Motherwell 6 Lasley (30, 90), Craig (57), McFadden (64, 74 pen, 75)
Livingston 2 Makel (16), McMenamin (54)
IF THIS is the new "serious" James McFadden, as Berti Vogts would have us believe then, frankly, long may it continue.
Whether the great hope of Scottish football was playing his last game for the club he has been with since the age of 12, or not, is yet to be determined but the possibility was enough to convince the 20-year-old he should bow out in style. It was, quite simply, one of the finest individual performances of the season as McFadden almost single-handedly took Motherwell from a position of toil and struggle early in the second half to a lavish 6-2 victory.
Confident enough to grasp an opportunity to shine in the spotlight, McFadden adorned this end-of-season contest with a hat-trick of outrageous quality. With the relegation issue gone, there was an air of relief around the stadium from the start and McFadden looked like a man with the weight of the world off his shoulders. These youngsters and their mood swings, eh?
Vogts, who watched from the stand, had thought the "cheekiness" was gone but by the end of the match you got the impression Jim Leishman and Livingston’s traumatised defenders would not be averse to giving the lad a thick ear for his troubles.
Vogts’ call for experienced players to negotiate the crucial clash with Germany is all very well, but when the alternatives are so uninspiring what harm can there be in throwing this engrossing enigma of a player at the World Cup finalists?
The McFadden show took a while to get going and for the first two-thirds of the match Livingston were in control. Lee Makel had given the West Lothian men the lead in the 16th minute, pouncing on an error by Derek Lasley to lash home a 25-yard shot before Lasley made amends with a close-range header to level in the 30th minute.
Colin McMenamin restored the lead nine minutes after the restart when he punished hesitancy in the home defence after a corner. McFadden had a hand in the second equaliser three minutes later, when his tackle set up the move that led to Steven Craig shooting high into the net from the left of the box. Then, all hell broke lose.
First Clarkson’s surging break and shot rebounded off the post conveniently for McFadden to walk the ball in, before the man of the moment pulled his side clear with the most audacious of penalties. The casual chip over Alan Main must have reminded Vogts of the famous Czech effort that sunk West Germany in the 1976 European final shoot-out.
There remained a full 15 minutes in which to achieve the hat-trick but youth and patience rarely go together and within a minute McFadden claimed the match ball with a quite outstanding goal. He ran at the Livingston defence and beat off allcomers with a series of tricks and step-overs before hammering past Main from 20 yards. It was breathtaking stuff.
Lasley got his second when he turned in who else but McFadden’s low cross to complete the rout in injury time.
Afterwards, Motherwell manager Terry Butcher warned forcefully that "any club thinking they can get James for a cheap price has got another thing coming." On Saturday’s performance it is almost inconceivable to think no-one will be prepared to pay Motherwell whatever is necessary to prise away this incredible talent.
Referee: D McDonald. Attendance: 4,790