Anthony Brown: Motherwell boss McCall highlights officials to hide his team’s faults

MOTHERWELL are nursing a sense of grievance that they are out of the Scottish Cup, but they should focus on their own shortcomings on the day, not those of the match officials.

There is no doubt the linesman erred in awarding Aberdeen the corner that led to their first goal, but the fact this honest mistake from an official became the main talking point of an excellent cup tie is thoroughly depressing.

Stuart McCall and his team have been a breath of fresh air this season, but the Fir Park boss let himself down on Sunday by getting so pent-up about what was, in the grand scheme, a rather trivial moment. After all, if winning a corner is such a big deal, why did Motherwell not take advantage of the fact they had eight and Aberdeen only had two? What McCall should have said was something along the lines of: “The linesman’s made an error in the build-up to the first goal, which is frustrating, but we should have just got on with it and defended the corner better, rather than allowing them two free headers in our own box. Anyway, it’s hard to complain too much about mistakes made by others when our top scorer, Michael Higdon, has missed a penalty and our captain, Keith Lasley, has shown a complete lack of composure and got himself sent off for a reckless lunge.”

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Surely each of these errors had a far bigger bearing on the game than one fourth-minute misjudgment from a linesman which they still had plenty time to recover from. Sadly, there are far too many people in football who take the easy way out and use officials as scapegoats instead of addressing their own flaws. Until teams are capable of 90-minute perfection, vilification of match officials should be kept to a minimum.

If Hearts can get past St Mirren and make it through to the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup, it will be the strongest last-four line-up we’ve had for some time, in terms of the size of the clubs. The only fly in the ointment is the presence of rampant Celtic, which means fans of Aberdeen, Hibs, Hearts and Saints are reluctant to get too carried away about the prospect of a glory day in May. Hibs fans must be torn about who they’d rather face in the final if they were to get there: a formidable Celtic side or a Hearts team whose supporters would never let them hear the end of it if they were to prolong the Easter Road club’s Scottish Cup misery. Plenty intrigue awaits, nonetheless.

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It was only a few weeks ago that Hibs fans were debating how to fit striking trio Garry O’Connor, Leigh Griffiths and Eoin Doyle into the same side, with Roy O’Donovan generally considered a fringe man who would see out the season mainly as a sub. Since leaving Cork in 2007, the Irishman had generally struggled to set the heather alight and, as a result, he was one of the less-heralded of Pat Fenlon’s January signings. To O’Donovan’s credit, however, he has swiftly established himself as one of the most effective new boys, with early signs suggesting he could be ready to replicate a rare purple patch which brought a spurt of nine goals in 15 outings on loan at Hartlepool two years ago.