MOTHERWELL manager Stuart McCall praised the impact of his three second-half substitutes after his team eventually broke down the Hibernian defence to claim a late winner at Easter Road yesterday.
One of the replacements, Henri Anier, scored the goal on his debut, while Zaine Francis-Angol and Stuart Carswell also came off the bench midway through the second half.
“They started better, and after that we controlled it for long periods without really looking over threatening,” McCall said. “‘The second half was equal until they had a little spurt.
“I just felt Thursday night [the first leg of the Europa League tie against Kuban Krasnodar] began to take its toll.
“But all you can ask of your three subs is a bit of energy and to make an impact.
“Thankfully that was the case. There weren’t a lot of chances in the game – having said that, Sutty [John Sutton] had one just prior to the goal and the keeper’s made a great save from Mick [Stephen McManus] at a corner.
“All in all I’m delighted to come here after Thursday night’s exertions and get a victory which was built on a strong defensive clean sheet.
“Henri likes to get in behind and we just felt we needed a bit of freshness. I’m delighted for him and the team. I’m pleased he made that impact.
“He did have a lot of time to think about it, but we’d asked him to get on and go down that left-hand channel as it’s a big park at Hibs. McManus and [Shaun] Hutchinson were rock solid, and the full-backs and Lee Hollis helped us get our clean sheet.
“There’s lots to be pleased at although I think we can be better. It’s still a great way to start the league campaign.”
McCall accepted that Hibs had competed well, especially given the number of players they had out, and singled out new striker James Collins for praise.
“Hibs have a few suspended and injured so they’ll maybe feel hard done by,” he added. “I’m sure the boy Collins will be a threat when he’s up and running. I just think we were strong defensively and that was the key to us winning.”
Goalscorer Anier said he had already been congratulated by his fellow-Estonian Henrik Ojamaa, who played in the same position for Motherwell last season before moving on to Legia Warsaw.
“I’m happy with my goal,” he said. “I just thought ‘I am alone and I need to score’, and I managed to do well.
“I was confident I would score I knew a chance would come.
“[Ojamaa] has already tweeted. We’re close friends and I’m going to call him.
“It would be nice to have the success Henrik had at Motherwell. I will just work hard and hopefully we can be successful as a team.”
Hibs manager Pat Fenlon was not so happy with the goal, which he thought had marred a decent display from his defence. “There was some positive stuff in it, but when you lose a game to a poor goal from our point of view then you tend to forget the good stuff.
“Defensively we were solid and the annoying thing is that we dealt with Motherwell in relation to the shape they had. We defended well then got done by a long ball when we were on the attack - that’s more frustrating than anything.
“The only two chances they had were long balls up the park. It’s our concentration again; our ball-watching. Ben [Williams] made a good save first time, but it was the same thing for the goal.”