Motherwell look to build on solid foundations

Stephen McManus arrives in Russia for Motherwell's second-leg against Kuban Krasnodar. Picture: SNS
Stephen McManus arrives in Russia for Motherwell's second-leg against Kuban Krasnodar. Picture: SNS
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Motherwell defender Simon Ramsden aims to build on their clean sheet at Easter Road as their new-look back four tests itself against Russian side Kuban Krasnodar this evening.

Stuart McCall’s side looked solid in their 1-0 Scottish Premiership win over Hibernian on Sunday, with summer signing Stephen McManus and Shaun Hutchinson forming a formidable central defensive partnership with Ramsden and Stevie Hammell at either side.

Kuban, who have not lost a Russian Premier League game since November last year, are likely to provide a stiffer test in the second leg of the Europa League third qualifying round.

Motherwell have a mountain to climb after a 2-0 home defeat and McCall left behind midfielders James McFadden, Iain Vigurs and striker John Sutton when they travelled to Russia first thing yesterday morning to keep them fresh for Sunday’s visit of Aberdeen.

But Ramsden believes they can retain hope of getting back into the tie if he and his fellow defenders do their job.

Ramsden said: “Stephen McManus has come in and has great experience but all four of us have played quite a few games in our careers.

“We are looking pretty strong at the back and that’s always a good platform to build on.

“If you have a good defensive unit you generally don’t concede many, and hopefully we can go forward and get some goals ourselves.”

Following the arrival of former Celtic captain McManus and the departure of Tom Hateley Ramsden has moved to right-back, but the former Bradford player is happy to switch.

“I have played right-back for the majority of my career, although last season I played centre-half all season and really enjoyed it there,” the 31-year-old said. “If the manager feels he needs to put me back to centre-half or centre-midfield that’s fine. I’m quite comfortable in a few roles. As long as I’m playing, I’m happy.”

While McCall is keen to protect McFadden, Vigurs and Sutton from the risk of muscle problems in the 13-hour round-trip, he insists they are not giving up.

“It’s the journey and getting back at six in the morning which is not ideal in preparation for a huge game on Sunday,” McCall said.

“We will just concentrate on the Europa tie and do as well as we possibly can then prepare for a huge game on Sunday.

“Kuban showed how strong they are defensively at Fir Park. We are keeping the experienced back four intact and hopefully we can get a solid platform, and who knows, if we can get the first goal it puts a different perspective on the tie. We can certainly play a lot better than we did on Sunday (in) possession of the ball, but defensively we were very strong.”

Motherwell also went to Levante in the Europa League last season with a depleted squad, mainly through injury, but a young side put on an impressive showing in a 1-0 defeat.

“It gave us a lot of confidence last season and that’s what we have to look for again – a positive performance,” McCall said.

Ramsden, meanwhile, refuses to give up hope on rescuing the tie despite the hosts’ two-goal advantage.

“Obviously it’s not ideal being 2-0 down, but an early goal or maybe them going down to ten men, then anything can happen in football.

“We’ll be going out there very positive after a good result at the weekend. Hopefully we can do the business.”