Morecambe 1-2 Motherwell: Hutchinson confident

SHAUN Hutchinson feared the worst when Motherwell lost a host of key men at the end of last season but now, with manager Stuart McCall having replenished the squad with some shrewd transfer activity, the big centre-back is convinced his side can finish best of the rest for a third season running.

The loss of Michael Higdon, Nicky Law, Tom Hateley, Henrik Ojamaa and Darren Randolph left large voids in the Fir Park squad, but Iain Vigurs, Paul Lawson, John Sutton, Gunnar Nielsen and Stephen McManus will plug the gaps, while Fraser Kerr and, crucially, James McFadden have been retained.

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After his latest run-out with his new team-mates in Saturday’s win at Morecambe, Hutchinson, the highly-regarded 22-year-old Geordie, was full of optimism about the season ahead. “When we turned up for the start of pre-season, there were only about 12 bodies and I thought ‘oh no’,” he recalled. “People were starting to doubt us but, once again, the gaffer’s brought in some great players. In a situation like that, when you lose so much quality, you’ve just got to have faith in the manager to get the right men in and I think he’s definitely done that. The main thing was to replace the quality we lost and it’s starting to look like a really strong squad again.

“Every player in the team believes we can go well again this season and I certainly believe we can finish second again and have a good cup run. A lot of teams have brought good players in, but, apart from Celtic, there’s no team obviously stronger than us. After finishing best of the rest two years running, we’re full of confidence, so I think second has to be a reasonable target.”

Hutchinson was one of only a few familiar faces at Morecambe as McCall took all his new ­players and four trialists. The trialists were Estonia international Henri Anier, ex-Liverpool kid Toni Silva, former Marseille man Chris Gadi and ex-St ­Mirren kid Jack Smith. Anier and Smith scored but only Anier has a ­realistic chance of signing.