MOTHERWELL manager Stuart McCall was relieved to see his team pick up all three points against Hibernian yesterday after a demoralising midweek League Cup defeat by Aberdeen.
The Fir Park team lost 2-0 on Wednesday night – a result that everybody connected with the club felt was a bitter blow.
“I felt so low after the Aberdeen game and it was a combination of things,” McCall said after Stephen McManus’s first-half header had proved the difference against Hibs. “Aberdeen have now knocked us out of the cup three times in a row, and every team knew it’s not often you can get into a semi-final that doesn’t involve the Old Firm. The teams now in the semi-final won’t have a better chance of winning a bit of silverware.
“So to win today is a massive relief because it has been a tough week. When we took the lead we weren’t playing particularly well – I don’t think we played particularly well all day.
“We were hanging on at the end – there’s no doubt about that – but it was a gutsy display. It was a deserved three points if you look at the chances over the piece, but it is a massive relief.”
That relief was compounded by the number of injuries Motherwell were carrying and by the fact they had to play the closing stages a man down after Shaun Hutchinson was sent off for a trip on Hibs striker Paul Heffernan. By that stage, full-backs Simon Ramsden and Stevie Hammell had been forced off with knocks, while others who had begun the game were not fully match-fit, but had to see out the 90 minutes.
“The worrying thing at half-time was Stuart Carswell had got injured,” McCall added. “McManus and Hammell have got groin problems, James McFadden is out on his feet and it’s Lionel Ainsworth’s first game back as well.
“Today it was all about the result, especially with the injuries we had. We didn’t play well, but when we needed to dig in at the end, we dug in. That was the most pleasing point.”
Hibs midfielder Tom Taiwo’s reaction to the result was almost a mirror image of McCall’s – disappointment with the outcome, but satisfaction with some of the football his team had played.
“I thought we played good football, like we did against Hearts on Wednesday night,” Taiwo said. “Once again it was a game of missed chances. We’re bitterly disappointed the result hasn’t come our way. With a little bit more composure and nous we could easily have taken something from the last two games.”
That defeat by Hearts turned out to be Pat Fenlon’s last in charge of Hibs, and when he quit on Friday the manager said he had decided to leave before the League Cup quarter-final. But Taiwo said the players had seen no indication on Wednesday night that their boss was about to leave.
“We were quite shocked – we thought he’d ridden the storm in terms of the pressure that was put on him,” he said. “We’d only lost twice in ten games. He gave a rousing team talk before the Hearts game, so there was no inkling from him that he was about to depart.”