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Highlights as Motherwell draw at St Mirren
Saturday 08 February 2020
Mark O’Hara’s first half strike was cancelled out to ensure a William Hill Scottish Cup fifth round replay is required.
Manager: We’re happy to still be in it
Saturday 08 February 2020
“We’re happy to still to be in the hat and we’ll take them back to Fir Park.”
Stephen Robinson reacts to Motherwell’s cup draw at St Mirren.
Motherwell draw in cup at St Mirren
Saturday 08 February 2020
Both sides survived the early elements of Storm Ciara to emerge from a keenly-contested William Hill Scottish Cup tie with honours shared.
Mark O’Hara’s goal midway through the first half allowed Motherwell to hold an advantage, which they looked like extending in a second half they largely dictated, until Alex Jakubiak fired home Saints’ equaliser 17 minutes from time.
On the basis that they produced a decent game and a number of goal scoring chances in testing weather conditions, both teams probably deserved a second chance to finish the tie at Fir Park on the 18 February
With the exception of Allan Campbell, who was only fit enough for a place on the bench, Stephen Robinson stood by the starting side which played so well in the first half against Celtic. Mark O’Hara came into the midfield, with ‘Well again starting with a front three of Rolando Aarons, Christopher Long and Jermaine Hylton. Tony Watt’s short term signing was given international clearing to afford the former Celtic striker a seat beside Campbell.
It was almost a disastrous start for ‘Well. Inside the first five minutes Liam Donnelly lost possession on the right touchline and when the ball came into the visitor’s box Ilkay Durmas slammed his shot against the foot of the post.
‘Well’s response was a tempting cross from Liam Grimshaw but the wind carried the ball beyond the waiting Jermaine Hylton.
The next attack after 11 minutes was more productive. Aarons’ quick feet carried him inside Calum Waters and his rising shot from 18 yards forced Vaclav Hladky into a fine save to push the ball away from his goal.
It was an entertaining, end-to-end cup tie and Mark Gillespie had to make a smart stop after punching a corner only as far as the edge of his box and Jamie McGrath attempted to lob the ball over the ‘keeper.
The first goal arrived after 21 minutes. Long raced onto a through ball but one to one with the ‘keeper Hladky blocked the striker’s effort. The ball rebounded into the path of Mark O’Hara who confidently slammed the ball past a couple of defenders from 12 yards and put the Steelmen in front.
The lead could have been doubled a few minutes later. Liam Polworth released Long down the right channel and after cutting the ball back onto his left foot, his curling shot, slightly assisted by the wind, gave the Saints ‘keeper a nervous moment before he held the ball high to his right.
Afetr 34 minutes the Fir Park side had to thank Gillespie for a terrific save to maintain their lead. Durmas’ cross from the left found Alex Jakubiak unmarked on the penalty spot but his drive down the middle of the goal was brilliantly blocked by Gillespie’s feet.
As Saints attempted to return the ball into the packed box there were loud appeals for handball, but referee Andrew Dallas ignored the penalty claims.
Three minutes from the break Long tested the home ‘keeper with a quick turn and powerful drive from 25 yards which Hladky managed to squeeze round his right hand post – as the 1,600 ‘Well fans packed behind his goal were about to celebrate a second goal.
Facing a rising wind and deteriorating conditions the Steelmen were prepared to be patient in possession from the start of the second half.
A couple of corners early in the half put the home goal under some pressure and in a quick break O’Hara’s final pass across goal was just too far in front of Aarons.
As the weather started to have an impact on the game, ‘Well goal had a narrow escape. Grimshaw ending a goalmouth scramble by hammering the ball off a grounded Saints’ player and behind his own goal.
Motherwell, though, looked the more likely to score and in a decent period of possession and press on the Buddies box, Long had a couple of efforts, firing one wide before forcing a great block from Hladky.
With 72 minutes played Campbell replaced Aarons but before the ‘Well sub could get a touch Saints stunned the visiting fans with an equaliser.
Their substitute Kyle McAllister made his way into a packed box before playing the ball to Jakubiak who drilled the ball low through a forest of legs and inside Gillespie’s right-hand post.
Five minutes later ‘Well thought they had regained the leadbut O’Hara’s angled drive sped across Hladky and just beyond his right hand post.
That was O’Hara’s final involvement as he made way for Tony Watt in the hope that the striker would find a winner on his debut.
Liam Donnelly then powered a trademark 20 yard drive inches away from the net as the Fir Park men looked to finish the tie.
However, the winner almost came the Buddies’ way and only Gillespie, at full stretch to push a thundering Durmas’ drive beyond his left-hand post – allowed both teams to settle for a replay.
Listen to live audio from St Mirren
Friday 07 February 2020
There’s live audio commentary available from St Mirren v Motherwell on Saturday.
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Stephen Robinson looked ahead to the William Hill Scottish Cup tie with St Mirren, the capture of Tony Watt and Rolando Aarons’ impact when he spoke on Friday morning.
Here’s what he said to the broadcast media.
On signing Tony Watt
We lost James right at the last minute. We turned down a number of bids, until we eventually got to a selling point that was right for everybody.
The deal wasn’t done until about half 11 at night, so we didn’t have the opportunity to replace him.
I think what he gave us different to everybody else was a physical presence and then gave us an outlet in all three attacking positions.
To get somebody like Tony with his experience at this stage, we were very pleased with that. I think he adds experience to the squad. He’s very, very hungry. That’s the big key to me.
There’s no doubting his talent. We know he’s a talented boy and he’s come in and done very well over the period of time he’s been here. So we’re hoping he’ll have a real positive impact on things.
It was a case of, did Tony want this, did we want this, did we need this, whatwere Tony’s fitness levels and hunger levels. All those boxes were ticked.
I was actually convinced after the first day. I think he’s got his hunger back. It is a short term contract to earn a longer-term one. It’s a short term deal at the minute, but it’ll turn into hopefully a longer-term one if it’s successful for both parties.
You say about player finding a home. Almost all our players are like that. They travel around a little bit. They have disappointments and things don’t quite go their way, otherwise they’re not coming to Motherwell.
We’ve inherited Tony who, yes, has had a lot of clubs. He’s been up and down but there’s never been any doubt in that he’s a talented boy.
If we can harness that talent, get him fit and get him really believing in what we do, which I genuinely think he will do, he’ll be a big asset to us.
On Rolando Aarons’ debut
I think we need choices. I don’t think anybody’s really nailed down positions in that area.
I think behind them we are quite solid. The team at times picks itself, bar maybe one or two changes I’ll do sometimes to freshen things up.
But the front three is an area that we chop and change all the time. So it’s up to people to put consistency down and put their stamp down. And trying to make sure they’re one of the first names on the team sheet.
So we need competition in areas. It’s the hardest part of the team. It’s the area of the team that wins football matches. That’s why, at the top levels, they get paid the big bucks. I’m happy with competition. If people don’t like that, then fine. But it keeps people on their toes.
Rolando hadn’t played for two months. We didn’t want to take him off. We were desperate to keep him on the pitch. But I think every bit of his body was cramping up.
When you’re training every day, it’s not the same as playing games. So I’m sure with every bit of match fitness that he gets, every bit of training and when he gets a more understanding than about what we want as well, I think we’ve got a very good player.
The important bit is to make sure we keep him fit in and get him minutes on the pitch.
On facing St Mirren
It’s going to be a good game. One we are looking forward to. It’s quite local to us, we’ll take a lot of fans. We’ve already sold out our allocation. Fantastic.
People say to me we haven’t won for three games. Well, I thought we were excellent against Hibs. But we were poor against Livingston and we had a very, very good first half performance against Celtic.
The reality was they overpowered us in the second half. And sometimes you’ve got to hold your hands up and we’ve got to take the positives from that.
If we play like we did in the first half, we can continue to have a very successful season.
I think Jim Goodwin’s done a very good job there. His team are solid. They’re really well organised. They’re very hard to break down with one of the best defensive records in the league.
They do sit in and try and hit you on the counter attack. So it’s up to us to take the game to them. I felt we tried to take the game to Celtic as well. When we don’t, I don’t think that’s the best bit of our game.
So we’ll go and try and take the game to them. We have to be solid behind that and make sure we don’t concede on the break. But I’m going with a real positive mentality.
Motherwell start SWPL Cup campaign
Friday 07 February 2020
Partick Thistle are Motherwell’s first opponents of 2020 in the SWPL Cup on Sunday.
Eddie Wolecki Black’s side play host to the second-tier side at Bothwellhaugh as part of the new-look group stage format. Kick-off is at 3.30pm.
A trip to Kilmarnock then lies in wait on Sunday, 16 February in the second match, before Forfar Farmington visit on 1 March.
Forfar are also the women of steel’s first league opponents of the season, with the team making the trip north on Sunday, 23 February.
The story so far
Motherwell warmed up for the new campaign with a 5-3 friendly win over Dundee United, followed by a 2-0 win at St Johnstone last Sunday.
Head to head
The two sides last met in Scottish Cup action last term, as Motherwell went on a run to the semi-finals of the competition.
It took two goals in extra-time at Ravenscraig to get the job done against the Jags, with Motherwell running out 2-0 winners through goals from Chelsea McEachran and Katie Rice.
From the dugout
“We’re shaping up well for the new season,” head coach Wolecki Black said. “We’ve added strong options to our squad which will stand us in good stead.
“The opening cup games will give us an opportunity to continue to build. We’ve brought in a lot of new faces with top-flight experience, as well as keeping a core of the team who did so well to stay in the league last season first time around.”