“It was a tough day.”
Jake Carroll is honest in his assessment of last Saturday. Many Motherwell fans will empathise, even if their choice of language may have been a bit stronger in the immediate aftermath.
A home defeat is never fun. Neither is a Lanarkshire derby defeat. Yet the combination of the two in last week’s 4-1 loss proved startling to many, particularly with the backdrop of a victory over Kilmarnock offering hope of a springboard and some momentum going into the pre-split final furlong.
While Accies were coming in on the back of a 1-1 draw with Rangers, hopes were high for the Steelmen. Instead, a catastrophic first half, including a sending off for Stephen O’Donnell, just added further pain to those watching on remotely, probably thankful for once that they weren’t there.
“It was a game we were desperate to win, and it was one we just didn’t start well enough,” said the Motherwell left-back.
“With the early goals and getting a man sent off, it just left us with a mountain to climb, and we couldn’t do that, unfortunately.
“I know how much the fans must have been hurting after it, but I want to assure them that we are exactly the same. The dressing room was very quiet, and a lot of the lads were down.
“They beat us recently, so we were even more desperate to beat them. We do know how much it means, and we are already thinking of how we can put it right next time.”
It was a sentiment echoed by boss Graham Alexander.
“We made poor decisions, and that gave the opponent the opportunity to take advantage,” he said. “If we had defended with the same ideas as we have done previously, they wouldn’t have scored that first goal.
“And they know that. It’s back to the training pitch and work as hard as we always do.”
No fans at football stadia is nothing new in football. But with every passing game, the yearn from supporters to get back increases.
Motherwell fans will also be experiencing a new-look Fir Park when they return.
The John Hunter Stand is getting more work done than an ageing Hollywood actor and anticipation of the facelift – which includes new seats, new toilets, new tellies, new payment methods and a new mural – are through the newly-painted roof.
But while fans are missing their football, the impact of no one cheering you on from the stands has not gone unnoticed on the park.
“I did say to one of the boys you are seeing a lot of strange results in football at the moment,” added Carroll.
“You don’t know if that’s down to the impact of not having fans. Even if you think back to the game at their place, we normally take an unbelievable support with us but last time out that wasn’t there.
“It might be having an impact. But we need to try and ignore that and just focus on getting over the line ourselves.”
Victory over Hamilton last time out could have propelled Well into eighth and within a win of the top six, still with a game in hand.
Instead, a win over St Johnstone this weekend will be needed to prevent the Perth club – currently a place and two points above – carving open a broad gap and increasing the complexities of attaining a top-six spot.
“At the moment where we are, we need to stay focused on each game at a time. We can’t be distracted by where a win may take us,” insists Carroll.
“We don’t want to be looking over our shoulders and down the table. It’s about looking up to the top six. But we’re not there yet. It’s all about taking it one game at a time and trying to see where that leads to.
“On Saturday, there is the opportunity to do that.
“The focus is game by game. It has to be. Sometimes you get carried away after a couple of wins and think about the top six. It can also work the other way where after two losses, you start to look behind you.
“You have to come away from that, don’t get too worried. We are in a position where we have to take each three points seriously, and we will do that.”
The 29-year-old Irishman missed the first half of the season through injury, but he is keen to make up for lost time.
An Achilles problem kept him out for ten months, with a return to action coinciding with Stephen Robinson’s last game in charge back in December.
“It was very tough watching from the sides. I missed some good moments this season, the European games in particular,” he said.
“I’ve been desperate to get back in for a while, and now I’ve managed it, it’s been pleasing that I’ve had a good run of games to go with it. It’s about setting goals and targets.
“There’s definitely more to come. I think I can add a little bit more going forward and I’d expect more in terms of assists. There’s more to come, and I’m hoping the fans will see that between now and the end of the season.”