
He added: “When you sign for a new club you want to make an impression on everybody – your teammates, the supporters and everything – and having that happen in the first game is just one of these things that can’t be helped.
“Hopefully I can make up for lost time in the coming months and show that I’ll be a good signing for Motherwell.”
Hamilton Accies don’t need much of an introduction to ‘Well fans, with the Lanarkshire Derby a standout in the fixture list for both sets of supporters.
Since Hamilton’s promotion to the top flight in the 2008/09 season, the rivalry has intensified – with tomorrow’s visitors recording 35 wins in 121 league clashes.
For Martin Canning and assistant Guillaume Beuzelin, it’s their third trip to Fir Park since they took charge at Hamilton back in January 2015.
Recent derby clashes between the two sides have not been short of goals, with the most recent derby ending in a historic 4-2 victory for the ‘Well when four goals from Louis Moult secured the three points.
Their first visit as coaches ended with the Steelmen notching a 4-0 victory in front of a jubilant home support.
However, the next time the duo came to the home of the Steelmen, the outcome ended in a thrilling 3-3 draw.
The club have been involved in some hugely positive results on their own patch though, with few ‘Well supporters needing a reminder of the 5-0 loss against Accies back on New Year’s day 2015.
It’s been a mixed start to the season for tomorrow’s visitors, who currently occupy eleventh spot in the table and are in the middle of a four game losing run.
On Tuesday night, Accies fell 2-1 to Aberdeen at the SuperSeal Stadium, when Dougie Imrie levelled from the penalty spot after Ash Taylor gave Dons the lead in the 34th minute. Adam Rooney gave his side the lead in the second half and Hamilton, who were reduced to ten men late on, failed to find a way back in to the match.
While four losses on the trot makes for bad reading for Accies fans, it is certainly worth pointing out that the defeats have come against the Old Firm.
Their trip to Parkhead ended in a narrow 1-0 loss and that was followed by an equally narrow 2-1 loss against Rangers on their own turf.
A second meeting with Celtic followed, this time at home, but Canning’s side slumped to a 3-0 loss before losing to Aberdeen on Tuesday.
Hamilton will likely look to strengthen in the upcoming January transfer window after welcoming a few new faces in summer.
Georgios Sarris arrived from the Turkish leagues and Danny Seabourne from Partick Thistle – but perhaps the biggest signing was the arrival of ex-AC Milan and Celtic midfielder Massimo Donati, who penned a one-year deal with the club.
The Italian defensive-midfielder, who has slotted in at centre-back at points this term, will be a key component for the hosts tomorrow, with the return of Carl McHugh to the middle of the Motherwell midfield making the battle in the middle of the park an interesting one.
The two Lanarkshire sides will be keen to end the year on a high before the January break – and it is an enticing fixture awaiting the travelling ‘Well fans tomorrow afternoon.