“We wore them down and our quality shone through.”
Stephen Robinson on the 5-1 UEFA Europa League win over Glentoran.
“We wore them down and our quality shone through.”
Stephen Robinson on the 5-1 UEFA Europa League win over Glentoran.
A five-goal blitz in the second half from Motherwell eventually eased them into Monday’s draw for the UEFA Europa League second qualifying round.
Glentoran, after a good first half performance, were reduced to 10 men for most of the second and their resistance was eventually worn down by a ruthless Fir park side.
There was a strange backdrop to Motherwell’s 16th European tie at Fir Park, with the rain-sodden streets around the ground eerily quiet in the build up to this first round qualifier.
The Belfast side arrived in North Lanarkshire via a 1-0 win over HB Torshavn last week. The Northern Irishmen, with former ‘Well man Gael Bigirimana in midfield, were hoping to get one over fellow countryman Stephen Robinson.
Motherwell, minus David Turnbull who departed for Celtic just hours before the game, aimed to put their indifferent league form behind them.
Liam Polworth filled the vacancy created by Celtic’s latest acquisition and Liam Grimshaw was restored to right back to allow a flexible back five. Up front Christopher Long was given the nod to partner Callum Lang.
It was hoped that the pace of the home attack would provide a challenge for the Glentoran defence and it took the pair only seven minutes to produce the first threat. Polworth sent Lang though and his pass set up Long but he dragged his low shot across the goal and beyond the post.
Motherwell were controlled in possession but found it difficult to get behind a solid and uncompromising Glentoran defence. The visitors were also quick on the break and posed a few threats to the home goal.
Trevor Carson made his first comfortable save after 20 minutes when Marcus Kane latched onto Declan Gallagher’s headed clearance only to shoot straight at the ‘Well ‘keeper.
At the other end, Lang’s fine run along the goal line ended with Allan Campbell poking the ball just past the post.
On the half hour the Motherwell goal had a narrow escape which would have silenced the recording of ‘Well Bois booming out of the PA system. Bigirimana’s corner picked out Ruaidhri Donnelly at the front of the six yard box and his low header forced Carson into a brilliant block with his feet to keep his goal intact.
The ‘Well players responded to that scare and until half-time buzzed around Dale Coleing’s goal forcing Gibraltar’s national ‘keeper into a couple of saves.
The first arrived when Polworth turned inside the box before firing in a shot which the ‘keeper firmly held.
Then 10 minutes from the break Lang’s drive from 15 yards was palmed away by Coleing at full stretch.
A couple of other attempts in a packed six yard box were deflected over the ‘keeper’s bar as the Fir Park side strived to make the most of their slight advantage but it remained 0-0 at the break.
Although ‘Well restarted on the front foot, with Mark O’Hara firing a free kick into the defensive wall, the Fir Park side were given a one man advantage after 51 minutes. After picking up a yellow in the first for clattering into Ricki Lamie, Seanan McClean was shown a second after catching Stephen O’Donnell.
However, 10-man Glentoran produced the next two chances. Paul O’Neil firing the ball over from eight yards, before another attempt drifted past Carson’s right hand post.
The Belfast side had raised their spirits but were left deflated when ‘Well found the opener after 58 minutes.
Lang worked a neat one-two with O’Donnell at the corner of the box before taking the return ball in his stride to deftly touch it beyond the keeper and into the corner of the goal.
Sherwin was already stripped to come on and he replaced Grimshaw and provide an extra outlet on the left.
Long’s burst down the right and cross for the inrushing Polworth was deflected narrowly behind as the home side stepped up the pressure on Glens’ goal.
With 20 minutes remaining, Tony Watt, a player with genuine European experience, replaced Lang and immediately won a couple of corners. From the second of those Polworth fed the ball back to O’Donnell, who took a look up before striking a superb drive from 35 yards which flew past Coleing.
As the extra man started to take its toll on the visitors Motherwell made their advantage count in the final 15 minutes.
The tireless running Long was almost rewarded but after the ‘keeper parried his powerful angled drive, Polworth nodded the ball into the empty net.
The script was written for Watt’s return to European football and after 77 minutes the former Celtic striker made it 4-0 rolling the ball over the line after Campbell’s shot was blocked.
A drive from O’Hara screamed narrowly over before Lamie’s measured lob bounced off the bar.
Motherwell and Long were not to be denied and three minutes from time the striker’s efforts were rewarded nipping in to beat the ‘keeper and make it 5-0.
Similarly, Glentoran found some consolation for their hard graft when Robbie McDaid slammed a penalty past Carson to round off a second half goal glut.
Motherwell: Carson, Grimshaw (Seedorf), Gallagher, Mugabi, Lamie, O’Donnell (Robinson), O’Hara, Campbell, Polworth, Long, Lang (Watt).
It is with mixed emotions that we have agreed to sell David Turnbull to Celtic FC. David leaves us for a fee nearly double our previous record transfer.
David is the latest in a long line of players who have developed with us. Marvin Johnson, Ben Heneghan, Louis Moult, Cédric Kipré and James Scott are recent success stories in what we set out to achieve. We provide talented players with a platform to showcase and enhance their abilities.
Our continued success in that area is huge testament to our manager Stephen Robinson, his coaching staff, our academy staff and our scouting and recruitment department.
In this particular case, significant tribute must also be paid to David Henderson, our head physiotherapist, for his outstanding dedication to David’s physical and mental rehabilitation over the last 12 months.
As chairman, I am delighted with this clear vindication of our strategy. For the health and prosperity of our fan-owned club, we must continue on this path.
As a fan, I also feel the loss of such talented individuals who contribute to our success on the pitch. Everyone at the club does, particularly our manager. Stephen has performed phenomenally across his almost four years in charge.
The money we receive for David will allow us in part to build up the strategic reserve, which helps secure and sustain us through such difficult and uncertain times. But this is also an opportunity to invest in the infrastructure, for example our training ground, academy and other facilities, with a view to providing an even-better environment for player development.
We wish David every success for the future. He is a local boy who has supported this club all of his life and has given us many memorable moments on the pitch. His agreement to extend his contract is a testament to his integrity and in doing so he secured the club’s interests as well as his own.
As I’ve said above, as a fan, I regret to see him leave Fir Park. But the club can take pride knowing we have played a part in helping develop this exceptionally talented footballer and young man, whose legacy will endure for many years.
David Turnbull has completed a move to Celtic from Motherwell for a club-record fee.
The youth academy graduate leaves after 12 years at Fir Park, having joined our ranks as a nine-year-old in 2008.
He has since gone on to make 41 appearances for the club, scoring 16 goals.
While the fee can not be disclosed due to a confidentiality clause in the transfer agreement, it vastly exceeds the amount the club received for its previous record sale of Phil O’Donnell, also to Celtic, of £1.75m.
“I want to thank everyone at Motherwell, the staff, players and the fans, for everything they’ve done for me so far in my career,” said the player.
“Particularly David Henderson, who has helped me so much over the last year. I owe him so much.
“I am a Motherwell fan, so I leave with a heavy heart. But I have made memories and friends for life at a club I’ve been involved with all my life.”
Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson added: “David is a wonderful player who will go on to big things in his career.
“The staff are all delighted to have played a part in his development throughout his career to date.
“From a football perspective, it is obviously sore to lose a player of his quality. But that is the model at Motherwell. We develop players to go on to a higher level and he is another success story in that regard.
Everyone at Motherwell FC thanks David for his efforts during his long spell at the club, and wish him well for his future career.
“We are playing good football. We just need to be ruthless and give the fans something to cheer about.”
Allan Campbell previews the UEFA Europa League tie with Glentoran.
“There are no easy games. But our morale is good and we want to turn the corner on Thursday night.”
Stephen Robinson previews the UEFA Europa League tie with Glentoran.
Motherwell’s return to European football will be a poignant moment for Trevor Carson. For many reasons.
‘Well’s number one keeper for 17 straight months and 63 appearances following his 2017 move from Hartlepool United, his career fell into overnight jeopardy after being diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis in November 2018.
After recovering from that, he sat out the entire 2019/20 campaign as deputy to Mark Gillespie, forced to bide his time to get a chance to reclaim his spot.
Then, as he was set to get his opportunity, the Covid-19 outbreak prolonged the wait.
Now back as number one, he’s also added to his family with the arrival of new puppy Ruby.
Two summers ago, Gaël Bigirimana was looking to cement a permanent spot in the Motherwell midfield in the coming campaign, off the back of two cup final appearances in his maiden season.
After finding himself in and out the side, a January move to Hibernian followed. But, at the end of 2018/2019, Bigirimana found himself in the footballing wilderness.
A move to the English Football League failed to materialise and he would eventually join Solihull Moors on a short-term contract.
It was a chance to return to playing regular football, though the impact of the coronavirus would mean that the 26-year-old would soon find himself without a club again.
The Burundi internationalist’s wait for a club would finally come to an end when he joined Glentoran earlier this month and he made his debut in their 1-0 victory over HB Torshavn in the Europa League.
Now after ending his long wait for the release of playing football, Bigirimana has set goals both personally and for his new club.
“I found myself without a club and with no income for a long period of time, then as the January transfer window was approaching I felt I had to find a club to try and stay fit and that’s when I joined Solihull,” Bigirimana explained.
“This is a chance to reignite my career, during the situation with Covid-19 I’ve really learned a lot and I’ve been out of football for nearly a year.
“Mentally it’s been tough, but there will be positives that come out of it.
“It was good to be back and playing competitive football. My debut coming in a Europa League qualifier made it even more exciting.
“I really wanted to help the team progress to the next round and we did that. So that was a nice debut for me.
“The manager and Paul [Millar] his assistant came in a year ago and everyone is saying how well things have turned in that space of time.
“I’m at the stage of my career where I’ve played games everywhere I’ve been, but it’s not enough for someone of my age.
“I’ve never had an injury that’s kept me out longer than two weeks, so my volume of games should be a lot higher than it is.
“Coming here my goal is to play as many games as I can with an ambition to be successful and carrying on the journey that the manager and his staff have begun.”
After getting off to a winning start in his Glens career, Bigirimana can now look forward to returning to Fir Park to face Motherwell.
The midfielder made 57 appearances during his season and a half spell with the Steelmen and in his only full campaign with the club he played a part in their runs to the Betfred Cup and Scottish Cup finals.
It is a time he looks back upon with fondness and helped establish links to the community that he still holds to this day.
“My time at Motherwell was a rollercoaster, though it also felt like a revival for the club,” the former Newcastle United midfielder added.
“Even though we didn’t win either of the cup finals, that shouldn’t overshadow the highlights we had that season.
“I think it laid the foundations for Motherwell to continue to build and they have done that. They have improved as a team and while it was a shame we didn’t win a trophy, you live and you learn.
“I’m really looking forward to going back, it’s a place where I made some long-lasting friendships.
“I still get on really well with Stephen Robinson. He’s helped me a lot, even in the period where I was without a club.
“The Hope United church in Motherwell is almost like a family to me too, it’s such a beautiful community caring for the people of Motherwell.”
Motherwell qualified for the Europa League on the back of a superb 2019/20 season in which they finished in third place.
While the success of Robinson’s side came as a surprise to many, Bigirimana feels the mixture of good young players and strong recruitment was always likely to lead to success.
He admits he would have liked to have remained at the club for longer. Though as his game time became increasingly limited, he felt he had to move on for the sake of his career.
“It wasn’t really a surprise to see Motherwell do so well last season,” he explained. “When I was there, one of the things that I used to say was that I could see that in the next few seasons the team was going to improve.
“At that time the style wasn’t what it is now, though I could see young players like David Turnbull, Barry Maguire, Jamie Semple ready to break through and Allan Campbell had already established himself in the first-team as a really important player.
“You always look ahead in football and I knew if the club could keep hold of players like that then they would continue to develop and that’s what they have done.
“Unfortunately for me I wasn’t part of the team, if I had been then I would have been happy to have remained at the club, but I was getting to the stage where I had to be playing.
“Motherwell always recruit well and they have young players who are hungry and have a point to prove. It’s a credit to the manager as to how these players gel together and he manages to get the best out of them.”
During his time with ‘Well, Bigirimana established a strong rapport with the supporters and he admits that having to play this evening’s game with no fans inside the stadium is a real disappointment.
Despite that however, the midfielder says that getting himself up for the challenge of facing his former club will not be any issue.
Irish Cup winners Glentoran are considered big underdogs against their Scottish Premiership opposition, though Bigirimana is relishing the challenge.
“Sometimes life will throw you a curveball and you have to deal with it, having no fans is certainly a big curveball in football,” he added.
“Fans contribute so much to the game and some clubs wouldn’t survive without the fans.
“It’s not going to be the same, but as footballers we are paid to perform and compete whether there are fans or not. You don’t normally have fans at training and you still compete, so you have to take that same attitude and mentality into the matches.
“Hopefully, it will be a great game and I hope for my team we can perform and progress. Anything can happen in a one-off game.
“Outside of the pitch it’ll be a really nice occasion. But my main focus is helping Glentoran to come out of the game with a result.”
Our next Scottish Premiership match with Rangers will now be played on Sunday 27 September.
The game at Fir Park will take place at 12pm and will be broadcast live on Sky Sports in the UK and Ireland.
Season ticket holders can continue to watch for free on our live streaming platform at live.motherwellfc.co.uk.
No pay-per-view option will be available in the UK and Ireland. Foreign-based fans can watch online, also at live.motherwellfc.co.uk.
The match was originally due to take place on Saturday 26 September at 3pm.
We return to European action for the first time in six years in the UEFA Europa League first qualifying round.
Glentoran are our opponents at Fir Park on Thursday, with the Northern Irish side having defeated HB Torshavn last week in Belfast.
The match will be broadcast live in the UK and Ireland on Premier Sports. Abroad, you can watch at live.motherwellfc.co.uk.
As promised, season ticket holders can watch the match free of charge at live.motherwellfc.co.uk.
Kick-off is at 7.45pm BST.
A 1-0 home win over HB Torshavn in the UEFA Europa League preliminary round last week set up Glentoran’s trip to Fir Park.
Before that, Irish Cup wins over Cliftonville and Ballymena United saw them lift the trophy at the end of July.
Motherwell are searching for a first win of the season, having played five Premiership matches.
Draws with Livingston and Hibernian have come amongst losses to Ross County, Dundee United and Hamilton Academical.
If you’re in the United Kingdom, the game is available to watch live on Premier Sports.
To subscribe to Premier Sports for £9.99 a month, go to premierplayer.tv.
As promised, if you’re a season ticket holder you’ll be able to see the game free of charge on our live streaming platform at live.motherwellfc.co.uk.
Supporters of both clubs based outside of the United Kingdom will be able to access the game on a pay-per-view basis for £12 via our live streaming service at ppv.motherwellfc.co.uk.