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    Motherwell U20s 3 – 1 St Johnstone U20s

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    McGhee: Focussing on positives

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    Lucas: Bringing something different

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    Muir to officiate Dons clash

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    ‘Well U20s set for Saints

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    Made in Motherwell: Ian St John

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    Elliott Frear: Settling in well

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    TV: Highlights from Dumbarton

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    Craigan: Mixed emotions after defeat

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    Celtic U20s 3 – 2 Motherwell U20s

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    Motherwell U20s 3 – 1 St Johnstone U20s

    Motherwell under 20s returned to winning ways tonight with a 3-1 win over St Johnstone in the Development League.

    A Jacob Blyth penalty, a Davie Turnbull strike and a Shea Gordon lob was enough for the Steelmen who looked comfortable as they picked up all three points at the Excelsior Stadium.

    Jacob Blyth started his second match in a row for the under 20s, while Stephen Craigan also called upon the suspended Carl McHugh for his side’s third game in a week.

    The visitors started positively and Oliver Pain had to be alert from the first whistle. A thumping effort from Michael Coulson from the edge of the area forced the keeper to turn the ball round his post with a terrific, diving save.

    From the resulting corner, Smith got a strong header on target which beat Pain but was cleared off the line by Tom Fry.

    Motherwell grew in to the game fairly quickly though and in the tenth minute had an effort of their own cleared off the line. Dylan Mackin and Jake Hastie linked up well down the left and a neat one-two released the latter into the box, but his stinging low ball across the face was hooked away from danger.

    Shea Gordon found himself in an advanced position when Mackin’s header down fell neatly for the midfielder, but he took a fraction too long to adjust and his effort from six yards was blocked by Daniel Jardine.

    The Steelmen passed up a terrific chance just a minute later when Blyth slipped in Hastie. The winger had support to his left in Davie Turnbull who, if he received it, would have been one-on-one, but the crucial pass was intercepted.

    Just after the 20th minute, Motherwell took the lead from a penalty.

    St Johnstone failed to clear a ball in to the box from the right and Blyth, who attempted to bring it down, tumbled to the deck after a blatant push. The forward stepped up and made no mistake from the spot, thundering his penalty past McKenzie.

    The cliché “you’re most dangerous when you’ve just scored” was nearly summed up by the immediate chance for the visitors.

    Racing forward from centre, George Hunter received the ball and struck a powerful effort on target, forcing a fantastic save from Pain to keep the Steelmen in front.

    Motherwell dominated most of the ball from then on, but neither side created too many chances.

    Blyth nodded a header on target but it didn’t have enough on it to beat McKenzie, while down the other end Coulson had an effort denied comfortably by Pain.

    A neat through ball from Mackin towards the advancing Gordon nearly produced a fine ‘Well goal after 35 minutes, but the Saints keeper was quick off his line and smothered the danger.

    The Northern Irishman did find the back of the net though in the second half, but not before Davie Turnbull doubled ‘Well’s lead.

    Hastie slipped in the youngster down the right flank, he cut on to his left foot just inside the box and struck an unstoppable finish in to the top corner.

    With the next chance, Motherwell had their third – and what a tremendous goal too.

    A pinpoint ball over the top of the Saints defence left Gordon with just McKenzie to beat. He let the ball bounce once before lifting it over the keeper with the inside of his boot. Tremendous goal which involved just two touches.

    St Johnstone responded immediately though, and it was a good goal for the visitors too. A deep cross in to the box found the full-back Smith, who rose high to head down past Pain.

    Stephen Craigan made his first change just before the 70th minute, replacing Mackin with the pacey forward Alfie Agyeman. Saints followed suit immediately and brought off Coulson to bring on Jamie Docherty.

    The game fizzled out somewhat after that, with neither side really testing either keeper.

    Substitue Docherty should have reduced the deficit in the final seconds though, firing over from six yards. Maguire did enough to force him off balance and keep the two goal lead.

     

    Motherwell: Pain, Fry, Livingstone, Maguire, Armstrong, McHugh, Blyth, Turnbull, Mackin (Agyeman ‘69), Hastie, Gordon

     

    Unused subs: Pettigrew, Scott, Semple, McDonald

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    McGhee: Focussing on positives

    Mark McGhee is focussing on the positives of a weekend off as his side prepare for Aberdeen tomorrow night.

    Injured defenders Richard Tait and Stevie Hammell have been able to recover from knocks while Jacob Blyth, Elliott Frear, Joe Chalmers and Stephen Pearson got some game time under their belts recently with the under 20s.

    Speaking to the press this morning, the manager said: “We’ve had a couple of reserve games, we’ve got another one tonight and Jacob Blyth will get another bit of that – he had his first game back.”

    He added: “It’s also allowed Hammy and Taity to recover a bit because if they had of played on Saturday they wouldn’t have been fit for tomorrow. Pearo’s had a good week too, he got a game with the under 20s.”

    The ‘Well boss admitted that he was disappointed not to have a game, but was in a positive frame of mind.

    [pullquote]I felt that even after the Hearts game we were in a good frame of mind so I would’ve liked another game on Saturday but it wasn’t to be – so we will accentuate all the positives because we’ve got something out of the short break.[/pullquote]

    He said: “With these sort of things you always accentuate the positives. I felt that even after the Hearts game we were in a good frame of mind so I would’ve liked another game on Saturday but it wasn’t to be – so we will accentuate all the positives because we’ve got something out of the short break.

    “We’re learning that this season is going to be punctuated by these breaks so we just have to make the best of it.”

    With the split approaching, McGhee revealed he plans to approach the remainder of the season one game at a time.

    He said: “I think we can start to build now. We’ve got enough games left now to focus on to get ourselves in to the top six.

    “If we don’t get beat tomorrow night we’ll go in to the top six, so we’ll just approach it incrementally.”

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    Lucas: Bringing something different

    Midfielder Lee Lucas hopes to bring something different to the team every time he steps on the pitch.

    Ahead of the Steelmen’s clash with Aberdeen and after a recent break through suspension, Lucas is fired up for tomorrow night’s league fixture and hopes to rediscover his match sharpness.

    Speaking to the press this morning, the Welshman said: “The past few months have been good, I worked my way in to the team in the few games before Christmas but then had that two match suspension after the Hamilton game so that was a bit frustrating.”

    He added: “That meant that I missed the two Rangers games which was unfortunate and with the winter break in between all of that it felt even longer.

    [pullquote]When I play, that’s just what I hope to do – add something different and that’s what the manager has brought me in for.[/pullquote]

    “Now I’m just trying to get back playing and get that match sharpness back. We’ve got a competitive squad now and we’ve got strength throughout– everyone wants to play.”

    ‘Well boss Mark McGhee described Lee Lucas as “the best footballer” among his midfield options.

    And when asked about those comments, the 24-year-old admitted that his tyle of play is something he has developed from a young age.

    He said: “It’s always nice to hear that and that’s just the way I’ve been brought up from my time at Swansea – that’s just what I know.

    “When I play, that’s just what I hope to do – add something different and that’s what the manager has brought me in for.”

    He added: “Whenever I get the chance that’s what I hope to do and help the team.”

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    Muir to officiate Dons clash

    Referee for tomorrow’s away trip to Aberdeen in the Ladbrokes Premiership is Alan Muir.

    The 41-year old takes charge of his second full Motherwell match of the 2016/17 season, after overseeing the 1-1 draw away to Ross County.

    He was also in charge for the brief outing at Pittodrie earlier this season, but had to call an early stop to proceedings when there was a floodlight failure.

    A penalty from Louis Moult drew the Steelmen level following Liam Boyce’s opener in Muir’s first Steelmen fixture this term.

    And that match was his first since October 2015 – when the Steelmen lost 1-0 to Celtic at Fir Park.

    Nadir Ciftci’s early goal was enough for the visitors that day as the Glaswegians went on to win the title.

    That was Muir’s only ‘Well match last season, and the time before that was a 2-1 win over Inverness CT at Fir Park back in February 2015.

    Lionel Ainsworth’s 84th minute winner proved to be the difference that day, despite the Fir Parkers being reduced to ten men after Muir showed right-back Simon Ramsden his second booking of the game in the 88th minute.

    Muir took charge on three occasions that season – the other two matches both resulted in 1-0 scorelines.

    The first of the season was a disappointing 1-0 though, as Baraclough’s side slumped to a 1-0 loss to St Johnstone at Fir Park.

    Then came an important 1-0 win away to St Mirren – where John Sutton’s strike was the difference.

    In total, Muir has refereed 23 matches involving the ‘Well since his first back in the 08/09 season.

    When the Scotsman has been in charge, the ‘Well have won on 10 occasions, drawn five and lost eight.

    In those games, Motherwell have scored 27 and conceded 30.

    84 players have gone into the book, 44 were wearing claret and amber, while nine players, five Fir Parkers, including former and current captains Stephen Craigan and Keith Lasley, have been dismissed.

    Muir will be ably assisted by Stephen Mitchell and Stuart Hodge; with John McKendrick on fourth official duties.

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    ‘Well U20s set for Saints

    Motherwell U20s face St Johnstone in the Development League tomorrow night as their busy schedule continues.

    And after a positive second half display against Celtic on Friday night, manager Stephen Craigan will be eager to see his youngsters get back in to action following two consecutive defeats.

    Goals from Jake Hastie and Jacob Blyth helped spur on what could have been an impressive fightback, but a poor opening 45 left the Fir Parkers with too big a task to overturn and Celtic held on to win 3-2.

    Elliott Frear, Joe Chalmers and David Ferguson also got game time under their belts, with new arrival Frear impressing at the Cheaper Insurance Direct Stadium in front of Mark McGhee and James McFadden, who watched on.

    Craigan’s side currently sit second in the Development League table, four points behind leaders Hibs who have a game in hand.

    The match kicks off at 6pm tomorrow night at the Excelsior Stadium.

    You can follow all of the action as it happens on the club’s official twitter account – @MotherwellFC

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    Made in Motherwell: Ian St John

    A finisher of supreme quality ‘Ancell Babe’ Ian St John would serve his home-town club well as both player and manager. 

    Born in Motherwell, St John was at Hampden as a thirteen-year-old to witness the Steelmen lift the Scottish Cup for the very first time in 1952 and five years later he would sign for his boyhood heroes. Over the course of the next four years he would torment defences across the country netting 80 goals in 113 league games.

    His hat-trick in a League Cup tie against Hibernian in 1959, which was despatched in little more than two-and-a-half minutes gained St John massive exposure but his consistent rate of finishing had already alerted the attention of the international selectors and a host of interested managers; and it was in that same year he was awarded the first of his caps for Scotland.

    Making his international bow at the age of just 20, Ian would go on to net 9 times in 21 appearances for his country.

    In 1961 St John signed for Liverpool for £37,500 then the Anfield side’s record transfer fee paid and he would go on to enjoy a glorious decade with Bill Shankly’s side as they were transformed from the Second Division also rans that Shankly inherited.

    In 1973 Ian was tempted back to Lanarkshire putting together one of Motherwell’s most famous front-line partnerships in his former team-mate Bobby Graham and Willie Pettigrew.

    Sadly St John’s time in the dugout at Fir Park would last little more than a year when he was lured to Portsmouth by promises of finance and support that well outstripped what Motherwell could offer.

    In time St John would become involved in broadcasting and he became a household name to another generation of football fans. Linking up with former England striker Jimmy Greaves the duo’s ‘Saint and Greavsie’ shows were watched by close to six million viewers between 1985 and 1992.

    Whilst Liverpool had captured the former striker’s heart he often took the chance to portray his first love, Motherwell, in a positive light when the opportunity arose.

    In 2008 the striker was inducted into the Scottish Football Hall of Fame.

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    Elliott Frear: Settling in well

    Elliott Frear was on the brink of a switch to Motherwell in the summer transfer window, but with time running out, the 26-year-old Forest Green Rovers winger couldn’t complete his switch before the deadline.

    Marvin Johnson departed and he was never quite replaced, but in Frear, Mark McGhee may just have found the missing piece of his puzzle.

    Frear, on the face of things, looks like he could be a direct replacement for the dangerous Johnson, now at Oxford United in League One, however, the winter arrival is a different style of winger.

    Quick, tricky and with a terrific left foot, Frear boasts a number of qualities which will prove to be a huge boost for Motherwell and a big threat for other sides in the league.

    “I know that there was interest last summer, but it’s been good to get up here and I’m settled in now.

    “I knew a few of the boys here Motherwell before I came here from playing in the National League so I’m really looking forward to get going properly.”

    Since the departure of Johnson in the summer, a left-sided midfielder is a position Mark McGhee has been keen to fill.

    In Frear, the manager believes he’s found his man and he expressed his delight to secure Frear’s signature. He said: “We were delighted to secure Elliott’s signature in January, especially because we were keen to sign him in the summer.

    “He’s a true winger, a left-sider and I’m really pleased that we’ve secured his signature because he brings a bit of balance to the squad.

    “I look forward with anticipation to see him in action, he seems settled now and now comes the part where it’s all about impressing and getting in to the team. He has the right type of attitude which I feel is hugely important.”

    A number of ‘Well stars have made the switch north and went on to be tremendous signings for the Steelmen, which Frear admits played a big part in his decision to sign for Mark McGhee’s side.

    The winger said: “That was one of the main things really – along with signing for a big club like Motherwell – seeing the likes of Louis Moult and Marvin Johnson go on to do well here, so hopefully I can make the same impact and kick on.”

    Frear may have made the bench against Rangers, Ross County and Hearts – but it was his brief taste of Premiership football against Rangers that Elliott admits has whetted his appetite.

    “It was a good experience and the pace of the game was a lot different from what I’m used to.” He admitted. “Hopefully after a few weeks of training under my belt I’ll be ready to go as soon as the manager calls upon me. I’m ready to step up to the challenge.”

    Louis Moult, Richard Tait and Craig Clay are just a few of the players who have made the jump from the English National League to the top flight of Scottish football, and the Englishman admitted he was encouraged by the success of both current and past stars who have come to Lanarkshire.

    Elliott said: “The players that have come up from National League level have gone on to do really well, so that was a big part of the decision I made to come up here.

    “I was interested in moving up to Scotland anyway, it seems like a nice place to be and while it’s a bit of a change I’m looking forward to it up here.”

    He added: “I played with Louis Moult at England C level and I’ve obviously played against Marvin Johnson when he was at Kidderminster.

    “Those players went on to do really well here of course and seeing that was part of the reason I made the decision to come up here.”

    The close-knit spirit of the squad is something Elliott has found encouraging so far.

    He said: “It’s been a change of lifestyle so far but I feel I’ve settled. I need to adjust to the pace of the league and the pace of training, but I’ve been made to feel really welcome by all of the boys and everyone around the club too so I hope we can go on to have a good second half of the season.”

    “I nearly joined in the summer so I was always keeping an eye on the results and how the team were getting on. I watched the Aberdeen and Rangers games and I got an idea how the team set up and it was hugely encouraging and something I wanted to be a part of.

    “I lived in Cheltenham when the potential move came about on deadline day in the summer, so it was a bit tough to get up to Glasgow in four hours and obviously Marvin Johnson’s move was a bit touch and go at that stage so it was all a bit too late.

    “I’m a little bit different to Marvin – I’m a winger who likes to cross the ball really and I may be a bit of a replacement but I’m a different style.”

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    TV: Highlights from Dumbarton

    Extended highlights from the Cheaper Insurance Direct Stadium as the Under 20s lose 3-2 despite a spirited second half comeback.

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    Craigan: Mixed emotions after defeat

    Under 20s boss Stephen Craigan was left with mixed emotions as his side went down 3-2 to Celtic this evening.

    The Steelmen found themselves 3-0 down inside 32 minutes as the current Development League Champions ran riot.

    However, the Fir Parkers quickly composed themselves and got back into things just after half-time when Jake Hastie won and then scored a penalty kick.

    Jacob Blyth further reduced the arrears with twelve minutes left to play and the comeback was really on.

    However, time got away from Craigan’s side, who couldn’t repair the damage done in a very poor first half.

    [pullquote]We’ll put the first half performance to one side and will focus on all the positives of the second half and how we can replicate that more often than not.[/pullquote]

    “We looked a bit overwhelmed and gave ourselves too much of a mountain to climb in the end,” the 56-times capped former Northern Ireland International told MFC TV after the match.

    “We lacked a little bit of belief – whether that was more from being leg-weary I’m not sure but we had a go at them at half-time.

    “It wasn’t about football ability, it was more about the challenges that face you; being physical, having the willingness to go and run, go and compete and win headers – the basics you need to go and win a game of football.

    “We asked them how they could improve  and impose ourselves in the game and I think the early goal helped. I wouldn’t say I am pleased but I am certainly happier with the second half performance.

    “We’ll put the first half performance to one side and will focus on all the positives of the second half and how we can replicate that more often than not.”

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    Celtic U20s 3 – 2 Motherwell U20s

    Motherwell Under 20s went down 3-2 to Celtic at a freezing cold Cheaper Insurance Direct Stadium this evening.

    Stephen Craigan’s men had a wretched first thirty-five minutes and found themselves trailing 3-0 at the interval.

    However, one of the hallmarks of this young Steelmen side has been there heart and never-say-die attitude and they pulled themselves back into things with two goals, inspired by the terrific Elliott Frear, who was outstanding on the flank for the Fir Parkers.

    However, they just ran out of time in the search for a leveller, crashing to only their second defeat since November, the other coming earlier in the week at Rugby Park.

    With Mark McGhee’s first-team having a free weekend, there were several experienced faces in the starting line up.

    Joe Chalmers and David Ferguson were in the back four; there was a welcome return for Jacob Blyth in attack who’s missed the whole season through injury and a first start in Motherwell colours for January signing Elliott Frear.

    However, despite the edge in experience, it was the hosts who came out the blocks on the front foot and Regan Hendry almost put his side ahead in the sixth minute, crashing a shot over the bar after good wing play and cross from Calvin Miller.

    ‘Well’s first effort at goal came shortly after, when the livewire Frear ghosted past two challenges before striking a low shot at McAdams who held on.

    The same player had another chance four minutes later, picking up from deep, charging forward before sending a stinging shot inches wide of target.

    However, Celtic’s next meaningful attack led to the game’s opening goal.

    A long, deflected clearance caused confusion for Barry Maguire, who slipped when trying to deal with the awkward, bouncing ball. That allowed Paul Joseph Crossan to collect, cut inside before hitting a shot that deflected off the sliding Joe Chalmers and past Ollie Pain to make it 1-0.

    It quickly went from bad to worse as Tommy McIntyre’s team doubled their advantage shortly after. Mark Hill picked up a loose pass from Davie Turnbull and he wasted no time firing at goal. Yet another big deflection left Pain with no chance as it nestled to give the denim-blue clad ‘Well a mountain to climb.

    Celtic were going for the throat and further chances via a Hill free-kick and a close-range effort from Michael Johnston came and went.

    However, the third wasn’t far away and when an enticing near-post cross allowed Crossan to nip in ahead of Chalmers, he made no mistake, bulleting his header past Pain.

    To their credit, Motherwell worked hard to try and steady the ship and slowly but surely worked their way back into the game.

    Frear was again at the heart of everything positive for the visitors and he worked the ball out towards Hastie whose cross-cum-shot almost caught out McAdams, who eventually palmed away.

    Frear had another two good cross balls into the box shortly after, headed over by Hastie and Maguire respectively.

    Having introduced James Scott midway through the first half, Craigan replaced Shea Gordon with Tom Fry and his side started the second much in the same way they finished the first.

    In fact, they got a goal back inside the opening few minutes when Hastie was tripped in the box by Hill. The young winger dusted himself down and slammed home his twelfth of the campaign.

    Motherwell were seeing a lot of the ball but Celtic continued to be a threat on the counter. On-loan Sunderland stopper Pain had to look smart to save well from both Johnstone and Jack Aitchison.

    At the other end, Frear again went close, needing no invite to let fly from distance, but his shot again landing just the wrong side of the post with McAdams at full stretch.

    Two minutes later, it was Frear yet again. This time getting on the end of a Livingstone ball over the top and seeing his fierce shot tipped onto the post and out for a corner.

    That led to another ‘Well goal as from the resulting Tom Fry kick from the quadrant, Jacob Blyth rose higher than a host of players in the box to head home from close range.

    With scintelating comebacks a feature of this young Motherwell side’s season, there was a real belief in the side that they could go on and wrestle something from the match.

    They almost goal level when a Fry free kick was headed on by Scott, but McAdams was well placed to save under pressure.

    Then, with just seconds left, Frear looked as if he was going to be the hero. The former Forrest Green man picked up a pass from Fry, skilfully nutmegged Sam Wardrop only to watch on as his goalbound looking shot was superbly blocked on route by the stubborn Celtic rear guard.

    The young ‘Well eventually ran out of time and lost the match, but left encouraged by a brave and determined second half showing.

    Motherwell: Pain, Ferguson (Armstrong – 68mins), Livingstone, Maguire, Chalmers, Campbell, Frear, Turnbull (Scott – 32mins), Blyth, Hastie, Gordon (Fry – 45mins)

    Subs Not Used: Pettigrew, Agyeman,