Motherwell finished off their league campaign with a resounding win over local rivals Hamilton Academical.
The 3-0 victory claimed a 2oth clean sheet of the season, securing seventh place in the league in the process.
Ahead of next Saturday’s Scottish Cup final, there were wholesale changes for the Fir Parkers. That allowed several players the opportunity to stake a claim for a place in the starting line-up and the bench at Hampden.
Unfortunately, on loan Celtic striker Nadir Çiftçi is ineligible for the final, but signed off with his best ‘Well performance and a goal in each half. Tom Aldred grabbed his first goal for the club to round off a good afternoon’s work, allowing ‘Well fans to celebrate a great season.
With the Cup final and some niggling injuries on his mind, Stephen Robinson made eight changes from the mid-week win at Firhill. As ‘Well’s win over Partick Thistle ensured Accies Premiership survival, it might have reduced this derby match to the level of an end of season friendly.
However, with the ‘Well Bois in the John Hunter stand rehearsing their Cup final repertoire and places on the Hampden pitch up for grabs, Motherwell dominated the match from the start.
Within the first minute, Çiftçi set the tone with a cute backheel which set up the chance for Grimshaw to drive the ball over Ryan Fulton’s crossbar from 20 yards.
Çiftçi was at the heart of the next move nine minutes later. A neat exchange at the edge of the box sent David Turnbull through and his half volley was dipping under the bar until Fulton palmed the ball over.
The on-loan Celtic striker was rewarded for his efforts in the first half hour when he grabbed the opening goal. Gaël Bigirimana, who controlled the centre of the park, found Tait free on the right and his drilled cross was nodded towards goal by Ross McLean. Although his effort was blocked on the line, Çiftçi was on hand to poke the ball home to give ‘Well a deserved lead.
The Steelmen might have doubled their lead after 39 minutes when Turnbull’s corner sped its way through a packed defence to Aldred, who could only deflect the ball over the bar from eight yards.
Another defence splitting pass from Bigirimana sent Elliot Frear racing towards the visitor’s goal but as he looked for support at the edge of the box, the chance was lost.
Two minutes after the break, Accies forced their first and only attempt on goal, but Dougie Imrie’s speculative free kick from 35 yards was comfortably held by Russell Griffiths.
After 56 minutes, Accies showed their intentions by bringing on strike partners Rakish Bingham and Marios Ogkmpoe, who have both scored against ‘Well this season. A few minutes later, Robinson made his first change, replacing the injured Frear with Deimantas Petravičius.
These changes and a subsequent injury, treatment and replacement of Accies sub Ogkmpoe, took the momentum out of the game as both teams struggled to maintain possession.
The introduction of Cedric Kipré after 69 minutes lifted the spirits and voices of the home fans and within a minute ‘Well doubled the lead.
Tait’s throw in found Çiftçi with his back to goal. Determination and a couple of deft touches created some space for the Turkish striker before he guided the ball inside the far post for a terrific goal.
Three minutes later it was 3-0. Bigirimana curled his free kick in behind the visitor’s defence where Tait’s touch took it across goal, leaving Aldred to ram it high into the net for his first goal for the Steelmen.
Six minutes from time, Çiftçi came within a couple of inches of signing off with a hattrick, but his thundering 25 yard drive slammed the top of the crossbar.