Motherwell picked up their first three points under Stuart McCall against a struggling Hibs side at Fir Park this afternoon.
First half goals from Jamie Murphy and Steven Saunders ensured the Steelmen claimed their first league win since November 10th last year.
The visitors didn’t create too much in the way of clear-cut opportunities but did force a penalty after Steven Saunders handled inside the area. Thankfully, Merouane Zemmama ballooned his effort over the bar ending Hibs’ hopes of a comeback.
McCall made two changes from the side that drew 0-0 with Inverness last weekend. The injured Keith Lasley dropped out, replaced by the returning Steven Saunders and new signing Steve Jones was given his first start with Ross Forbes forced to accept a place amongst the substitutes.
Motherwell started brightly and John Sutton came within inches of putting ‘Well ahead after just two minutes. A quick thinking throw by Steven Saunders played Murphy in. His ball across the face of goal almost found Sutton but a last ditch tackle from Francis Dickoh saved a certain goal.
Hibs reply, some five minutes later, was a John Rankin free-kick that bobbled way wide of Darren Randolph post. Former ‘Well player Kevin McBride had his own long-range effort shortly after, but it troubled the ball boy in the lower tier of the South Stand more than ‘Well keeper Randolph.
But it was Motherwell who finally broke through prolific striker Jamie Murphy. A free-kick from about thirty yards out was met by the young striker, as he got the faintest of touches to take it past Graeme Smith who appeared to lose the flight of the ball.
Four minutes later Motherwell were in dreamland as defender Steven Saunders made it two. Chris Humphrey won a corner on the right, and the in-swinging kick from Hammell was met by the youngster at the near post who powered a header home.
Motherwell continued to press in search of a third and Sutton almost provided it. It was corners again causing problem, with Sutton meeting another Hammell delivery, but his effort flew way over. Murphy followed that with a low shot from the edge of the box that former ‘Well stopper Smith smothered comfortably.
Motherwell looked to be cruising to a comfortable half-time lead but gave Hibs a road back into the game with a needless penalty. A cross towards the back post was handled by Steven Saunders and the referee pointed to the spot. Thankfully for the Steelmen, Merouane Zemmama blazed his kick over the bar.
Hibs made a change at the interval as Colin Nish, so often the scourge of Motherwell, came on to replace Darryl Duffy. Five minutes into the second half, ‘Well made a change of their own with young Steven Meechan replacing Tom Hateley who limped off.
The visitors were desperate for a goal to get them back into the game and Zemmama almost made up for his penalty miss with a shot that brought out a good save from Darren Randolph. ‘Well switched off from a throw in, allowing the Morrocan in, but his fizzing effort was saved at the second attempt by the Irish keeper.
John Rankin ballooned a shot way over the bar and Zemmama, again, thundered a free-kick just over the bar as the away side continued to chap at the door in search of a goal.
The game slowed in pace but it was still the away side that were creating the chances. Colin Nish got on the end of a deep free-kick but his half-volley flew over Randolph’s crossbar.
Calderwood introduced Derek Riordan in place of Rankin and the enigmatic striker almost brought his side back into things with a testing free-kick but, once again, Darren Randolph was well placed to catch.
That would prove to be the last chance of the match as ‘Well held out for the crucial win. Other than the win, McCall can celebrate his fourth clean sheet in five games as the Steelmen move to within a point of fifth placed Inverness with two games in hand.
[tab:As it happened]
Graham Barnstaple at Fir Park
Full time – excellent 2-0 win with what ended up a very young team. First League win for McCall – well done – bring on Saints on Wednesday
90mins+3 – McBride’s a lucky boy only to get yellow for a kick at Murphy as he got away from him
90mins – We are now into three minutes of added on time
89mins – Sponsors have just announced that they have awarded John Sutton their man of the match
88mins – Riordan free over well but easily held by Randolph – we are making hard work of closing this out!
85mins – Hibs sub – Zemmama replaced by Kurtis Byrne
83mins – another Hibs yellow as Thicot goes through Murphy out wide.
80mins – Rioran booked for dissent as ref actually gives a foul in Sutton’s favour
74mins – Ref Alan Muir has given more free kicks against us today than in any other game this season
68mins – Riordan on for Rankin, his first touch sends a free kick into arms of Randolph
63mins – Page on for debutant Jones, new man work hard and showed a few nice touches
59mins – Zemmama sends a free kick just over as Hibs have us on the back foot a bit in the early stages
55mins – Crowd of 4202 turned up today
53mins – Zemmama shot from 12 yards looked to be squirming through keeper’s hands but Randolph holds on
50mins – Meechan on for Hateley who limps off
47mins – After ref consultation with 4th official Derek Adams is sent to the Stand – must’ve been something he said – just back from ban too!
45mins – Forgot to add Saunders was booked for the handball at the penalty
45mins – Teams back out – Hibs change with Nish on for Duffy
45mins+1 – That’s half time, and we leave the field with a well deserved two goal lead, if they had scored from the pen it would have been a travesty
44mins – pen for Hibs, Saunders handles Galbraith cross, Zemmama takes and thankfully blasts miles over – that was an escape.
41mins – Murphy trundler from 25 yards is an easy save for Buzz – who gets applause for the save from the Cooper Stand
28mins – Rankin shown yellow for a challenge on Hateley, looked a bit harsh from this distance
24mins – GOOOOOALLLLLL! – 2-0, Hammell in swinging corner to front post headed in by Saunders – no doubt about scorer this time
20mins – First league goal under Stuart McCall, it was a bit like the goal Smith lost to Nancy at Fir Park
20mins – GOOOOAAALLLL – Hammell free kick from about 30 yards out, floated over the defence and over a flapping Smith, although Murphy claiming
15mins – Stuart McCall is still wearing shorts despite how cold it is – either mad or brave
12mins – Assistant ref resorts to sending semaphore signals as he tries to help the ref!
10mins – two long range efforts for Hibs but neither trouble Randolph in the Well goal
1min – early chance for Well when a long throw reaches Sutton via Murphy but defence see it out.
Pre-Match – Well kick off and are kicking towards the Cooper Stand, who give Graeme Smith a warm welcome
Pre-Match – Teams out and the handshakes are all complete just waiting on the toss before we get underway
Pre-Match – Steve Jones is wearing the number 17 jersey vacated by Marc Fitzpatrick when he moved to Ross County
Motherwell manager Stuart McCall:
“It wasn’t a classic, people had been talking about Hibs going through a bad run but we hadn’t won in 10 weeks of SPL football. There was a lot of pressure on us after Hibs having a bad result against Ayr in midweek.
“It was a good game for us and it was one we were delighted to come away with three points.”
“We were then a bit fortunate with the penalty, which was missed. Then after that I thought we dogged it out, and there are lots of ways to win football matches.
“That is now four clean sheets in five games which we are pleased with, we would like to be more creative at times. The condition of the park was a bit bumpy and made it hard to play but overall satisfied with the result.”
Hibernian manager Colin Calderwood:
“I’m frustrated because there were bits of that game that were good for us. What was pleasing was the application from 2-0 down.
“We then created one or two very good opportunities but the team that made the least mistakes has won the game. There is nothing else the winning team has done better than us.”